NU: Greater Springfield Reliability Project completed on time, under budget

Northeast Utilities’ (NYSE:NU) Connecticut Light and Power (CL&P) and Western Massachusetts Electric Company (WMECo) have completed the Greater Springfield Reliability Project on time and under budget.

The project upgraded 39 miles of transmission lines on an existing right-of-way between Ludlow, Mass., and Bloomfield, Conn., with more than 600 new structures and 13 new or rebuilt substations and switching stations, Northeast Utilities added in its Nov. 25 statement.

While the project cost was estimated at $718m, CL&P and WMECo came in more than $40m below that estimate, Northeast Utilities said, adding that in the first year of service alone, the project will add more than $13m to local municipal tax revenues in Connecticut and western Massachusetts.

The company also noted that the transmission upgrade improves the flow of power in and around the greater Springfield, north-central Connecticut area, while connecting customers to less expensive and more efficient generation.

Northeast Utilities said that although construction was carried out during a period of historic storms, including Superstorm Sandy, which hit the East Coast in October 2012, the pace of line work was accelerated during favorable weather conditions, helping to increase productivity and decrease costs. Additional project costs were saved by contracting early with highly skilled contractors, and making carefully timed purchases of such commodities as steel and copper products.

The company further noted that the project brought environmental benefits to the towns it traversed with enhancements to existing wetlands as well as protection of farmland and critical wildlife habitat. CL&P and WMECo also used helicopters to string the new lines, which further reduced impacts to sensitive areas along the right-of-way and sped up the construction schedule.

“As electricity demand continues to grow, a strong, reliable transmission system is essential to meeting our customers’ energy needs and the region’s economic health,” Laurie Foley, vice president of transmission projects, engineering and maintenance at Northeast Utilities, said in the statement.

NEEWS update

The project is among those associated with the New England East-West Solution effort, the company noted, adding that Northeast Utilities is preparing to break ground on another NEEWS project, the Interstate Reliability Project, early next year in eastern Connecticut.

“The overhead line work and majority of the substation work will begin early next year,” Frank Poirot, senior media specialist – transmission with Northeast Utilities, told TransmissionHub on Nov. 25.

A definitive date has not yet been determined.

Poirot also noted that CL&P’s portion of the project has received all of its siting approvals from the Connecticut Siting Council. Furthermore, for CL&P’s Connecticut portion, the majority of the permits have been received and the company expects favorable rulings on the remaining environmental permits before the start of construction of the overhead line in early 2014.

The current cost estimate is $218m for the CL&P portion, he said.

Of the Central Connecticut Reliability Project, which is also part of NEEWS, Poirot noted that it focused on certain reliability needs in the central Connecticut area. A more comprehensive study, including other electrically connected areas inside Connecticut, was conducted by ISO New England (ISO-NE) to assess the long-term reliability of the bulk power system.

That study, called the Greater Hartford/Central Connecticut Study, evaluated the reliability of the area’s transmission system to support load growth through 2022.

Poirot also noted that the study, completed this year, found severe system overloads in areas across Connecticut, and ISO-NE is currently analyzing solutions to address those overloads. ISO-NE’s preferred solution is expected to be available in early 2014.

“Project details, including project schedule, will not be developed until after the ISO-NE determines its preferred solution,” he said.

On the other NEEWS project, the Rhode Island Reliability Project, National Grid USA spokesperson David Graves told TransmissionHub on Nov. 25 that most of the construction work on that project wrapped up in the fall of 2012, and finalized in the spring.

National Grid’s overall budget for the NEEWS effort is about $800m, including work in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, he said. The total spent to date is about $525m, with most of that going toward construction on the Rhode Island Reliability Project.

The Rhode Island Energy Facility Siting Board has approved work in that state, while all of the Massachusetts work has been subject to public hearings held by the Massachusetts Energy Facilities Siting Board. National Grid expects that a decision from that board will likely come in early 2014, Graves added.

As of now, the only construction work that National Grid has done involves the Rhode Island Reliability Project, he said.

National Grid, a subsidiary of National Grid plc, is also working on the Interstate Reliability Project.

About Corina Rivera-Linares 2807 Articles
Corina Rivera-Linares, chief editor for TransmissionHub, has covered the U.S. power industry for the past 13 years. Before joining TransmissionHub, Corina covered renewable energy and environmental issues, as well as transmission, generation, regulation, legislation and ISO/RTO matters at SNL Financial. She has also covered such topics as health, politics and education for weekly newspapers and national magazines. She can be reached at corinar@pennwell.com.