Vermont Green Line tests move to Middlebury
MIDDLEBURY — A group planning to bring hydro and wind power from upstate New York via cable under Lake Champlain and into the New England grid are sizing up Middlebury’s industrial park as a potential site for a high-voltage converter station in case a site in New Haven falls through.
Anbaric Transmission and National Grid are jointly proposing the Vermont Green Line project, which would include 60 miles of buried, direct current cable from Beekmantown, N.Y., to Kingsland Bay in Ferrisburgh, then under roads to Route 7. The developers’ current plan calls for the cable to lead to a 400MW converter station at one of two possible locations in the town of New Haven: one just west of the VELCO substation, the other off of Town Hill Road.
The developers have put together a financial incentive package for New Haven in an effort to win local support for the proposed converter station. That package includes roughly $1 million annually and the promise of a $3 million fire station, according to developers’ pitch to the town last December.
The Vermont Green Line infrastructure would be subject to local property taxes, which would be included in the $1 million.
But New Haven — which is already home to a great deal of VELCO power line infrastructure and an abundance of solar arrays — has yet to offer its endorsement of a project that will ultimately be decided by the Vermont Public Service Board, through the Section 248 review process. New Haven residents at their Feb. 29 annual meeting passed two straw polls asking the town to gather more information about the Vermont Green Line proposal and then hold a town-wide Australian ballot vote on whether to accept Anbaric’s offer.
The prospect of a protracted stand-off with New Haven has prompted Vermont Green Line officials to consider other options for siting the converter station, the Independent learned on Friday. National Grid is now listening to a pitch from Middlebury Director of Business & Innovation Jamie Gaucher to locate the converter station on a 22-acre site in the town’s industrial park off Exchange Street. The developer will make a presentation to the Middlebury selectboard on Tuesday.
“From my perspective, Middlebury’s industrial park is tailor-made for a project like this,” Gaucher said. “In my mind’s eye, this could be mutually beneficial for the town of Middlebury and for the company. And this potentially solves some problems that have been raised in New Haven.”
Joe Rossignoli is director of U.S. business development for National Grid. He stressed the company is still negotiating with New Haven, but time is getting to be of the essence. Vermont Green Line developers have set a self-imposed deadline of this spring for filing permit applications, and the end of 2020 for the new power line to be operational.
“We certainly are still in negotiation with New Haven,” Rossignoli said. “Those negotiations are progressing. But we do have an overall timeline around our permitting application, which we pledged not to submit until we had an expression of support from the town.”
So it comes down to National Grid not wanting to place all its eggs in the New Haven basket.
“We decided that we should, as responsible developers, make sure we have other options in the event we don’t reach agreement, one way or another, with New Haven,” Rossignoli said. “We are approaching spring, and we haven’t reached an agreement yet with New Haven. I hope we will, but we may not, so we are exploring other options.
“We’re excited,” Rossignoli said about a potential relationship with Addison County’s shire town. “Middlebury approached us on this project and we’re certainly anxious to get moving with our discussions with the selectboard and exploring the site that Jamie has in mind.”
That potential 22-acre site, Gaucher said, is located behind the Patricia A. Hannaford Career Center’s north campus off Mainelli Road. It is owned by Middlebury College, which is open to having a conversation about National Grid’s proposed use of the land, according to Gaucher.
National Grid officials have not yet broached the topic of potential compensation to the town of Middlebury for serving as possible host of the converter station. Gaucher stressed that Tuesday’s meeting before the selectboard is simply aimed at introducing the project and asking town officials “for their approval of initiating a conversation of what this might look like in Middlebury.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected]
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