Schenectady County

Backers: Power line across state would lower costs

A proposed $3.8 billion high-voltage transmission line bringing power from eastern Canada to New Yor

A proposed $3.8 billion high-voltage transmission line bringing power from eastern Canada to New York City and Connecticut should lower electric rates for customers across the region, backers said Tuesday.

The proposed Champlain-Hudson Power Express line would run primarily underwater but follow an underground route through the Capital Region.

“Overall, costs will go down because there will be so much more power in the market,” said Don Jessome, CEO of Transmission Developers Inc. of Toronto, which is proposing the project.

A study done by London Economics International of Boston, to be included in upcoming regulatory filings, is also expected to outline how the new power line will help hold costs down, officials at that firm have said.

TDI is proposing to bring 2,000 megawatts of power generated in Labrador to New York City and Connecticut. That is roughly enough power to serve 2 million homes.

TDI hopes to have the needed regulatory approvals by late 2011 and put the line into operation in 2015. The line would run 355 miles from Canada to Yonkers, then an additional 65 miles underwater to Bridgeport, Conn.

The four power cables in the line are proposed to be buried in Lake Champlain and the Champlain Canal and in the Hudson River south of Albany.

But through the Capital Region, from Moreau to Selkirk, the line would be buried underground in existing rights-of-way owned by two railroad companies, Canadian Pacific and CSX. The route would take it along railroad tracks that run through Saratoga Springs, Ballston Spa and Schenectady.

The line is being taken overland to avoid the PCB-dredging areas in the Hudson River, company officials said.

Jessome said the line can safely be buried in part because the direct current transmission doesn’t have the same electromagnetic fields as standard alternating current lines. Direct current can also be transmitted long distances underground without loss of power, he said.

About 40 people turned out for the first public meeting on the project, held Tuesday evening at the Holiday Inn Express in downtown Albany. Many people asked questions, but no one expressed opposition.

TDI officials hope to avoid the fate of the last major direct current power line proposed in the state. The New York Regional Interconnect project from central New York to New York City was withdrawn last year in the face of strong public opposition and adverse regulatory rulings.

Jessome said the company had been talking to interested parties for two years before word of their plans finally became public last month.

“We have tried to make sure we got out early and often with the environmental folks, with government, to be sure we got off on the right foot,” Jessome said.

Regulatory reviews are about to start.

An Article VII application is expected to be filed within weeks with the state Public Service Commission, which must approve major transmission facilities.

“We’re working very diligently to get that in by the end of March,” Jessome said.

TDI has already applied for a federal permit to import power from Canada and anticipates going through a Department of Energy-led federal environmental impact review, said William Helmer, TDI’s general counsel.

Helmer said TDI has had negotiations with the two railroads over using their rights of way and with the state of New York over the leasing of underwater rights. He said no deals have been negotiated.

Jessome said the project should help the state and Northeast meet the goal of obtaining more electric power from renewable resources.

TDI anticipates buying power from Nalcor Energy of St. John’s, Newfoundland, which is developing the Lower Churchill River Dam in Labrador, and also wind power projects.

Jessome also believes a buried line will be more acceptable to many people than new overhead high-voltage transmission lines.

“Overhear lines have a lot of issues associated with them,” Jessome said. “Nobody wants towers in their backyard.”

Andrew Rush, a TDI spokesman, said more public meetings are planned, including meetings in the North Country and in the lower Hudson Valley.

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