As the generating capacity of renewable power grows, so does the need for a greater transmission system to carry the load. Additionally, just as renewable projects generate jobs, transmission upgrades also present opportunities for the local labor market and are a well-timed investment for public officials striving to spur a sagging economy.
One state has recognized this dynamic and is investing in an ambitious upgrade to its aging energy transmission system. In January, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo gave his State of the State address. He outlined several proposals for public infrastructure investment.
They include a private-sector-funded, $2 billion “Energy Highway” system, which the governor compared to the construction of the state’s thruway system. When completed, it will bring renewable energy from the upstate and western regions where it is generated to the downstate region where demand is concentrated. The plan also calls for the repowering of old plants to stop pollution in urban neighborhoods.
Currently, bottlenecks in the state’s system hinder the transmission of power and push prices up in downstate areas. Increased carrying capacity would allow the transmission of more renewable power and could encourage utilities to invest further in the development of more generation. This could also take the pressure off rates, especially for users in New York City, where demand and prices are highest.
One project that would appear to fit the bill and has already generated public attention, is the Champlain-Hudson Power Express Project, proposed by the Albany-based Transmission Developers Inc. The 330-mile project, from the Canadian border to New York City, would be capable of delivering up to 1,000 megawatts of clean energy. Cable would be submerged or buried to avoid controversies over the construction of high-voltage towers. According to the company, the project could generate more than 300 jobs during its three and a half year construction phase. The project is expected to cost about $2 billion.
Cuomo said the state will develop a master plan to power its needs for the next 50 years and issue requests for proposals to private companies to implement the plan.