Northern Pass Effect on Scenic View in NH
This rendering shows how the proposed Northern Pass tranmission line expansion project would affect the view of a stretch of Rte 125 that faces Clarksville, NH.

The road to a renewable grid is not always a pretty one. The northern pass transmission project, a brainchild of PSNH and HydroQuebec, is the latest example.

The current plan calls for building out a tall transmission line through New Hampshire’s north country, including 40 miles of wild, unspoiled terrain in Coös County, and roughly five miles in the White Mountain National Forest.  The idea is to transmit low-cost hydroelectric power to satisfy the growing requirement for renewable generation in southern New England.

Opposition to the project from residents and local businesses has been unequivocal. A blog titled Bury the Northern Pass contains interesting information about the claimed benefits and impacts of the project. The Town of Easton will be voting on full-on municipal opposition to the project in March.

Why are people opposed to the Northern Pass?

  • There is not demonstrable need for the project in the state, since New Hampshire is already a net exporter of electricity.  Benefits of this project would mostly go to residents of Massachusetts, Connecticut, etc. who’d see their peak grid supply increase, and to the energy provider (i.e. Hydro Quebec), who would gain access to the market through a widened conduit.
  • The regional economies of Grafton and Coös Counties largely rely on the wild natural character of the land, for example tourism, hospitality, and other outdoor pursuits.   Part of this character would be lost with the construction of 100-foot tall transmission towers over the 180-mile route.
  • There are alternatives to the project.  Distributed generation such as solar photovoltaic arrays represent a more rational and gradual way to build out grid capacity, and directly benefit the localities where it is installed by locking in electricity rates though decades of future production.  Although we agree that renewable resources should play a fatter role in the Northeast’s power supply, running Big Wires though pristine mountain passes in the north woods is not a good “plan A.”

A recent letter to the Union Leader provides a good summary of the arguments against the Northern Pass, and notes the amount and intensity of local opposition.  There was also a vigorous public debate about RPS, which dovetailed into a debate about Northern Pass, two weeks back.

As promoters of smart solutions to our energy problems, and lovers of the rugged outdoors which gives New England its character, we hope to see alternatives to the Northern Pass gain steam and a healthy debate in Concord follow.