Vermont Green Line
ADDISON COUNTY — A large renewable-energy transmission project won support from a key host town in Addison County by offering millions in payments but lost out in the competition for a contract to sell renewable energy to three Southern New England states.
Representatives from the Massachusetts-based companies Anbaric Transmission and National Grid approached New Haven, Ferrisburgh and Waltham in 2015 with plans to construct the Vermont Green Line.
The estimated $600 million project would bring 400 megawatts of wind and hydro power from upstate New York and onto the New England power grid by way of 59 miles of underground HVDC cable. The power-transmission cable would travel 40 miles under Lake Champlain, come aground at Kingsland Bay State Park, and then travel 13 miles underground through Ferrisburgh, Waltham and New Haven to a converter station near the junction of Routes 7 and 17.
Given the scale of the proposed converter station — roughly five stories high and the size of a football field — the project generated the most controversy in New Haven. Over nine months of public discussion, New Haven residents raised concerns about noise, property values, health and safety, and how the look and feel of the converter station would fit in with the town’s rural character.
VGL representatives repeatedly pledge to gain New Haven’s approval before approaching the Public Service Board for a Certificate of Public Good. And on Town Meeting Day, New Haven residents made clear that they wanted a vote.
In March, Middlebury began its own negotiations to have the converter station sited at a location in the town’s business park off Exchange Street. But the New Haven site remained VGL’s top choice because of its proximity to the VELCO substation, the northernmost terminus for high-voltage transmission lines on the west side of the Green Mountains.
In late May, New Haven voters signaled approval for the project through a townwide survey, with 252 in favor of the project and 128 against.
The terms of the agreement between VGL and New Haven include:
• Payments of $1.5 million per year for 40 years, with a yearly 1 percent adjustment for inflation.
• $4 million to build a new fire station and a new town garage.
• A VGL Compensation Fund for designated abutters, with an initial amount of $1 million.
VGL had offered Ferrisburgh at least $350,000 a year for 20 years, plus roughly $150,000 in annual local property taxes in November 2015. The Ferrisburgh selectboard negotiated throughout 2016 to improve that deal. But by the end of 2016, final terms had yet to be worked out. About 5.5 miles of the HVDC cable would travel through Ferrisburgh.
The project has had very little impact in Waltham because it runs along state right-of-way along Route 7.
VGL’s negotiations with New Haven officially concluded in early October, with both parties signing an official agreement.
Within weeks, however, New Haven learned of a possible monkey wrench. On Oct. 25, the New England Clean Energy RFP announced it had awarded renewable energy contracts to six projects, but the Vermont Green Line was not among them.
Selectman and New Haven VGL negotiator Steve Dupoise broke the news at a town plan hearing, calling the project “significantly stalled.”
In a follow-up conversation with the Independent, Joe Rossignoli, National Grid’s Director of U.S. Business Development, said that VGL developers intend to keep the project on schedule, as they submit new bids to deliver renewable energy elsewhere in New England.
“It’s business as usual,” he said.
On Oct. 21, VGL developers filed with papers with the Vermont regulator for a Certificate of Public Good. This could mean more news on this front in 2017.