By JOHN FLOWERS
MIDDLEBURY — Central Vermont Public Service Corp. is considering introducing a new 5.4-mile, 46kV power transmission line that would extend from substations in New Haven and Weybridge, a project designed to enhance electricity delivery and reliability for around 4,400 customers — including businesses in Middlebury’s industrial park.
CVPS spokesman Steve Costello stressed plans are very conceptual at this point. Ultimately, the state’s largest utility would need to apply for permission from the Vermont Public Service Board (PSB) to proceed with the $4 million project, which would not be subject to local review.
“We are trying now to get public input before we seek a permit,” Costello said. “We are probably a year away from filing an application with the PSB.”
The 4,400 customers that would be affected by the project are currently served by a dead-end radial line that extends from the Vermont Electric Power Co. (VELCO) substation in Middlebury to the CVPS substation in Weybridge. Costello explained that since the line is a dead-end, it is more vulnerable to interruptions of service in the event of a downed tree or some other natural disaster that could take down poles or other infrastructure.
“(The line) is not looped,” Costello said. “There is nowhere else to feed it.”
With that in mind, CVPS officials are considering a new 46kV line that would run along an existing electricity distribution right of way from the New Haven VELCO substation off Route 17, across Town Hill Road and through fields and cleared land before crossing Route 7. After crossing Route 7, it would travel across country, paralleling Campground Road and Twitchell Hill Road before tying into the existing 46kV line feeding the CVPS Weybridge substation, which is on Quaker Village Road.
Costello noted CVPS has some existing distribution line (that feeds homes and other connections) and a right-of-way within the proposed path. The existing poles stand about 34 feet tall. Officials at CVPS are considering replacing the existing poles with ones that are around 15 feet taller, which would allow the existing distribution line to be hung below and the new transmission line above it.
Because the new poles would be taller, CVPS may be able to reduce the number of poles they are currently using within the project right-of-way by making the spans between poles a bit longer, according to Costello.
CVPS officials presented their tentative plans to the Addison County Regional Planning Commission on Nov. 12. Several Middlebury officials and residents near the potential project area weighed in with questions and concerns — such as how obtrusive the new lines and poles could be, and whether they might be at risk from exposure to stray voltage.
“People living near the substations are the most sensitized,” said Middlebury Town Planner Fred Dunnington.
The new line would pass through around a dozen Middlebury properties, according to Dunnington.
For now, Middlebury officials are taking a wait-and-see approach as CVPS fine-tunes its proposal.
While Dunnington said some might dispute the proposed track of the project, “we support the proposed objectives of it. We’re interested in supporting the goals of electricity reliability for downtown Middlebury.”