Modernizing New York's Energy Infrastructure

By Rod Lenfest, President, Boundless Energy NE

Policymakers across the country are wrestling with the economic impact of aging energy infrastructure. America's energy grid lags behind other developed nations, and according to the U.S. Department of Energy, "power quality issues are estimated to cost American business more than $100 billion on average every year."

In New York, the state's electric grid is in dire need of repair. Estimates are that it will take $30 billion over the next ten years to maintain the state's existing electric system - and that's just to cover currently projected energy demands. If we don't invest in much-needed capital improvements, blackouts and power outages will occur with increasing frequency.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has identified this issue as a key priority for the state, and he has laid out an ambitious vision for building New York's Energy Highway. New York's current transmission system is outdated, causing congestion problems that prevent cleaner and more affordable sources of energy from moving freely across the state. An energy highway from northern New York to downstate will allow for cheaper power generation upstate, while also opening up tremendous potential to produce renewable energy that can then reach downstate customers.

The New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) has spent two years reviewing proposals to correct this problem by upgrading the electric transmission system in the Hudson Valley, the region connecting rural upstate New York to the New York City metropolitan area.

Each of the remaining proposals under consideration deliver the capacity necessary to ease congestion - but congestion is only one of the challenges presented by the aging infrastructure. In addition to congestion, this region must also deal with severe and damaging storms that are becoming an increasingly common occurrence. These storms have hit Hudson Valley communities hard - yet known weaknesses in the local transmission system have been neglected for 20 years. The system has to be made more resilient, so the power will stay functional during bad storm events when people need it most.

The proposed Boundless Leeds Path West solution will ease electrical transmission congestion from Upstate to Downstate New York by improving roughly 120 miles of existing overhead transmission by replacing the existing conductors with state-of-the-art graphite-composite conductors and Smart Grid components. The project will add an environmentally-friendly eight mile underground transmission line which will be as much as 40 feet below the deepest part of the Hudson River at the Roseton crossing location, buried safely below the beautiful Hudson River.

This innovative approach solves the issue of modernizing and decongesting the state's transmission system while providing a strong foundation for the future. Leeds Path West addresses the goal of rebuilding the existing AC grid, rather than simply erecting a new transmission line. Leeds Path West uses innovative technology, including composite conductors and less intrusive installation techniques in horizontal directional drilling, to build the entire project within the existing right-of-way envelope with no new towers, and no heightened towers. In addition, Leeds Path West ties the electric grid on the west side of the Hudson to the east side, a potentially strategic connection for grid flexibility and resiliency.

Failing to meet this challenge will continue to put American business at a competitive disadvantage and leave New York residents at jeopardy. Given the critical role that energy plays in economic growth as well as our everyday lives, investment in energy infrastructure must be made a top priority.