Ferrisburgh hears pitch for buried power cable

FERRISBURGH — About 20 Ferrisburgh residents at last week’s Ferrisburgh selectboard meeting heard representatives of a Massachusetts company describe how a proposed $600 million underground power line that would run through Ferrisburgh would affect and — company officials said — benefit their town.
Anbaric Transmission, an independent company that specializes in high-voltage energy-transmission projects and is based in Wakefield, Mass., is proposing to lay 60 miles of cable from Beekmantown in upstate New York, under Lake Champlain and then underground along roadways through Ferrisburgh and a small stretch of Waltham and into New Haven.
There, the 400-megawatt line — which company officials said would carry renewable energy generated from wind and hydro sources — would end at a converter station next to the VELCO substation and thus hook up to the larger power grid.
If all permits and a Vermont Public Service Board Certificate of Public Good are obtained for what Anbaric is calling its Vermont Green Line, the project could begin in late 2017 or early 2018 and be completed in late 2019 or early 2020, company project manager Bryan Sanderson said at the meeting.
As currently proposed, the Vermont Green Line would deliver electricity to power customers in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island. Anbaric has submitted a bid to those states, but won’t know if its proposal is accepted until sometime in the spring or summer of 2016.
In Ferrisburgh, Sanderson said, the power line would surface at Kingsland Bay, run about six miles along town roads to Route 7, then head south along the state highway to hook up to the larger power grid in New Haven.
Sanderson said twin direct-current power cables (400 MW each) would be encased in plastic tubing and buried in trenches that would be four feet deep and two feet wide, and then covered in concrete. He pledged the surfaces next to the roads would be recovered and returned to their original conditions, leaving “literally no trace of the cable.”
He described the cable as a “very efficient way of moving power long distances underground and underwater,” and as “an ideal way for connecting renewables to the grid.”
In order for New England to meet its target for obtaining more power from renewable energy sources and not fossil fuels or nuclear power, Sanderson said, the region had to look to imported power through projects such as Anbaric is proposing.
“If we are to meet our renewable energy goals, the grid has to evolve to bring more wind and hydro into the system,” he said.
Sanderson, in what he called a preliminary visit that would be the first of many, also outlined what he said were the direct and indirect benefits to Ferrisburgh, including:
•  An estimated $60,000 in additional annual town property tax revenue, not including school taxes paid directly to the state.
•  To-be-determined payments to the town for the use of its public rights of way.
•  A boost to the local economy through construction jobs, spending and tax revenue during the project.
•  Other compensation that would be negotiated by state officials.
•  What he said would be lower energy costs and a more reliable grid.
LOCAL REACTION
Not all were impressed.
“That $60,000 you’re talking about, is that a year or a week?” said resident Ed Charbonneau.
Sanderson replied that the $60,000 was an estimate for town taxes only and there would be some benefit on the school side as well as other financial benefits yet to be pinned down.
New Haven’s Susan Smiley asked about the source of the power to be supplied. Sanderson said much of it could come from northern New York wind farmers, who currently lack the infrastructure to send out excess production southward and have excess supply.
“We’re not looking at stealing New York’s wind,” he said.
Resident Tim Mathewson suggested that given persistent conflicts between bicyclists and pedestrians along Ferrisburgh’s back roads, the work along the roads might be a good opportunity to create bike paths.
Selectboard chairman Steve Gutowski endorsed that suggestion: “That would be a big plus.”
Ferrisburgh Conservation Commission chairman Craig Heindel said the town would have little say over whether the project would eventually win state approval or not.
He suggested the selectboard collect comments over time to present to the Public Service Board.
“The strongest place to make our cause known is the Public Service Board,” Heindel said.
He also noted the Vermont Green Line is but one of several similar large transmission projects, and that Ferrisburgh and Vermont would do well to make the best deals they could.
“There are a lot of projects crossing Northern New England to get to the big consumers down south,” he said. “It behooves us on the route to make sure we are properly compensated.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at andyk@addisonindependent.com.

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