Supporters of Northern Pass generally rely on two arguments for the 192-mile high voltage transmission line that will run through New Hampshire from the Canadian border to Deerfield. We need the power and we need to lower electric rates, they say. Putting aside for the moment that it is Massachusetts that needs the power, not New Hampshire, and that even Northern Pass’s economic expert projects a very small reduction in electric rates, it is clear from the responses to the Massachusetts Clean Energy RFP that there are many alternatives to Northern Pass being proposed in New England that would provide additional power and provide the same minimal reduction in electric rates.
As previously discussed on this blog, the New England Clean Power Link transmission project in Vermont would bring the same amount of hydro power from Canada, has a much lower estimated price tag, and is fully permitted, which means it could break ground much, much sooner than Northern Pass. Central Maine Power is also proposing a transmission line to bring hydro power from Canada to New England, and Emera has proposed an undersea transmission cable to bring hydro power from Canada.
There are also a number of proposals to bring more wind power to New England that have been submitted in response to Massachusetts RFP.
It’s hard to understand why anyone, other than Eversource Energy, a Connecticut company, would think it’s in New Hampshire’s interest to have a new 192-mile high voltage line scar New Hampshire when we can get the same energy supply and rate benefits, however modest, from transmission projects in other states.
But if there is someone who sees an advantage to New Hampshire hosting a high voltage transmission line project, let’s take a look at National Grid’s Granite State Power Link proposal to bring wind power from Canada to New England by primarily upgrading its existing high voltage transmission line in New Hampshire.
Granite State Power Link would deliver 1,200 megawatts of power from Canada to New England. Northern Pass would deliver 1,000 megawatts.
The tallest Granite State Power Link transmission towers would be 100 feet high, shorter than the existing Grid transmission towers in the same spots that are 110 feet. Mainly Granite State Power link intends to increase existing towers from 60 to 80 feet, again in the same place that existing Grid towers are 110 feet. In contrast, the tallest Northern Pass towers will be 165 feet high and every single one of its towers will be significantly taller than the PSNH towers in the same transmission corridor.
Both have agreements with the IBEW to employ some New Hampshire union members during their construction phases.
Granite State Power Link estimates its cost at $1.1 billion. Northern Pass two years ago estimated its cost at $1.6 billion.
A study by the Brattle Group commissioned by Granite State Power Link found the amount of reductions in greenhouse gas emissions it would achieve dwarfs the amount Northern Pass would achieve. For some reason Northern Pass’s argument that its analysis of GHG emissions is confidential has been accepted by the N.H. Site Evaluation Committee and the architects of Massachusetts RFP (note: Eversource is the largest electric utility in Massachusetts and has the most members of the RFP evaluation team) so the public doesn’t have access.
So, compared to Northern Pass, Granite State Power Link would deliver more power, have little visual impact, cost $500 million less, and could achieve a higher reduction in greenhouse gases.