Blogs > Power to the People

Following energy issues in the state of Connecticut and beyond.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

New Transmission Line to Link Connecticut and Canada

A Toronto-based transmission line company is proposing a $3.8 billion, 420 mile long underground cable to carry up to 2,000 megawatts of wind and hydroelectric power from southern Quebec to New York City and Fairfield County.

The so-called Champlain-Hudson Power Express would use high voltage direct current cable that would be buried under Lake Champlain, parts of the Hudson River and a portion of Long Island Sound before terminating in Bridgeport Harbor. Officials of the company proposing the project, Transmission Developers Inc., say the line could be operational by 2015.

"New York and New England have growing energy demands that must be addressed and this project will help meet these needs with clean, renewable power," said Donald Jessome, president and chief executive officer of Transmission Developers. "This project brings clean energy into the grid while lowering prices for consumers."

See tomorrow's New Haven Register for more information on this story.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Public, Private Partnership to Increase Presence of Natural Gas Powered Vehicles

A four year, $26.8 million program involving both public and private sector money will bring 183 new natural gas powered vehicles into the state and allow for the creation of 10 fueling stations, according to an announcement made Friday.

About $12.2 million of the $26.8 million for the Connecticut Clean Cities Future Fuels Project is coming from the federal stimulus package money awarded by the U.S. Department of Energy. The remainder of the money is being put up by 30 businesses that are partners in the program, said Carla York, chief executive officer of Innovation Drive, the Virginia-based technology commercialization firm contracted that will serve as project manager for the program.

The program is a joint effort of all four Clean Cities organizations in the state, said Lee Grannis, coordinator for the Greater New Haven Clean Cities Coalition.

Among vehicles that will be rolled out as a result of the program are 140 taxis, with half being acquired by Metro Taxi in West Haven and the remainder by Yellow Cab in Bloomfield, Grannis said.

Other alternative fuel vehicles that will be acquired through the project include 18 heavy duty tractors by Enviro Express, a Bridgeport-based solid waste and recycling firm as well as a shuttle van by Executive Valet Parking at Bradley International Airport.

The 10 fueling stations will include several locations that will be open to the public, including one at Bradley Airport, Grannis said.

See tomorrow's New Haven Register for more on this story.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Probe of Power Plant Blast to Begin

Hearings are held every weekday in the New Britain headquarters of the Department of Public Utility Control.

But very few will be watched as closely as the proceedings that will begin on Tuesday afternoon. That's when a multi-agency panel convened by Gov. M. Jodi Rell will hold its first meeting on the cause and origin of the Feb. 7th explosion at the Kleen Energy Power Plant in Middletown (shown at left) that killed five people.

The 3 p.m. hearing will be chaired by Senior U.S. District Judge Alan H. Nevas. Members of the panel will include representatives from the Department of Environmental Protection, the Department of Labor, the Connecticut State Police, the Department of Consumer Protection and the DPUC.

“Our response to the Middletown explosion must follow two distinct but critical paths,” Rell said. “We must first identify what went wrong and then determine every measure we can take to prevent future catastrophes. The reviews must be thorough, impartial and swift. And if there are concrete steps we can take in the meantime, we must be equally swift in putting those new measures into place.”

While it may be politically expedient to reach a quick decision, it would seem to me that what's equally important is that the panel do its job right the first time. Like the debris field the explosion left behind, investigating the cause of a tragedy like this is a slow and tedious process.

A rush to judgement could ultimately undermined the public's faith in the findings the panel comes up with.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Sunday's Tragedy and Its Aftermath

Building new power plants in Connecticut has never been any easy thing.

It's part of the reason that back in the 1970s, the Legislature created the forerunner of what is now know as the Connecticut Siting Council in an effort to "balance the need for adequate and reliable public utility services ..... with the need to protect the environment and ecology of the state." The idea, to some extent, was that the Siting Council would take some of the politics out of the process.

But the horrific explosion at the Kleen Energy Plant in Middletown (shown in an artist's rendering at left) is about to make siting power plants a whole lot more contentious. And those power plants that are already under construction or near completion,are probably going to be facing increased scrutiny.

NRG Energy - or more accurately GenConn Energy, the New Jersey-based company's joint venture with the United Illuminating Co. - is in the midst of building a pair of 200 megawatt power plants. One of these plants is adjacent to the old Devon Station power plant in Milford; the other is on River Road in Middletown, just a short distance from the Kleen Energy plant that was badly damaged by what officials are saying was a natural gas explosion.

GenConn's Milford plant is scheduled to be operational by June, as the Kleen Energy plant was before the explosion. The company's Middletown plant isn't scheduled to become operational until June 2011.

Will Sunday's accident push back the timetable for when the GenConn plant begins operating?
Common sense says it probably should, if for no other reason than to make sure that every precaution be taken to avoid another tragedy like the one that happened at Middletown.

But in the midst of a recession that continues to have Connecticut in its grips, there will be calls from some in the state to forge ahead with both GenConn power plants sooner rather than later.

GenConn got $534 million to build the two plants from a syndicate of nine major lending institutions that include the Royal Bank of Scotland, Bank of America, financial services giant ING and BNP Paribas, a French bank. Banks that provide lending to major capital projects tend to get nervous when delays are mentioned concerning projects they are financing.

It will also be interesting to see how the Siting Council and the Legislature reacts to what happened. My guess is the Legislature will react by proposing legislation to more tightly regulate how these things are built.

All of this will be played out in the days, weeks and months to come. What's important to remember now is that building power plants can be a dangerous business.

The people of Milford don't need any reminder of that. Two construction workers died and a third was badly injured when a crane collapsed while construction of the Milford Power Co. plant was underway in Feb. 2000.

The rest of us would do well to think of that level of danger the next time we need to use electricity for something.