ALBANY – State officials on Monday named two competing bidders as winners in a long-awaited search for companies that can bring clean electricity to New York City – both said they will bury their transmission lines under the Hudson River.
The state agency for energy research and development awarded the offers to two consortia: The Champlain Hudson Power Express, which aims to transport electricity from hydropower plants in northern Quebec; and Clean Path New York, a partnership between the quasi-public New York Electricity Authority Invenergy and energyRE, solar energy.
The lines are expected to provide carbon-free electricity to 2.5 million homes in and around New York City by the end of the decade, eliminating the need for many existing fossil fuel power plants in the area.
The Champlain or CHPE line, to be built by Transmission Developers Inc., would run 338 miles from the Canadian border to New York City, with most of the line running under the Hudson as well as Lake Champlain. The project is owned by the Blackstone Group investment company. It will have between 1,000 and 1,250 megawatts or MW of power. New York City is expected to be supplied with electricity by 2025.
Clean Path NY's 1,300 MW line would run 174 miles from Delaware County to the Hudson River and then to New York City, carrying electricity from solar and wind turbines. It would also have increased electricity from the existing Blenheim-Gilboa pumped storage dam and hydropower plant in Schoharie County. This line is expected to be in operation until 2027.
By placing the bid on two different companies, NYSERDA and Governor Kathy Hochul – whose office released Monday's announcement – appear to be seeking a compromise.
The Champlain line offers the promise of clean energy available from the massive hydropower projects of the province of Quebec to the north. But it has drawn criticism from developers in the state as well as New York unions who also wanted to participate in the work.
Gavin Donohue, President and CEO of Independent Power Producers, or NY, which represents power plant operators, maintained that criticism on Monday. He described the awarding of half of the prize to CHPE as a “missed opportunity”. His group wanted the CHPE line to be fitted with an inverter or equipment that would allow backcountry power generators to be connected to the line rather than exclusively carrying Canadian hydropower.
But a number of union leaders welcomed Hochul's decision on Monday as there is at least some state electricity production. The agreement also calls for project work arrangements that ensure the participation of the trade unions.
Hochul's announcement also sends a signal that she remains committed to pursuing the sweeping clean energy goals set for former Governor Andrew Cuomo, who resigned last month amid a sexual harassment scandal.
“These transformative projects are a win-win situation – they are creating thousands of new high-paying jobs across the state and attracting billions of dollars in private investment. They are also helping us to change New York City's long-standing dependence on fossil fuels, “said Hochul at the announcement.
“New York hasn't invested that much in energy infrastructure since the late 1950s through the early 1960s,” noted NYPA President and CEO Gil Quiniones.
CHPE and Clean Path were among the 13 separate proposals for the project.
The projects are still pending final contract negotiations and approval by the Public Service Commission, but many of the required permits and rights of way have already been granted.
Both projects will be expensive and are expected to create thousands of jobs during construction. Hochul's office said it will boost investment and economic activity worth $ 8.2 billion.
Delivering clean electricity to populous New York City and its environs is one of the key challenges to meeting the state's goal of 70 percent carbon-free electricity by 2035.
Upstate New York, with its large existing hydropower plants along the St. Lawrence River and in Niagara Falls, and with its wide open spaces conducive to large solar and wind farms, has and will continue to have a surplus of cheap green electricity. But getting this energy to the city where it is needed has been constrained by the limited number of transmission lines.
By shifting solar, hydro and wind power in this direction, a number of older, CO2-emitting gas and oil power plants in the city can be closed or minimized.
“This,” said New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, “this is a transformative moment in New York's fight against climate change.”
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