Army Corps of Engineers approves $1.2 billion power cable

The Army Corps of Engineers signed off this week on a 1,000-megawatt electric cable that would run from Canada to Ludlow.

TDI New England’s $1.2 billion utility transmission project will feed the southern New England power grid, which company representatives say will be completed by 2019.

TDI now has two of three required permits for the cable. In addition to the Corps approval, the Vermont Public Service Board greenlighted the project last month. TDI is now waiting on White House approval, which is required of all energy transmission projects crossing international boundaries.

The transmission line will be buried under much of the length of Lake Champlain; the Army Corps permit allows the cable to carry hydroelectric power across wetlands and navigable waterways.

Donald Jessome, CEO and president of TDI New England, says the permit is a major accomplishment.

“It’s a very difficult permit to get, [involving] a very comprehensive review,” Jessome said. “Obviously, we’re very pleased. We were highly confident we would receive the permit … but with any permit, you don’t have it, until you have it.”

The Department of Energy has already reviewed the project and recommended that the White House issue a final permit for the project, Jessome said.

Jessome said the company is in the process of securing manufacturers for the cable, as well as contractors and financing. Some secondary permits must be obtained as well, he said.

The project has seen a quicker approval process than others of similar size, said Conservation Law Foundation senior attorney Sandra Levine.

Because the cable will be buried under Lake Champlain for almost the entire length, the project’s environmental and aesthetic harms will be minimal, Levine said. The sections above ground use existing rights of way, she said, which means the company doesn’t need to cut large swaths of trees and flora to accommodate the cable.

TDI New England made sure that regulators “got the information they need to issue the permits,” and the company was responsible in the way it addressed environmental impacts, Levine said.

Levine’s organization negotiated significant concessions from TDI New England, the benefits of which will mainly accrue to cleanup efforts in Lake Champlain.

The so-called New England Power Link is being built in response to renewable energy needs in New England states. Like Vermont, these states have aggressive renewable energy goals.

The cable will carry 1,000 megawatts, roughly the amount of power consumed by the entire state of Vermont. If it is constructed, Vermont will host the cable, and most of the electricity, which is expected to come from dams and wind turbines, will be transmitted to southern New England.

Vermont will have the option to purchase up to 200 megawatts, but Jessome said he doesn’t expect the state to take advantage of that option.

“Our expectation is that most of the energy will be consumed by the southern New England states, because the utilities in Vermont are in a very good position with local suppliers for their renewable energy needs,” Jessome said.

That may change over time, he said.

TDI has agreed to pay a minimum of $283.5 million over the 40-year lifespan of the project for Lake Champlain phosphorus cleanup, habitat restoration and recreational improvements — $121.5 million more than was originally proposed. Some of that money would also go to the state’s Clean Energy Fund.

The state’s transmission utility, Vermont Electric Power Co. (VELCO), will operate and maintain the transmission line. TDI has agreed to pay VELCO $136 million or $2.5 million annually over 40 years. That money is expected to be used to lower electric rates and would result in a 10 percent reduction in transmission costs for VELCO’s customers, according to officials.

VELCO spokesman Kerrick Johnson said the negotiated agreement between the transmission utility and TDI will benefit ratepayers.

“We viewed our role as to secure the greatest amount of risk-adjusted value we could on behalf of our owners, who would in turn pass on the benefit to our customers,” Johnson said.

In exchange for the payments to VELCO, the utility will take over maintenance and operations functions for the cable, where possible, Johnson said.

TDI New England is a subsidiary of financial firm Blackstone Group, which manages more than $200 billion in assets. The firm anticipates permitting will take until mid-2016, with major construction beginning in 2018. The transmission line is anticipated to be carrying power by 2019.

Mike Polhamus

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10 Comments on "Army Corps of Engineers approves $1.2 billion power cable"

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Jeff Nichols
6 months 21 days ago

“Vermont will have the option to purchase up to 200 megawatts, but Jessome said he doesn’t expect the state to take advantage of that option”
Yes, we prefer to pay 3 times as much for power by decimating our mountaintops and filling our open land with black panels

Willem Post
6 months 20 days ago
Jeff, Vermont utilities have significantly DECREASED their low-cost, renewable, near-zero CO2-emitting, hydro energy, which is cleaner than wind and solar energy, and replaced a major part of VY nuclear energy with Seabrook nuclear energy. Utilities bought about 1.87 million MW of H-Q energy in 2011, or 31 percent of utility purchases in 2011. See page E.8 of URL. This is projected to DECREASE to about one million MWh at the start of 2017 and beyond, or 16.6 percent of utility purchases. The decrease of 0.87 million MW serves to “make room” for RE. See graph on page E.7 of DPS… Read more »
Kim Fried
6 months 21 days ago

Jeff I so agree with you. Vermont’s energy cartel and the existing administration prefer to continue to destroy Vermont’s environment and enrich it’s hand chosen industrial wind and solar developers and TDI doesn’t fit into their energy plans, just squeeze them for dollars. Again more expensive electricity for Vermonters and the continued destruction and industrialization of our beloved Vermont is their agenda.
The PSB has no problem sending the TDI electricity south, that’s perfectly okay, just not for Vermont, we’ll show the world we can do it alone.

Roger Sweatt
6 months 20 days ago
If Vermont does not purchase as much power from Hydro Quebec as can be negotiated for, they are as redundant as a state can possibly be. They claim that enough power will be going through this transmission line to power up the whole state of VT. This is an extremely unprecedented opportunity for the people of Vermont. Just think of it, Water Power from another Country that is so close and friendly to almost be considered an extension of our beliefs and countenance. All Vermont has to do is ask and Presto, energy needs taken care of immediately and with… Read more »
Mark Keefe
6 months 20 days ago

Wow…does our Paris climate talks presenting Governor and Secretary of Natural Resources know about this cable that has all the clean, renewable, on-demand energy we need for the state? Here’s your sign – thanks Digger.

Katharine H, MD
6 months 20 days ago

” the cable will be buried under Lake Champlain for almost the entire length, the project’s environmental and aesthetic harms will be minimal”

— did anyone check with the fish?

Willem Post
6 months 20 days ago

Katherine,
HVDC cables emit much less radio waves than HVAC cables.
The cable will be buried in a trench.
Fishes will not come anywhere near them.

Glenn Thompson
6 months 20 days ago

LOL! From the article,

“Because the cable will be buried under Lake Champlain for almost the entire length, the project’s environmental and aesthetic harms will be minimal, Levine said.”

Unlike Industrial Wind that you support….correct Sandra?

Roger Sweatt
6 months 20 days ago
This is the public’s chance to get up a petition to purchase this Hydro power from James bay, the cable is going right through lake Champlain, how much closer can it possibly be. If it went right under neath the State House in Montpelier, still the legislature would balk at this gift of renewable Clean Green energy. Why is that even possible? How redundant and backwards can the representatives be? What is wrong with the Governor? Does he not see a gift horse when one is right in front of him? Get that partition going around as soon as possible.
Bill Shattuck
6 months 20 days ago

The people of Ontario are paying higher electricity because of this arrangement with Quebec. They sell more than they can use, yet we pay more than we should from them. You would think we would get a deal before they sold it to our neighbours stateside. We also have so-called ‘Smart Meters’ here in Ontario and we’re charged time of day prices. Good luck with laying cable…I mean what could go wrong?

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