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Power agency backs $181 million upgrade from Elma to Royalton

State energy officials are backing a $181 million plan to build a power transmission project that would run between Elma and Royalton.

The nonprofit corporation that operates the state's power grid on Tuesday gave its backing to a proposed power transmission upgrade that would allow New York to fully capitalize on the power-generating capacity of the Niagara Power Project, while also increasing the region's ability to import electricity from Ontario.

Officials from the New York State Independent System Operator said the project would improve the flow of electricity across the Buffalo Niagara region, easing bottlenecks that restrict power from moving to where it is needed most, while also modernizing the power grid to accommodate the anticipated growth of renewable energy.

"The cleaner, greener grid of the future will depend on a modernized, upgraded and expanded transmission system," said Brad Jones, the president and CEO of the power grid operator.

The state Public Service Commission and the ISO began a process three years ago seeking recommendations on ways to eliminate transmission bottlenecks that make it difficult to access the full generating capacity of the Niagara Power Project and to bring in electricity from power sources in Ontario. The PSC issued an order in 2015 saying there was a need to upgrade the power transmission grid in Western New York and directed the ISO to seek proposals.

The project, proposed by NextEra Energy Transmission New York, was selected from a pool of 10 proposals by various utilities and energy companies to provide greater access to the hydroelectric power in Niagara Falls, as well as electricity produced in Ontario.

The project "will support New York’s goal of maximizing the flow of energy from renewable resources in the region," said Steven Stengel, a NextEra spokesman. "This project supports Governor [Andrew] Cuomo’s vision of reducing greenhouse emissions and increasing renewable generation."

The NextEra project would use existing and new transmission facilities. It would build a new high-voltage substation on Dysinger Road in the Town of Royalton in Niagara County and a 20-mile high-voltage transmission line running from that facility to a substation on East Stolle Road in Elma.

Power grid officials backed the project because it would make more efficient use of existing and new transmission facilities. The Dysinger substation would be a hub that connects seven different high-voltage lines. Its location also would reduce the distance to transmit electricity to the Rochester market.

The project also would build a 20-mile long high-voltage power line that links the Dysinger Road substation with another one on East Stolle Road. The power line would run along an existing right of way under NextEra's preferred route. An alternative route that did not extensively use existing rights of way would cost $219 million.

The project involves the construction of a new switchyard near the Stolle Road substation and reconductoring a 12-mile stretch of power line running from Swann Road in Lewiston to Shawnee Station in Cambria. Reconductoring a power line can reduce the amount of electricity that is lost while it is being transmitted from one point to another.

NextEra now must begin the process of obtaining the various approvals and permits it needs from government agencies and authorities for siting, building and operating the transmission project. The PSC also must approve the project under its process for reviewing major utility transmission proposals.

The project is expected to take about 40 months to complete, assuming the ISO is able to reach a development agreement with NextEra. An ISO report estimated that the project could be completed by June 2022.

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