CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — The utility seeking to pull Canadian hydropower into New Hampshire filed its application with state regulators Monday, five years after the project was proposed.
Hartford, Connecticut-based Eversource has proposed a 192-mile transmission line from Pittsburgh to Deerfield, carrying 1,090 MW of hydropower produced by Canada's biggest hydro generator, HydroQuebec. That's enough to power a million homes and supporters say it will help to trim energy costs for consumers in New England, who pay some of the nation's highest costs for electricity.
"Today's filing marks another important milestone in our effort to deliver a clean energy solution that our customers desperately need in order to diversify our power supply and stabilize energy prices," said Bill Quinlan, president of Eversource operations in New Hampshire.
The filing to the Site Evaluation Committee comes after a week of good news and bad news for the region's electricity users: Energy analysts are forecasting lower heating oil prices this winter but last week, the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Massachusetts announced it would shut down by June 2019, taking its 680 MW off the grid.
After vocal opposition to the overhead lines, especially through scenic areas in the White Mountains, Eversource in August announced it would bury 60 miles through the mountains and reduce the height of some of its poles. In Monday's application, the company said that after listening to people during public appearances since the August proposal, it was modifying 60 more power poles to address complaints about the impact on views.
Beyond the visual and environmental effects, critics of the power lines say they would damage property values and do little to trim costs for New Hampshire customers while benefiting users in thirstier Southern New England markets.
"It is disappointing that Northern Pass failed to listen to the public at last month's SEC input sessions, where 80 percent of the comments were in opposition to Northern Pass as proposed," said Jack Savage, spokesman for the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests. "It is a missed opportunity on their part. If Northern Pass were truly listening to New Hampshire landowners and communities as they claim, this proposal would have been for an entirely buried line."
The Eversource plan released in August raised the cost of the project to $1.6 billion from a $1.4 billion estimate that would have carried more power — 1,200 MW — but called for burying just 8 miles of transmission lines.
The SEC filing triggers a review process, including more public hearings, that could take up to 14 months. If a federal permit is issued and the state SEC approves the plan, Eversource said it expects construction to begin in 2017 and the power to start flowing in spring 2019.
The U.S. Department of Energy in September said it would prepare a supplement to a draft environmental report to consider Eversource's August revision. That stretched out the federal review period, giving the public until Dec. 31 to comment on the plant. Eversource said the state and federal reviews will move on parallel tracks.