For the past year, several large New England utilities have been collaborating on a major new transmission project to connect Canadian generators with New England markets. Northeast Utilities and NSTARhave proposed a high-voltage DC transmission line they call the "Northern Pass". If built as proposed, this $1.1 billion transmission line will be capable of sending about 1200 MW of power from Hydro-Quebec's generation network into New England. Canada, and Quebec in particular, possess many gigawatts of generation capacity, much of which comes from hydroelectricity.
In the meantime, some project opponents have expressed concerns about local siting issues related to the route the line will take through the White Mountain National Forest, other wild lands, and a number of communities. Between Groveton, NH, and the Canadian border, no transmission rights of way exist today, meaning about 40 miles of new transmission corridor are needed. Where this line should run has been a contentious issue. As a result, the developers have expressed a willingness to consider alternative routes.
At the same time, other opponents have observed that if gigawatts of Canadian renewable power are imported into New England to satisfy domestic renewable power mandates, the region will not see the more localized environmental and economic development benefits from the development of renewable power projects in New England. Many consider these local benefits key to the value of state renewable portfolio standards.
Now, the Northern Pass developers have announced that a rollback of the project's anticipated startup date to allow for a new route north of Groveton. On the project's journal website, Northern Pass now states that its "expected in-service date has been modified to 2016, with construction expected in the 2014 – 2016 time frame, compared to the initial range of 2013 – 2015".