By: John Dillon, Vermont Public Radio
A Massachusetts developer has proposed a power line under Lake Champlain to carry renewable electricity from northern New York into the New England grid.
The Vermont proposal is called the Grand Isle Intertie. Anbaric CEO Ed Krapels said the goal is to carry electricity from wind and hydro projects in upstate New York to customers in southern New England. He said utilities in Massachusetts and Connecticut need more renewable power in their mix to meet clean-energy mandates.
“Transmission is just extremely difficult to build. So while the wind regimes in upstate New York are good and some wind has been built, they’ve stopped, because there is really no place for the wind to go,” he said. “So that makes the Grand Isle Intertie a potential source of wind energy and hydro, frankly.”
The line would carry 400 megawatts from a point in Plattsburgh, New York, under Lake Champlain to connect to the Vermont grid.
Krapels said the exact route has not been determined. And he said the cost of the project would be borne by the users, not Vermont ratepayers.
“What that means is that we build the line only if we can find customers that are willing to pay for it. So this is not something that every ratepayer will have to pay for,” he said. “This is something that only the customers that we find that are willing to pay our tariff will finance.”
Krapels is also negotiating with the operators of the Vermont transmission network about how the Grand Isle power line would mesh with the local grid. Kerrick Johnson, a vice president of the Vermont Electric Power Company, said Anbaric has a solid track record of completing projects on schedule and within budget. Johnson said VELCO is still sorting out its role in the potential project.
“What we’re trying to understand is: what’s the benefit for Vermont? What value can we say this project brings to the state? Perhaps it’s simply utilization of our existing right of way; perhaps it’s for our distribution utility owners and their customers. Perhaps they’d like to take energy off of this line,” he said.
Johnson said under federal regulations VELCO cannot deny access to its lines or its rights of way to independent developers like Anbaric. He said if the line is built, VELCO would ultimately operate and maintain the Vermont portion.
“But beyond that, are there other roles? Would we have a construction management role? Would we help with the regulatory process and the like? Those are some of the other roles we’re considering as this proposal moves forward,” he said.
Anbaric CEO Krapels said the line would run under the lake and be buried where possible after it comes out of the water and onto the land.
He said the company’s recent solicitation for customers attracted much interest.
“And the next step is for those respondents to negotiate a transmission agreement with us. And I can’t tell, you know, who those respondents will be that are willing to go to the ultimate contract with us, but there are six of them that have expressed an interest and we are just starting negotiations with them,” he said.
Krapels said when the company has firm customers it will apply for permits to build. He says it will be mid-2016 at the earliest, but more likely 2017, when the permits are in place and construction can begin.
Article originally appears in Vermont Public Radio