Dec. 1—Gov. Kathy Hochul was in Whitehall, Washington County, on Wednesday announcing the start of construction on a 339-mile underground transmission line that will bring clean power from Quebec's hydroelectric plants to New York City.
That's great news for New York, which has one of the most ambitious clean energy and climate change laws in the country, requiring the state's electric generation infrastructure to be emissions-free by 2040.
The $4.5 billion direct-current power line, known as the Champlain Hudson Power Express, will bring up to 1,250 megawatts of electricity to the New York City area — enough power for about 1 million homes. Construction is beginning in the village of Whitehall and will progress north and south at the same time, venturing through the Capital Region at one point, mostly along railroad beds or underwater.
Unlike traditional high-voltage power lines across the state that use alternating current and hang on metal towers, direct current, or DC, power lines can be made very small and buried underground, although they can only bring electricity to one destination.
The project is being built by a company called Transmission Developers, which is also planning a similar project in Vermont that will also import clean power from Hydro Quebec, which oversees Quebec's hydroelectric dams.
"This green infrastructure project will bring billions of dollars in economic benefits to our state and will pave the way for cleaner air and a healthier future for all New Yorkers," Hochul said at the event.
Observers are hoping the Champlain Hudson Power Express construction remains on schedule to be completed by 2026.
Otherwise, residents and businesses in the New York City area could be facing potential future electricity shortages or reliability issues during the hot summer months, according to the New York Independent System Operator, the North Greenbush entity that oversees the state's high-voltage electrical grid.
Just hours before Hochul's visit to Whitehall, the NYISO, as it is known, released a new report on the reliability of the state's electrical grid that warned a "significant delay" to the Chaplain Hudson Power Express could pose problems for New York City's power grid by 2028 — especially if there are severe weather events, such a protracted heat wave. And issues could develop as early as next year, depending on the weather, economic and public policy factors.
"We see reliability margins narrowing to concerning levels as early as 2023," Zach Smith, the NYISO's vice president of system and resource planning said in a statement. "To meet policy goals and maintain reliability we need to use the power of markets to mitigate these risks as we bring new resources on the grid."
The NYISO does such reliability studies, which look out on a 10-year horizon, every two years.
Although New York currently has plenty of electricity to keep the state and its economy humming, the state is facing some challenges to that adequate supply — mostly of its own making.
The state's strict climate change law will force fossil fuel power plant owners to eventually shut down their facilities to encourage enough clean energy production from solar and wind farms and hydroelectric dams to make up the difference.
It also didn't help that former Gov. Andrew Cuomo forced the closure of the Indian Point nuclear power plant in Westchester County several years ago over worries a radiation leak or worse was too much of a risk to the millions of residents in the New York City area. Indian Point produced 2,000 megawatts of emissions-free electricity, a substantial chunk of the peak electrical demand in the state, which can reach higher than 30,000 megawatts on hot summer days.
But New York has to face this new reality — and find solutions soon.
In addition to the Champlain Hudson Power Express, another direct-current transmission line project involving the New York Power Authority called Clean Path NY will also bring renewable energy to New York City, although, in this case, it will be power generated in upstate New York instead of in Quebec, which has excess hydropower to sell.
Together, Clean Path NY and the Champlain Hudson Power Express are expected to provide New York City with one-third of all its electrical needs once they are both complete.
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