BY HEATHER LAKE
Since the blackout in 2003 darkened the lives of 50 million customers throughout the northeast, Midwest and part of Canada, the pressure is on power providers to meet customer demand.
Regulatory agencies overseeing the region’s power grid have increased expectations on providers and are prepared to levy fines upwards of $1 million a day if customer demand is not met.
A proposed Connecticut Light & Power $251 million transmission system upgrade – which impacts several local towns – aims to address those expectations through 2050 and beyond.
Two upcoming open house events – one in Danielson (Killingly), the other in Mansfield – are planned to provide information and answer questions about the proposed project. “It is designed to improve the flow of electricity in the Southern New England area,” said Frank Poirot, a CL&P spokesperson for the project.
The proposed Interstate Reliability Project is part of the New England East-West Solution, a group of projects designed to meet growing demand in Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts.
In Connecticut, the project would include 37 miles of 345 kilovolt transmission lines extending from the existing substation in Lebanon to a substation in Killingly and to the Rhode Island border.
The new lines would be an additional circuit that would improve reliability for the targeted region.
Steel H-frame structures would be constructed to accompany the existing wooden structures that currently support power lines. The steel structures are sturdier and more resilient.
Area towns on the proposal route include Lebanon, Columbia, Willimantic, Coventry, Mansfield, Chaplin and Hampton.
Other towns include Brooklyn, Killingly, Putnam, Pomfret and Thompson. Power outages are not anticipated during construction.
In Columbia, Town Administrator Jonathan Luiz has met with CL&P and is asking town boards and commissions to review the proposal and submit any questions or concerns.
“CL&P believes it is necessary to upgrade utilities throughout the region,” Luiz said, adding that he could not attest to its necessity without further review of the proposal.
A related project is already under way in Springfield, Mass., and planned in other parts of Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
“These projects come along once in a generation. The last time was in the ’70s and ’80s,” Poirot said. “A lot has changed since then.”
If approved construction would begin in late 2013 and be in service by 2015.
Poirot said the proposal is actually an extension of a 2008 proposal. “The existing system does not meet national reliability standards,” Poirot said.
The National American Electric Reliability Corporation and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission set the standards.
“It’s their way of sending a message that reliability is very important. It goes beyond comfort to a point of more security,” Poirot said.
The application is being made to the Connecticut Siting Council. If it were to deny the proposal, Poirot said customers in the region would suffer the consequences.
The Connecticut Siting Council is a state agency responsible for ensuring adequate and reliable public utility services.