DOE issues record of decision, Presidential permit to Northern Pass

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) on Nov. 16 said that it has issued a record of decision (ROD) and approved the Presidential permit for the proposed 192-mile Northern Pass Transmission project that is designed to deliver up to 1,090 MW of hydropower from Québec, Canada to Deerfield, N.H.

DOE noted that since it was first proposed in 2010, the $1.6bn project has been subject to multiple layers of federal and state government permitting regulations, a nearly 4,000-page Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), and has adjusted its planned route in response to input from local communities as well as federal and state permitting agencies. The approval of Presidential permit PP-371 allows the project to cross the international border and connect into the U.S. grid, DOE said.

“We are pleased to see the DOE permitting process for Northern Pass draw to a close, and appreciate the years of diligent work done by the federal agencies in reaching this critical project milestone,” Eversource Energy (NYSE:ES) New Hampshire President Bill Quinlan said in a separate Nov. 16 statement. “With the New Hampshire and Canadian permitting processes also nearing completion, and considering we have all major contractor, equipment and labor agreements in place, Northern Pass is on track to begin construction by mid-2018. This is good news for customers, and for the broad and diverse group of New Hampshire stakeholders who support this project for the many benefits it will bring to the state and the region.”

Northern Pass Transmission LLC noted in the statement that the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) is expected to issue a separate final ROD soon in response to Northern Pass Transmission’s application for a special use permit to allow burial of the transmission line through the White Mountain National Forest. 

The company also said that in a draft ROD issued in September, the USFS proposed to approve NPT’s application, concluding that the short-term construction impacts of the project are “more than outweighed by the benefits of bringing additional hydropower to the New England grid.”

The Northern Pass line begins at the Canadian border in Pittsburg, N.H., and extends to Deerfield, where it connects to the New England grid, the company said. More than 80% of the line will be located along existing transmission corridors or buried along roadways to eliminate potential view impacts in the White Mountain National Forest area, the company said, adding that Northern Pass will provide a robust and new interconnection path between the Québec and New England electric systems, and will be controlled by ISO New England (ISO-NE).

As noted in the Presidential permit, Northern Pass Transmission applied to DOE for the permit in October 2010; in July 2013, the company submitted an amended Presidential permit application to DOE, and a subsequent amendment was submitted in August 2015.

DOE noted that the August 2015 application amendment, for instance, changed the proposed line route and configuration in certain manners, including that it:

  • Increased the amount of proposed buried line for the total project from about eight miles to about 60 miles and increased the total proposed project length from 187 miles to about 192 miles
  • Shifted the location of the international border crossing less than 100 feet
  • Reduced the proposed project’s potential transfer capability to 1,090 MW
  • Changed the voltage for the HVDC section from ±300 kV to ±320 kV
  • Included design changes to the converter technology and type of cable

DOE said, “Based on its review of [Northern Pass Transmission’s] application, as well as the reliability studies conducted in accordance with ISO-NE, DOE finds that the proposed project will not have negative effects on the reliability of the U.S. grid if operated consistent with NERC policies and standards, terms and conditions of the Presidential permit, and other regulatory and statutory requirements.”

DOE continued, “Based on DOE’s reliability determination, the results of the environmental analysis, concurrences of the Departments of State and Defense, and the public comment process, DOE determines that the issuance of a Presidential permit to NPT is consistent with the public interest.”

The facilities covered by and subject to the permit are to include these facilities and all supporting structures within the right of way (ROW) occupied by such facilities, DOE said:

  • An approximately 192-mile overhead and underground HVDC and AC transmission system crossing the international border at Pittsburg. From the border, a single circuit, ±320-kV HVDC line would terminate at a converter station to be built in Franklin. The total length of the HVDC portion of the project would be 158.3 miles. From the Franklin converter station, an approximately 34-mile, 345-kV AC transmission line would continue on to the existing Deerfield substation, where it will interconnect to the U.S. grid

The facilities are to be operated in such a manner that the scheduled rate of transmission of electric energy entering the United States over the facilities is to not exceed 1,090 MW, DOE said.

Among other things, DOE said that Northern Pass Transmission is to implement the project-specific mitigation and other measures contained in the final EIS; the ROD; the Programmatic Agreement executed between DOE, the New Hampshire and Vermont State Historic Preservation Officers, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, and Northern Pass Transmission; and all requirements set forth in the Biological Opinion on the project issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

About Corina Rivera-Linares 3058 Articles
Corina Rivera-Linares, chief editor for TransmissionHub, has covered the U.S. power industry for the past 15 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 clinares@endeavorb2b.com.