Western Vt. power line still considered

October 9, 2002
The Associated Press

MONTPELIER — The company that runs Vermont’s high-voltage electric transmission grid could apply by spring to build a new power line through western Vermont from West Rutland to South Burlington.

Officials hope the $125 million project would address a transmission bottleneck in Chittenden County, which has seen rapid growth in demand for electricity in recent years.

The Vermont Electric Power Co. worries that the demand growth, coupled with an aging power grid, leaves the region vulnerable to blackouts that could spread into the rest of the state.

“That is a possibility, yes. We don’t want to allow the system to get to that point,” VELCO engineer Tom Dunn said in an interview with Vermont Public Radio.

Such blackouts could be triggered by bad weather or such anomalies as an interruption in power supplies from Canada, Dunn said. More than Chittenden County likely would be affected, he said.

“It could extend all the way down to the Middlebury area, down to central Vermont. Depending on what happens, the outage doesn’t just stay isolated in Chittenden County. It could expand to a larger part of the state. So it’s not just a Chittenden County problem.”

VELCO is studying a new 60-mile line from West Rutland to South Burlington to help strengthen its system. The first segment would be a 345,000 volt line to New Haven. The second segment would run from West Haven to a South Burlington substation. In both cases, the power line would follow existing transmission corridors, although in some cases the rights of way would have to be wider.

VELCO is also studying alternatives, including a new power plant and greater energy conservation measures, Dunn said. Depending on the outcome of those studies, VELCO may file for permits next spring.

“While we haven’t decided that the transmission alternative is the right alternative, we want to be prepared in case that we think that it is, if the result of the studies shows that the transmission alternative is the right way to go.”