ALBANY – An ambitious and long-sought proposal to bring Quebec hydropower to New York may have moved a step closer to reality this month. But the latest news regarding the proposed Champlain Hudson Power Express involves transmitting the power to New York City’s five boroughs, and questions remain from upstate interests who don’t want to be excluded.
For approximately a decade, Transmission Developers Inc. has been proposing a 333-mile power line of up to 1,250 megawatts connecting Quebec, where there are large hydroelectric plants, with the New York City metropolitan area.
The power would be transmitted by direct current, which allows the lines to be buried – in this case under the Hudson River to a facility where it would be converted to alternating current.
In the Capital Region, the line would emerge from the Hudson near Fort Ann and follow railroad rights of way through Wilton, Saratoga Springs, Clifton Park, and Schenectady. Then, according to Transmission Developer’s website, it would run from Erie Boulevard to just south of State Street in Schenectady where it would then be buried near another railroad right of way to the Hudson River.
The developers would pay local taxes on the lines as well.
One of the ideas is that the power would replace some of the electricity currently generated by the Indian Point nuclear plant in Westchester County. That plant is scheduled to close in 2021, although it could stay open longer if alternatives aren’t found to replace the nuclear power currently produced there.
With that in mind, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio recently approved a contract with a law firm, White & Case, to help the city explore a possible deal with Champlain Express. The mayor is also looking at options for financing the $3 billion project through bond sales, according to the Politico news site which first reported the contract with White & Case.
Neither White & Case nor the New York City mayor’s office responded to email requests for comment sent Tuesday.
TDI spokeswoman Jennifer Laird-White in a prepared statement noted that the project already has the permits needed to start work. “We look forward to improving air quality in New York City, reducing emissions statewide and creating 2,600 direct and indirect construction jobs for New Yorkers,” she said.
The possibility that New York City may take a leading role in the project could change much of New York state’s power generation landscape.
However, there are critics, including the operators of upstate power plants who, in an unusual alliance, have joined environmentalists in voicing their concerns.
“The concerns are that there are better, more affordable ways to address our electricity needs in New York state than by importing Canadian hydropower,” said Gavin Donohue, president and CEO of the Independent Power Producers of N.Y., which represents power plant operators.
“We believe that it is a very bad thing,” said Shay O’Reilly, the Sierra Club’s New York City organizing representatives. His group believes that renewable energy sources should be developed locally rather than being imported from more than 300 miles away.
He also said his group worries about the relatively untested concept of digging trenches and laying cables along the bottom of the Hudson River.
The Sierra Club also believes expansion of off-shore wind projects along the coast of Long Island could eventually meet the region’s needs. Thanks in part to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s call for more renewable power, 700 megawatts of wind power are slated to be developed off the coast over the next five years, O’Reilly noted.
The Quebec government, which operates large hydro plants in the northern and eastern parts of the province, has enthusiastically supported the concept of a power line.
The province has added 5,000 megawatts of surplus capacity since the early 2000s, according to various news reports.