The Vermont Public Service Board (PSB), in a Jan. 5 order, said that a certificate of public good is to be issued, subject to certain conditions, for the proposed New England Clean Power Link Project, noting that the installation and operation of the project, including a 1,000 MW high-voltage direct current (HVDC) electric transmission line, a converter station and other associated facilities by Champlain VT LLC d/b/a TDI New England (TDI-NE) will promote the general good of the state.
The project will be located within the Vermont portion of Lake Champlain and in the Vermont counties of Grand Isle, Chittenden, Addison, Rutland and Windsor, the PSB said.
Construction-related engineering activities are expected to begin this year and continue through early 2019, with performance testing and commissioning, the PSB said, adding that TDI-NE anticipates that the commercial operations for the project will begin in 2Q19.
The cost of building the project is about $1.2bn, and the initial year’s operating expenses for the project are estimated to be about $41m, the PSB said, adding that the project will be privately developed and financed as a merchant facility by TDI-NE and its owner, the Blackstone Group.
TDI-NE has not proposed to seek to recover the project costs through charges paid by retail electric ratepayers, and instead, it will recover its costs of construction and operation through the payments it will receive from power suppliers who will contract to use capacity on the transmission line.
The PSB also said that if the project is funded through ISO New England’s (ISO-NE) pooled transmission mechanism, through FERC Order 1000, or through another cost-sharing mechanism, TDI-NE has agreed to indemnify Vermont’s regionally allocated share of the costs by making additional payments to Vermont Electric Power Company and Vermont Transco LLC (together, VELCO) to ensure that Vermont’s retail electric customers accrue the net benefits agreed upon by VELCO and TDI-NE.
TDI-NE said in a Jan. 6 statement that Vermont’s certificate of public good is the comprehensive state siting and environmental regulatory approval that is needed to construct and to operate the project in the state, and details the conditions under which the project can be built and operated.
The PSB’s decision determined that the project will, among other things, provide significant electrical benefits for Vermont and the region, including diversifying the state and regional fuel supply, the company said, adding that with this milestone achieved, the permitting process remains on track.
TDI-NE CEO Donald Jessome said in the statement, in part: "This approval is the result of significant regulatory review, public input and consultation with stakeholders. We are pleased that the final result is a project that is supported and approved in Vermont. The certificate brings us one step closer to delivering the benefits of clean, reliable, low-cost power to the residents and businesses of Vermont, and southern New England."
PSB: Project’s benefits outweigh potential negative effects
The project’s total direct economic benefit in Vermont during the construction and commercial operation periods is estimated to be about $1.9bn, including $509m in public good benefits and $900m in taxes and required lease payments, the PSB said.
The PSB said that the project will provide significant environmental, electrical, and economic benefits for Vermont and the region, including diversifying the state and regional fuel supply, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, creating in-state jobs, producing millions of dollars in new state and local taxes and public good benefits, and potentially lowering electricity costs.
At the same time, the installation of the line underground in existing public rights of way (ROWs) and underwater in Lake Champlain will help reduce the project’s overall visual impacts, the PSB said. Additionally, the project will support Lake Champlain clean-up efforts, in-state renewable energy programs, and Vermont electric ratepayer relief through the creation of several public-good benefit funds, the PSB said.
Noting that project construction will not be without impacts, the PSB said that a large, above-ground converter station will be built to convert DC power to alternating current (AC) so that the project can interconnect with the state’s transmission system. Additionally, travelers on the Vermont highways where the HVDC line will be installed underground will likely experience some measure of inconvenience during project construction, the PSB said.
“However, we conclude that the project’s benefits are significant enough to outweigh any potential negative effects, thus promoting the general good of the state,” the PSB said.
As noted in the order, the project will run from the Canadian border to Ludlow, Vt., along underwater and underground routes. The electricity transmitted through the project will be generated by renewable energy sources in Canada and delivered through Vermont into New England, the PSB said. The transmission line will use HVDC technology and have the capacity to transmit 1,000 MW of electricity at a nominal operating voltage of 300 to 320 kV (+/-). The PSB further noted that TDI-NE also proposes to build a converter station and other associated facilities in Ludlow for the conversion of the NECPL’s electricity from DC to AC.
