New England Clean Power Link proposed

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A developer of electric transmission lines has proposed a new line that would connect New England to Quebec.  The so-called New England Clean Power Link would run about 150 miles from the U.S.-Canadian border to Ludlow, Vermont.  While the line shares some features with other proposed ties to the Canadian power grid -- including its development team -- the New England Clean Power Link differs from prior proposals in several regards.

Demand for electricity in the northeastern United States, and in particular for renewable power, has led to interest in developing several transmission lines to Canada.  Provincial crown corporation Hydro-Quebec has many large hydroelectric dams, and continues to develop Quebec's rivers for power production.  Meanwhile, Newfoundland utility Nalcor is developing gigawatt-scale hydropower on the Churchill River in Labrador, with aims to export the power to eastern Canada and the U.S.

This relative surplus of Canadian hydropower has led developers to propose transmission lines connecting Quebec resources to New England consumers.  These lines include the Champlain-Hudson Power Express from Canada to New York City, and the Northern Pass from Canada into New Hampshire.

The $1.2 billion Clean Power Link would have a capacity of 1,000 megawatts, roughly equal to the size of a nuclear power plant.  Like previous proposals, the newly-proposed line is motivated by the perceived opportunity to sell Canadian power in New England.  The Clean Power Link also shares features in common with other proposals, in that it would be a high-voltage direct current or HVDC line.  Notably, it would also be developed and financed by TDI New England, a Blackstone Group subsidiary led by the team behind the Champlain-Hudson Power Express.

Like that line, it would run about 100 miles under Vermont's Lake Champlain.  South of the lake, the Clean Power Link proposal features lines buried underground.  This contrasts with the Northern Pass, whose traditional wires-on-towers architecture has drawn significant opposition in New Hampshire.

The Clean Power Link faces a regulatory process including environmental and energy permitting, and is also dependent on the market forces that motivated its proposal.  It is unclear whether any of the proposed transmission lines to Canada will actually be built, let alone which one.  For now, TDI aims to build the line and place it in service by 2019.

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