The New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) has approved an additional amendment to a certificate of environmental compatibility and public need to allow Niagara Mohawk Power d/b/a National Grid to build and operate an interconnecting 115-kV/13.2-kV distribution substation and switching station (the Lasher Road substation), and associated 115-kV tap lines in the Town of Ballston, Saratoga County, N.Y.
As noted in the order, which was issued and effective on July 18, National Grid is the holder of the certificate issued by the PSC under Article VII of the Public Service Law for the 115-kV Spier Falls to Rotterdam Transmission Line #302 and the busing of its existing 115-kV Spier Falls to Luther Forest Transmission Line #2.
The certificate was amended in July 2012, to utilize electric transmission towers using different materials and painted with product from different manufacturers and different colors from the towers authorized by the certificate, the PSC said.
The certificate was amended again in April 2016, to allow National Grid to build and operate an interconnecting 115-kV/13.2-kV distribution substation and associated 115-kV tap lines in the Town of Milton, Saratoga County, the PSC said.
National Grid last August submitted an application for amendment of the certificate to allow for the construction of the Lasher Road substation that would tie into the company’s existing Line 2 and Line 302.
The PSC also noted that SolarCity in January requested party status and submitted comments. SolarCity contended that the proposed project lends itself to exploring opportunities for industry participants to meet load needs on-site, the PSC said, adding that SolarCity argued that National Grid should be required to provide its justification and analysis for determining that distributed generation does not address reliability and thermal issues, is not sufficient to meet anticipated demand, and is not a viable alternative to pursuing the project.
National Grid in January filed a partially redacted, updated response to a December 2016 staff request for information related to non-wires alternatives, the PSC said. The updated response indicated, in relevant part, that National Grid used its February 2011 Non-Wires Alternative(s) (NWA) Guidelines to reach its determination that solar – of typical magnitude – and demand-side management would not be a viable alternative to the proposed transmission project. The PSC also said that National Grid’s March 31 supplement established that the facility was assessed using the NWA suitability criteria set forth in the November 2016 supplemental DSIP.
The PSC noted that the Lasher Road substation will be located on a portion of an 109-acre parcel – the Malloch Parcel – located south of State Route 67, near the intersection of Randall Road, Lasher Road and the former Finley Road, in the Town of Ballston. The proposed site is located west of Lines 302 and 2, both of which run in a northeast-southwest direction across the Malloch Parcel. The PSC also said that the existing right of way (ROW) is comprised of a 100-foot-wide corridor owned in fee by National Grid and a 20-foot-wide corridor on the west side held by National Grid as an easement. National Grid does not own the Malloch Parcel at this time, but intends to acquire the property in fee, prior to construction of the project, the PSC said.
Project construction would include clearing about 1.10 acres of woody vegetation and permanent ground disturbance will be limited to about 1.59 acres of impervious surfaces, the PSC said, adding that the substation would include a single 15/20/25 megavolt amperes (MVA) transformer, a four position 15-kV metal-clad switchgear, circuit breakers, and disconnect switches. The 115-kV takeoff structures will be designed for four independent sources of 115-kV power to the substation, the PSC noted, adding that the proposed size of the Lasher Road substation is about 400 feet wide by 450 feet long, or 4.2 acres.
The proposed structures supporting the 115-kV tap lines would be built of galvanized steel about 70 feet to 90 feet high, and three feet to five feet wide at their base, the PSC said. The takeoff structures entering the substation would be two “A” frame and two “H” frame galvanized steel with reinforced concrete foundations. The PSC also said that the height of each of those structures will be about 60 feet with a lightning rod extending about an additional 10 feet.
Staff has determined that there will be wetland impacts and a §401 Water Quality Certificate will be required for the construction activities related to the tap line structures. The PSC added that the company in late June provided a supplement to the amendment application and requested that the PSC issue a Water Quality Certificate with respect to construction of the tap lines. Given the ministerial nature of decisions to grant water quality certifications and the normal 60-day period for granting the certifications established in federal rules, the PSC said that it delegates responsibility for granting water quality certifications in connection with Article VII certificates to the chief of Environmental Certification and Compliance (EC&C). As requested, the PSC said that it anticipates the chief will issue a water quality certification after the certificate has been granted.
There are no records of rare or state-listed animals or plants, or significant natural communities on the project site or in the immediate vicinity, the PSC said, adding that while potentially suitable habitat for the federally listed threatened Northern Long-eared bat exist, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service concurs with National Grid that the project is not likely to adversely affect that species. The Service does recommend that until the proposed project is complete, National Grid continue to check its website every 90 days to ensure that listed species presence/absence information is current.
The PSC also noted, among other things, that the company provided correspondence dated November 2015 from the OPRHP Division of Historic Preservation indicating that the proposal had been reviewed, expressing its opinion that the project would have no impact on historic resources.
Discussing the engineering justification, the PSC said that National Grid has projected thermal and load constraints in its Northeast Region as a result of expanding needs of the customer load in the area. The Lasher Road substation is one of three area substations that National Grid plans to build to relieve those constraints, the PSC said, adding that a new 230-kV/115-kV transformer at the Eastover Road substation, together with the proposed switching station at Lasher Road and at Schaghticoke will relieve those constraints.
A new transformer bank at the Lasher Road substation will provide for the continuing load growth in the area and allow for the retirement of two older substations, which are long overdue for replacement – the Randall Road and Shore Road substations, the PSC said.
The PSC said that it finds that the project is needed, will have generally short-term adverse environmental impact, represents the minimum adverse impact to the environment, should not be installed underground, conforms to a long-range electric system plan, conforms to applicable substantive legal requirements, and will serve the public interest, convenience and necessity.
The PSC said that it grants the application subject to certain conditions, including that with respect to vegetation management easement areas, National Grid is to follow general guidelines for post-construction landscape improvements as expressed in its environmental management and construction plan.