Within the next two months the U.S. Department of Energy is expected to release its draft report on the environmental impact of the controversial Northern Pass project.
That federal report could propose some changes in the route and a top Northern Pass official says the company has been looking at options should modifications be needed...
The issue came up during a recent conference call with analysts.
One of them asked about a 1,090 megawatt project recently listed with ISO New England.
The proposed transmission line begins with Hydro Quebec and ends at a substation in Deerfield, the same as Northern Pass.
ISO operates the region’s energy grid and the proposal showed up in its interconnection queue. The queue lists all energy projects, some of which are never developed.
But it was enough to pique one analyst’s curiosity.
“Can you talk about what that is? Why you added it. Is it an alternative or a tweak to Northern Pass?”
Lee Olivier, a top official with Eversource, responded.
“What it does, it provides us an option.”
Olivier said Eversource is interested in options because the Department of Energy is currently studying the Northern Pass project and looking at alternatives.
“Clearly in the DOE EIS study they are studying a number of ranges around the project, modifications to the project, different routes to the project and potentially some additional undergrounding of the project.”
Eversource won’t comment further on this new project listing, but many opponents to Northern Pass have seized on it.
Bob Baker is an opponent of Northern Pass from Columbia.
“I think it is a pretty stark admission that they are in trouble and more importantly an admission that there is an alternative to the current plan.”
Ken Kimball is the director of research for the Appalachian Mountain Club, which opposes Northern Pass.
“I think it is very telling that they have the second request in with ISO. And, it tends to be in a voltage that would suggest that burial is actually something that is realistic and they understand that may or may not be required by DOE.”
This newly proposed line is 1090 megawatts. The Northern Pass line as currently proposed would be 1,200 megawatts.
That 110 megawatt difference could be important.
The reason is that some 1,000 megawatt lines are designed to be buried.
For example they’re being used for both the Champlain Hudson Power Express in New York and the New England Clean Power Link in Vermont.
Under the current proposal Northern Pass would follow a 187-mile route but only about eight miles would be buried. That all in Northern Coos County.
Northern Pass has steadfastly insisted it would be too expensive and burdensome to bury more of the line.
But in last week’s conference call with analysts Olivier’s answers alluded to a different approach.
“This option to go with the 1,090 would suggest using a different technology.”
A Northern Pass spokeswoman declined to say whether “different technology” means burial nor would she provide any other details.