NYSPSC gives go-ahead for construction multi-million dollar electricity transmission projects

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The New York State Public Service Commission (NYSPSC) on Sept. 9 approved the second construction phase of the 86-mile, $484 million Smart Path project in St. Lawrence County and it approved the 12-mile, approximately $100 million Rock Tavern to Sugarloaf transmission project in Orange County.

“The development of new transmission in New York State is key to our ability to get 70 percent of our electricity from renewable sources by 2030, and zero greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity sector by 2040,” Commission Chair John B. Howard said in a statement. “Projects such as the Smart Path project and the Rock Tavern project enhance and improve transmission across the State and are absolutely vital to make the renewable energy generated upstate accessible for the entire State.”

The approved projects are in addition to other transmission projects valued at more than $2 billion that have been recently approved or are under construction, including the $854 million upgrade of a 93-mile transmission line in the Mohawk Valley and Capital Region called the Marcy to New Scotland Transmission Upgrade Project.

The New York Power Authority-owned Smart Path project was granted authorization in November of 2019. It is being built in two phases. The previously approved first construction phase, now underway, includes replacing 78 miles of the existing wooden structures and replacing them with steel monopoles.

Additionally, the distance between poles is extended, further minimizing the use of space on the right-of-way and greatly reducing the number of poles on the landscape. The rebuilt lines will be taller but stronger, less susceptible to failure and able to better withstand inclement weather, such as ice storms. Further, the reduced size of the project means less of an impact on agriculture and wetlands.

The just-approved second construction phase will involve rebuilding six miles of existing steel structures coming out of the Robert-Moses Switchyard in the Town of Massena and rebuilding 0.4 miles of steel structures into the Adirondack substation with steel monopoles. In its entirety, the Smart Path Reliability Project traverses through 12 towns from north to south: Massena, Louisville, Norfolk, Madrid, Potsdam, Canton, Russell, Hermon, Edwards and Pitcarin in St. Lawrence County, and Diana and Croghan in Lewis County.

Both phases of the rebuilt transmission lines are expected to be completed in 2023.

The statement says the Smart Path project is necessary to rebuild facilities that are well past their serviceable lifetime to make them more resilient and reduce maintenance costs. The rebuilt transmission lines are needed to deliver electricity, including carbon-free hydroelectric power, from Northern New York to the rest of the State; to re-energize the bulk electric system as a component of the New York Independent System Operator’s System Restoration Plan in the event of a future widespread outage; and to provide increased capacity for future expansion to meet New York’s clean energy targets.

In addition to the second phase of the Smart Path project, the Commission approved New York Transco’s Rock Tavern to Sugarloaf project. The project, valued at approximately $100 million, includes replacement of an existing 115-kV 12-mile overhead transmission line and associated transmission towers on an existing right-of-way in the Towns of New Windsor, Hamptonburgh, Blooming Grove, and Chester in Orange County as well as station upgrades. This project is needed in connection with a larger transmission line upgrade known as the New York Energy Solution owned by New York Transco.

The New York Energy Solution project is designed to provide additional transmission capacity to move power from upstate to downstate. The Rock Tavern to Sugarloaf project is to be operational by December 2023.

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