First leg of utility upgrade will get abundance of cheap upstate electricity downstate faster 

— From LS Power
copy_of_project_visual_simulation_-_albany_county.pdf of transmission lines between the town of Marcy in Oneida County and both New Scotland in Albany County and Rotterdam in Schenectady County will add 350 megawatts of capacity to a system that has experienced a lot of bottleneck, which happens when a grid operator has too much demand but the transmissions lines are physically incapable of carrying the amount of electricity that wants to flow.

ALBANY COUNTY — In 2008, the state’s grid operator and utility industry got together to address New York’s aging infrastructure. Those findings were then used by Governor Andrew Cuomo as part of his 2012 Energy Highway Blueprint, which called for “the development of over 1,000 megawatts of new AC transmission upgrades to move [cheap hydro] power from upstate to downstate.”

In April 2019, two projects were announced to meet that 2012 goal.

The first, a 93-mile, $750-million upgrade of transmission lines was awarded to LS Power, which is “targeting beginning early construction activities late this year,” according to Casey Carroll, an assistant vice president with the Manhattan-headquartered energy-infrastructure developer.

The first project runs from the town of Marcy in Oneida County to both New Scotland in Albany County and Rotterdam in Schenectady County, and will allow another 350 megawatts of electricity to flow through the lines. The second project, which upgrades lines between Schodack in Rensselaer County and the town of Pleasant Valley in Dutchess County, will add another 900 megawatts of capacity to the electric grid, and has an estimated cost of $479 million.

In 2018, according to the United States Energy Information Administration, New York State generated about 132,520,000 megawatt-hours of electricity, the eighth highest state in the nation. And in one month, November 2019, the state generated 10,461,000 megawatt-hours.

Carroll said the Marcy-to-New Scotland project has an approximate three-year time frame; work is to begin in New Scotland and Guilderland sometime in mid-2021, with construction in the two towns lasting for about a year.

The entire project is scheduled to be wrapped up by end of 2023.

Asked if customers should anticipate interruptions to their electrical service, Carroll told The Enterprise that LS Power would coordinate its work with local utilities as well as the New York Independent System Operator, the state’s electric grid operator, “to ensure that reliable electrical service is not impacted.”

 

Unique commodity

Electricity is a unique commodity, Carroll said, explaining that it has to be generated at the same time it is consumed, so the entire infrastructure system has to be designed for peak-usage days — when air-conditioners all over the state are blasting in the summer, for example. 

When that happens, Carroll said, the grid operators look at the electricity generation available and they look at the projected electrical demand — and then have to balance those two in real time. In order to do that, Carrol said, the grid operator also has to operate the system within its limits.

One of those limits is the ability of the existing utility lines to carry electricity, he said. 

Electricity wants to flow through the existing lines, he said, and “bottleneck” or congestion happens when the grid operator has too much demand but the transmissions lines are physically incapable of carrying the amount of electricity that wants to flow.

For example, there are abundant, clean, comparatively low-cost renewable-energy resources in the form of hydropower north and west of Utica, that can’t be “called on,” Carroll said, because “it doesn’t have anywhere to go.” That’s the problem with the entire Marcy-to-Rotterdam transmission; it doesn’t have the ability to take on any added capacity — the entire 70 to 75 miles is a bottleneck.

To alleviate the bottleneck, the existing 230-kilovolt capacity lines in Herkimer, Montgomery, and Schenectady counties will be replaced with 345-kilovolt transmission lines. 

In Albany County, LS Power plans “to retire” an existing 115-kilovolt line and replace it with new 345-kilovolt lines. “Along some stretches in Albany County, we’ll need to remove that existing line as an early construction step, while in other areas, removal would be a future activity,” Carroll told The Enterprise in an email. 

The lines that run east from Marcy are regional-level transmission lines, Carrol said, but at both Rotterdam and New Scotland there are transformers that “stepdown” the electricity to lower voltages so that it can be transmitted to local homes and businesses.

In addition to the line upgrades, about 1,250 of the existing “H-frame” structures carrying the current transmission lines will be removed and replaced with approximately 675 steel monopoles.

The project will go through:

—  Deerfield and Marcy in Oneida County;

— The towns of Schuyler, Frankfort, German Flatts, Little Falls, Stark, Danube, and the village of Ilion in Herkimer County;

— The towns of Minden, Canajoharie, Root, Charleston, Glen, and Florida in Montgomery County;

— The towns of Duanesburg, Princetown, and Rotterdam in Schenectady County; and

— The towns of Guilderland and New Scotland in Albany County.

In Albany County 

For the Princetown-to-New Scotland leg of the upgrade, the lines will enter Albany County north from Princetown in Schenectady County at West Old State Road, passing just to the east of the Orchard Creek Golf Club, while continuing south across routes 20 and 146, and onto New Scotland. The project runs through Guilderland for approximately seven-and-a-half miles. 

The project will enter New Scotland from Guilderland along Hennessey Road, near the intersection of Tygert and Koonz roads and head south, crossing over routes 156, 85A, and 85, terminating at National Grid’s substation located on New Scotland Road South, near the intersection of Orchard Hill and Game Farm roads — a five-mile trek from the Guilderland town line. 

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