National Grid USA is proposing to build and operate two 2.7-mile, 115-kV overhead transmission lines between the Cabot Junction in Greenfield, Mass., and the Montague substation in Montague, Mass., according to the company’s June 15 initial brief filed with the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU).
National Grid last November filed a petition with the DPU seeking a determination that the company’s proposal is necessary for reliability purposes, serves the public convenience and is consistent with the public interest.
National Grid also sought individual and comprehensive zoning exemptions from the Town of Greenfield Zoning Ordinance and the Zoning Bylaws of the Town of Montague and a determination that the project is reasonably necessary for the convenience or welfare of the public.
The project involves separating the existing Y-177/B-128 115-kV transmission lines from their present alignment along 24, 1930s vintage, double-circuited steel lattice towers with suspension porcelain disc insulators. That existing double-circuit tap will be replaced with two separate tap lines with independent structures called the Y-177 line and A-127 tap, the company added.
The Y-177 line will be transferred onto 13 new single-circuit direct-embed steel utility poles and 16 new single-circuit steel utility poles on concrete pier foundations with new conductors and steel shield wire. The B-128 line, the company added, will be transferred to tap the A-127 line and renamed the A-127 Tap Line; the new A-127 Tap Line will be located on a separate series of 29 single-circuit steel poles on concrete pier foundations with new conductors and steel shield wire. The new structures for both lines will be about 50 feet to 110 feet tall, which is up to 50 feet taller than the existing lattice structures.
The company also said that the project will be located within an existing electric utility right of way (ROW) for most of its length, but the project will require the development of about 16.7 acres of new ROW along 0.75 miles between the Power Canal and the Montague 21C substation.
National Grid said that the development and planning of the project requires the close coordination of two utility systems — National Grid and Western Massachusetts Electric d/b/a Eversource Energy — as well as ISO New England (ISO-NE).
National Grid anticipates beginning construction of the facilities in 1Q16, with facilities in service by 4Q16. The cost for implementing the project is estimated to be about $13 million, the company added.
“There is a clear need for the project in order to address transmission reliability concerns in the Pittsfield–Greenfield transmission study area, which extends from Pittsfield north to the Vermont border, east to Greenfield, and south to Amherst,” the company said.
While Eversource owns and operates most of the Pittsfield–Greenfield area transmission system and serves most of the area electric distribution load, in the northern part of that area, four National Grid-owned transmission lines share a ROW that extends from the Harriman station in Vermont southeast toward the Millbury substation.
The company said it has demonstrated that all three portions of the project are necessary to meet the identified need. Specifically, the company added, the separation of the A-127 and Y-177 115-kV lines onto single-circuit structures is needed independent of any other upgrades proposed for the Pittsfield/Greenfield Area. Also, the reconductoring of the A-127 Line between the Cabot Junction and the Montague substation is needed independent of the other upgrades proposed for the Pittsfield/Greenfield area, in order to address N-1-1 thermal overloads on that line. Lastly, the company added, the re-termination of the Cabot Tap from the B-128 Line to the A-127 Line is needed to provide a direct path between the new Erving switching station and the Montague substation, in order to address N-1-1 thermal overloads on the 1231 and 1242 lines serving the Montague load pocket.
The company also said that impacts to surrounding land uses have been appropriately minimized, noting that about 42 percent of the land within the project ROW is classified as power line/utility, 26 percent is characterized as non-forested wetland, 21 percent is characterized as forested, and the remaining 11 percent consists of a mix of open water, residential, commercial, industrial and transportation. With the exception of the areas of tree removal, the ROW and the access routes have been previously disturbed due to normal utility activities. Furthermore, the company added, there are few residences in close proximity of the ROW.
Discussing the needed zoning exemptions, the company said, for instance, that it seeks an exemption from the requirements in Section 5.2 of the Montague Zoning Bylaw that a special permit is required to build the replacement lines in such zoning districts as “industrial,” “recreation/education,” and “residential,” because of the legal uncertainty and the potential for adverse interpretations, delay, burden and undue expense associated with the permitting process and appeals therefrom.
Also, the company said that a comprehensive zoning exemption would secure several benefits, including providing greater certainty with respect to provisions of the zoning bylaws and ordinances that might subsequently be interpreted as applying to the project and, most importantly, allowing National Grid to achieve finality in its local permitting.