TDI-NE anticipates that the HVDC transmission line – which will be comprised of two approximately 5-inch cables, will be solid dielectric, and will contain no fluids or gases – will operate at up to 95% of its capacity and is expected to deliver 8,322 GWh of power per year, the PSB said.
The cables in the Lake Champlain segment will be XLPE HVDC with polyethylene insulation that eliminates the need for fluid insulation, enables the cable to operate at higher temperatures with lower dielectric losses, improves transmission reliability, and reduces the risk of network failure, the PSB said.
The project will use a fiber optic cable system that will consist of a separate, armored, multi-strand fiber optic single-mode cable, approximately one inch in diameter, to be installed over the total distance of the project from the converter station in Canada to the Ludlow converter station, the PSB said, adding that the fiber optic cable will facilitate HVDC control.
The 56-mile overland portions of the transmission line will be buried about four feet underground within existing public road ROWs or railroad ROWs, except for an above- ground bridge crossing and an above-ground culvert crossing, both in the town of Ludlow, the PSB said.
The overland route will go through the following Vermont towns: Alburgh, Benson, Castleton, Cavendish, Clarendon, Fair Haven, Ira, Ludlow, Mount Holly, Rutland, Shrewsbury, Wallingford, West Haven, and West Rutland, the PSB said, adding that from the U.S.-Canadian border, the transmission line will be installed under a town road in Alburgh, and then underground through TDI-NE-owned land, for a total distance of about 0.5 miles.
TDI-NE has interconnection requests filed with TransEnergie, the transmission subsidiary of Hydro-Quebec, to determine the location and equipment required to safely and securely connect the project in Canada, the PSB said. While TDI-NE has not yet entered into contracts with any renewable energy suppliers, TDI-NE intends to use the project to transmit electricity generated by hydroelectric, wind, or other renewable energy sources located in Canada for delivery in Vermont and New England, the PSB said.
The project will not adversely affect system stability and reliability, the PSB said. Also, the project will not have an undue adverse effect on aesthetics, historic sites, air and water purity, the natural environment, the use of natural resources, or the public health and safety, the PSB said. Furthermore, the project will not destroy or significantly imperil necessary wildlife habitat or endangered species, the PSB said.
Among the conditions, the PSB said that before beginning project construction, the company is to file with the PSB and parties all transmission service contracts with energy suppliers who will use the project, as well as a decommissioning plan with the PSB for review and approval.
Also, if, at the conclusion of TDI-NE’s open solicitation process for the project’s transmission capacity, that capacity has not been fully allocated, then before the project’s commercial operation date, and subject to any applicable FERC requirements, TDI-NE and the City of Burlington Electric Department (BED) are to initiate good-faith negotiations for up to 30 MW of transmission service on the project for a term of up to 20 years, under the terms of a BED stipulation, the PSB said.
Among other things, the PSB said that TDI-NE is to be responsible for the costs of the transmission system and subtransmission system upgrades in Vermont that are necessary in order to address adverse impacts to system stability and reliability due to the project, as determined by ISO-NE under the interconnection process administered by ISO-NE, and as determined under any supplemental subtransmission study performed pursuant to a Green Mountain Power stipulation.
TDI-NE: Suppliers express interest in transmission power over line
TDI-NE noted in its statement that it recently announced that seven electricity suppliers from Canada and the United States have expressed interest in transmitting up to 3,200 MW of power over the 1,000 MW Clean Power Link in response to the FERC-required open solicitation process recently conducted by the company.
The certificate of public good was supported by agreements with the state Public Service Department, Agency of Transportation, Agency of Natural Resources, and Division for Historic Preservation, among others, the company said, adding that the agreements comprise a mix of dedicated funds, lease payments, environmental protections and other benefits.
Among other things, TDI-NE said that the Agency of Natural Resources previously issued eight permits for the project confirming that the project’s construction and operation will be in compliance with the state’s Water Quality Standards and consistent with the federal Clean Water Act.