ISO-NE OKs Northern Pass project to proceed, other approvals needed

ISO New England (ISO-NE) has given developers of the Northern Pass transmission project permission to move forward after it determined the project will not have a significant adverse effect upon the reliability or operating characteristics of the bulk power system in New England, provided that the project proceeds in accordance with certain requirements, an ISO-NE spokesperson told TransmissionHub on Jan. 2.

“This determination means that [Northeast Utilities (NYSE:NU)] may proceed with the project,” the spokesperson said.

Northern Pass Transmission is a wholly owned subsidiary of Northeast Utilities.

As part of the standard process for a project to interconnect to the power grid in New England, the interconnecting project sponsor must submit a proposed plan application to ISO-NE for review, the spokesperson said.

According to ISO-NE’s Dec. 31, 2013, letter to Northeast Utilities Service Company responding to the proposed plan application, the requirements include that Northeast Utilities Service give transmission notification on behalf of Northern Pass Transmission for the construction of a 345-kV air-insulated substation with an eight circuit breaker ring in Franklin, N.H., a 1,200 MW bi-directional, bi-polar, HVDC line commutated converter station, and a 0/100 MVAR Static VAR Compensator (SVC).

Other requirements include:

  • Transmission notification for the construction of a 153-mile HVDC transmission line, which includes eight miles of underground cable, from the Franklin converter terminal substation in Franklin, to the U.S./Canadian border.
  • Transmission notification for the construction of a new 345-kV AC transmission line, 3132, from the Franklin converter terminal substation to the Deerfield 345-kV substation.
  • Transmission notification for the modification of the Deerfield substation, which will be reconfigured to accommodate the new Northern Pass transmission project AC transmission line 3132 interconnection, the re-termination of the 345-kV Buxton to Scobie Pond transmission line 391 and the addition of shunt capacitor banks.

The ISO-NE spokesperson said that in a subsequent step, the company will be required to submit additional and more detailed plans and information for ISO-NE to review before the project can interconnect.

The spokesperson also noted that ISO-NE does not take a position on elective transmission projects and does not have decision-making authority over transmission line construction or siting approvals, which are granted by the individual states and siting commissions.

A Northern Pass spokesperson told TransmissionHub on Jan. 2 that ISO-NE granted the approval after reviewing several years worth of studies and affirming that the project meets a rigorous list of criteria.

The approval of the proposed plan applications – “I.3.9” – is the only approval the project needs from ISO-NE and marks the culmination of a three-year process, she said.

Northern Pass Transmission “will ensure that it maintains compliance with the requirements set forth in the approval letter from ISO-NE,” the spokesperson said, noting that the I.3.9 approval is separate from the federal and state permitting processes.

The project, according to TransmissionHub data, would involve 187 miles of 300-kV DC and 40 miles of 345-kV AC transmission lines and would bring renewable energy from Quebec into New Hampshire to satisfy the need for additional renewable energy in New England.

The Northern Pass spokesperson said that the projected cost of the project remains $1.4bn, and the timeline for construction and in-service date remain the same. Construction is expected to begin in the summer of 2015, resulting in a mid-2017 completion.

Later this year, the company anticipates receiving the draft environmental impact statement (EIS) from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), which is a key step in obtaining the Presidential Permit needed to cross an international boundary, and to filing its application with the state Site Evaluation Committee.

The spokesperson added that the project will also need a special use permit from the U.S. Forest Service, an individual permit from the Army Corps of Engineers and a permit from the Federal Aviation Administration.

Last June, Northern Pass Transmission proposed a new route for the project, partially underground and taking into consideration concerns about potential visual impacts and property rights, in the northernmost section of the project area in New Hampshire’s North Country.

In a statement last June, New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan said that “from an initial review of the proposal I continue to believe that project officials must more fully explore options for burying more of the lines.”

The Northern Pass spokesperson said that the company is aware of and understands the governor’s concerns regarding the potential visual impacts of the project and the potential use of additional underground technology.

“We believe the federal and state permitting process will provide an accurate, fact based review of this issue, which will determine what changes or refinements, if any, are needed to our current proposal,” she added. “We continue to work with the governor and other state policy makers to answer questions regarding our proposal and discuss the significant economic and environmental benefits the project will bring to New Hampshire.”

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.