Growing demand for electricity in Westchester and New York City is having an impact on some Hudson Valley counties. Some power proposals are being reconsidered.
Efforts to deliver electric service to energy-hungry downstate customers is being funneled through a proposal process that has seen several entities submit plans for a $1.2 billion project involving a 345 kilovolt line that would run through counties including Greene, Columbia, Dutchess and Orange.
Environmental advocates supported a proposal by Boundless Energy, a plan they thought would be less costly and less intrusive than others submitted.
Jennifer Metzger is co-founder of Ulster County-based Citizens for Local Power. "It's the preferred proposal for a number of reasons. It was the less-costly proposal but also it caused the least amount of disturbance to viewshed in the Hudson Valley, which is very important to the communities across the river from us."
The New York State Public Service Commission staff came out with a recommendation that bigger power lines were preferred, asking Boundless Energy to withdraw its plan that entailed a great expanse of mostly buried cable. Three developers are still in play: North America Transmission Corporation, New York Transmission Owners and NextEra Energy Transmission New York, Inc.
John Maserjian, spokesperson for both Central Hudson and New York Transmission Company, says their studies have shown enhanced transmission lines would alleviate congestion and hasten development of power sources in western New York by providing a path for power to reach load centers through central New York. And buried is not necessarily better. "Transmission lines, due to their nature, cannot be buried for long distances, and the congestion areas where lines must be enhanced are longer than the buried lines would allow. Also the buried lines are very very expensive and would cost New York residents more money than the benefits they would provide. We propose an overhead solution that the Public Service Commission is looking to advance that would accomplish two things. First, it would address aging infrastructure by removing a set of 80-year old transmission lines that run through the Hudson Valley and replace them with a streamlined monopole line, actually with a lower footprint than the existing line. So, we feel this would provide an aesthetic benefit, it would address aging infrastructure and at the same time alleviate congestion in the transmission system."
Hayley Carlock, director of environmental advocacy for Scenic Hudson, does not agree. "We've submitted expert reports to the Public Service Commission that clearly demonstrate that there is no need for these lines for reliability purposes. They won't increase system reliability, nor is there an economic justification for these lines. They are not needed to relieve congestion in the lower Hudson Valley and New York City, and would likely cost more to build than they would ever save residents."
Carlock says the PSC staff is now saying the project should move ahead "as a matter of public policy."
Boundless Energy issued a press release calling the staff recommendations flawed and arbitrary saying they failed to answer Governor Andrew Cuomo’s call for improving energy infrastructure while using existing corridors.
Metzger and fellow advocates vow they'll continue to push for a more distributed energy system... "And away from this conventional centralized model of power distribution and transmission, which this project is very much along the lines of the traditional models. A more distributed system is going to do a lot to address, alleviate the peak demand problem that is the central reason for this transmission project."
The PSC did not return a call for comment.