Middlebury to consider hosting Vermont Green Line

MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury selectboard on Tuesday unanimously agreed to explore a potential agreement with the developers of a proposed high-voltage converter station that would facilitate the flow of renewable energy from upstate New York into the New England power grid.
Known as the “Vermont Green Line,” the $200 million project includes 60 miles of buried transmission line. The cable line would originate in Beekmantown, N.Y., flow under Lake Champlain to Kingsland Bay in Ferrisburgh, and proceed under roads to Route 7. There, the buried cable would run south, with current plans calling for it to culminate at a converter station near the junction of Routes 7 and 17 in New Haven.
The Vermont Green Line is a joint project of Anbaric Transmission and National Grid. The high-voltage direct current electricity, produced by hydro and wind power, would be transformed into alternating current at the converter station and plugged into the VELCO substation. The power is destined for ratepayers in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island.
Project developers and New Haven officials have been trying to forge a deal to make the converter station acceptable to the town and its residents, some of whom have voiced concern about the noise and traffic the new facility might generate. Any agreement between New Haven, Anbaric and National Grid will be put to a vote by townspeople. The project would bring New Haven roughly $1 million annually and a number of other enticements, including a $3 million fire station, according to developers’ pitch to the town last December.
The Green Line infrastructure is subject to property taxes.
Meanwhile, a site in Middlebury’s industrial park has emerged as the developers’ contingency plan if they are unable to come to an agreement with New Haven. Jose Rossignoli, director of U.S. business development for National Grid, met with the Middlebury selectboard for the first time on Tuesday to gauge town officials’ interest in having the converter station in Middlebury. It was Middlebury Director of Business & Innovation Jamie Gaucher who reached out to Rossignoli to ask if Addison County’s shire town could serve as an appropriate site.
“I contacted Joe, thinking the Middlebury industrial park would be a fantastic location for a project like this,” Gaucher told the selectboard.
Rossignoli described the current negotiations with New Haven as “ongoing” and “progressing,” but added the talks are “taking longer that we expected.” The Vermont Green Line business plan calls for its permit application (through Vermont’s Section 248 process) to be filed this spring. Developers hope to receive a green light from the Vermont Public Service Board sometime next year and have the project operational by 2020.
“As time rolls on, it does put pressure on our permitting timeline,” Rossignoli said, pressure that he said is prompting him and his associates to talk to neighboring communities about hosting the converter station.
Middlebury selectboard members all said they are receptive to having the converter station sited in the industrial park, though some expressed concern that their interest might vex their New Haven colleagues, or at least undermine their neighbors’ bargaining power with Anbaric and National Grid.
“It seems good that we might have an option here,” Selectwoman Laura Asermily said. “But we want to be mindful of our neighbors in New Haven.”
Selectwoman Susan Shashok requested — and her colleagues agreed — to officially inform New Haven of Middlebury’s entrée into the converter station discussions.
“I would hate to go forward without connecting (with New Haven) on some level,” Shashok said.
Shashok’s comments quickly made their way to New Haven, as representatives of that town attended Tuesday’s meeting and reported back to New Haven officials later that evening.
The Independent reached out to New Haven selectboard Chairwoman Kathleen Barrett on Wednesday morning to get her reaction to Middlebury’s interest in hosting the Green Line converter station.
“I don’t know how serious they are, or what their game plan is,” Barrett said of Anbaric and National Grid. “We are just going to have to see how it plays out.”
But Barrett added New Haven continues to be in almost daily contact with the developers in an effort to reach an accord to bring to voters.
“We have been negotiating in good faith and have not been dragging our feet, by any means,” Barrett said. “We have been trying to come up with an agreement that is satisfactory to both sides.”
Middlebury officials listened intently to Rossignoli’s pitch. He described the converter station as a three-building complex having the look of a barn.
“It is meant to blend in with local aesthetics,” he said.
Rossignoli said the transformer in the station would emit noises in the 30- to 40-decibel range, which he likened to a “quiet office or a quiet library.” He said dusk-to-dawn lighting at the facility would be “shielded, and directed downward.”
(A New Haven selectman on Thursday passed on to the Independent a map that he said Rossignoli and his team passed out at a meeting in New Haven earlier this year that showed the noise just outside the converter station would be greater than 60 decibels and that the sound level would be in the 30- to 40-decibel range outside the nearest houses.)
Current plans call for a 400MW converter station at the New Haven site. But Rossignoli acknowledged the companies would like to have 800MW capability, and might be able to pursue that scale at the Middlebury site.
Since the Middlebury industrial park is not a residential area, Gaucher said, the converter station should have minimal or no impact on the surroundings.
The Middlebury site developers are exploring contains roughly 20 acres and is owned by Middlebury College. The site, now in agriculture, is located behind Patricia A. Hannaford Career Center’s North Campus.
“I think having this project in the industrial park could bring tremendous benefit to Middlebury and the region,” said Selectman Nick Artim.
Selectman Victor Nuovo agreed.
“Our industrial park seems well-suited for this,” he said. “It is a proper use of a space we are very fortunate to have.”
The board unanimously supported a motion to have Gaucher and Middlebury Town Manager Kathleen Ramsay begin conversations with the Vermont Green Line developers on what a converter station might look like in the industrial park. This, officials said, could culminate in a draft memorandum of understanding between the parties that would have to be reviewed and OK’d by the selectboard.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].
Editor’s note: This story was updated after it’s initial posting to add the information from the New Haven selectman who said Rossignoli provided additional information on potential noise pollution at a New Haven meeting.

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