The New York State Public Service Commission (PSC), in an order issued on April 20, granted Cricket Valley Energy Center LLC a certificate of environmental compatibility and public need to build and operate a new, approximately 14.6-mile, 345-kV transmission line connecting the planned Cricket Valley Energy Center to Consolidated Edison Company of New York’s (Con Edison) Pleasant Valley substation.
The PSC also noted that as part of the project, Cricket Valley would reconductor an approximately 3.4-mile segment of Con Edison’s existing 345-kV Line 398, from the energy center, continuing east to the New York-Connecticut state line, in the Town of Dover, and build related improvements to the Pleasant Valley substation – which is located in the Town of Pleasant Valley in eastern Dutchess County – including new protection and communication system upgrades that would be required within the existing control buildings at the substation.
Construction on the project is expected to begin early next year, with the project expected to be in operation in late 2018.
The route of the proposed line has been designed to minimize potential adverse environmental impacts, including impacts on active farming operations and the local agricultural economy, the PSC said.
As noted in the order, the PSC in 2013 granted a certificate of public convenience and necessity to Cricket Valley Energy Center LLC to build the Cricket Valley Energy Center, which is a combined cycle, natural gas-powered 1,000 MW electric generating facility in the Town of Dover, located in western Dutchess County.
As a condition of that certificate, Cricket Valley was obligated to design, engineer and build transmission facilities in support of the energy center in accordance with the New York ISO (NYISO) Class Year 2011 Facilities Study.
“Given the commission’s decision to certify the energy center, and the record support that the project is the best configuration to connect the energy center to the grid, we find that the project is needed,” the PSC said.
Describing the project, the PSC noted that the proposed line, which would be routed within an existing right of way (ROW) occupied by Con Edison’s Line 398, would be built parallel to Line 398, within the existing 250-feet-wide ROW from the energy center through the Dutchess County towns of Dover, Union Vale, LaGrange and Pleasant Valley. Since Line 398 is located 50 feet north of the 250-foot ROW center line, Cricket Valley proposed to build the new structures 50 feet south of the center line, leaving about 100 feet separating the two lines, the PSC said.
Cricket Valley does not anticipate requiring any new property rights for the project, the PSC said, adding that the portion of Line 398 running east from the energy center to the New York-Connecticut state line would be reconductored within the existing ROW. After passing into Connecticut, the existing transmission line continues to the Long Mountain 345-kV substation in New Milford, the PSC said.
Noting that the existing Line 398 structures are steel, lattice frame, transmission towers that average 99 feet in height, the PSC said that with the exception of three shorter steel H-frame structures to be built near the Central Hudson substation in Pleasant Valley, the structures in the proposed line would be steel monopoles averaging 122 feet in height.
Upon completing the project, Cricket Valley will convey ownership and operation of the proposed line to Con Edison.
The PSC noted that adverse environmental impacts of the project will be minimal and, to a great extent, temporary and of short duration, as they are construction-related. Use of the existing ROW and access points, the PSC said, will avoid or minimize the disturbance of natural habitat and agricultural land to the maximum extent practicable, minimize visual impacts, reduce costs, as well as avoid the disturbance of residential and commercial properties and activities, traffic and emergency operations in populated areas.
The PSC also noted that Cricket Valley has conducted archaeological investigations, focusing on proposed structures that could be located within or near previously recorded archaeologically sensitive landforms. While eight such landforms were identified within the ROW, no project components would involve ground disturbance at any of those previously recorded archaeological sites, the PSC said.
According to Cricket Valley, the PSC said, the State Historic Preservation Officer has indicated that no additional archaeological study is necessary for the project at this time.
Among other things, the PSC said that surveys for state and federally protected species, which were conducted between April 2014 and October 2014, identified five listed rare, threatened or endangered species that could be potentially impacted by the project, including the bog turtle and the timber rattlesnake.
The PSC said that Cricket Valley has committed to selectively using air-crane helicopters for site preparation and construction, as well as avoiding access roads in areas known to provide suitable timber rattlesnake habitats. Cricket Valley also proposed to implement specific work practices and time-of-year restrictions, the PSC said.
The PSC also listed various conditions of the order, including that if construction of the project does not begin within 24 months after the company files a verified statement that it accepts and will comply with the certificate, the certificate may be vacated with notice to the company.
Also, should archeological materials be encountered during construction, the company is to stabilize the area and cease construction activities in the immediate vicinity of the find and protect the same from further damage. The PSC further noted that protection measures to avoid impacts to the Indiana bat are to include no tree clearing activities within the March 31 to Oct. 1 period.
Among other things, the conditions call for the construction schedule to be coordinated so as to minimize outages of the existing circuits adjacent to the project, outages of the substations, and interconnected transmission facilities.
Con Edison is a subsidiary of Consolidated Edison (NYSE:ED).