Officials break ground on NYPA, National Grid Smart Path Connect transmission project

Dec. 9—MASSENA — Officials from the New York Power Authority, National Grid New York and New York Independent System Operator were on hand Friday to officially break ground on the Smart Path Connect transmission project, a joint effort between the Power Authority and National Grid.

The state Public Service Commission had approved the project to rebuild approximately 100 miles of transmission lines in the north country and Mohawk Valley in August. Smart Path Connect will replace aging wood H-frames that date back to the 1950s with steel poles almost exclusively within existing transmission rights-of-way and replace or upgrade approximately 10 substations along the project path.

The Smart Path Connect Project will run east to west from Clinton to Massena, approximately 45 miles of transmission lines known as the Northern Alignment; and north to south from Croghan to Marcy, approximately 55 miles of transmission lines known as the South Alignment.

The transmission line is owned and operated by the Power Authority and National Grid, and the rebuild will convert existing 230 kilovolt transmission lines to either 230 kilovolt or 345 kilovolt with associated substation construction and upgrades along the existing right of way in Clinton, Franklin, St. Lawrence, Lewis and Oneida counties.

The rebuilt lines will connect economical, clean and renewable energy into the statewide power system, including low-cost hydropower from NYPA's St. Lawrence-Franklin D. Roosevelt Power Project as well as power from newly constructed and proposed renewable energy sources such as wind and solar.

The Smart Path Connect Project includes completion of the second phase of the Power Authority's Smart Path Moses-Adirondack rebuild. Smart Path is an upgrade of 78 miles of transmission lines from the total 86-mile transmission artery spanning from Massena in St. Lawrence County to Croghan in Lewis County. It's designed to strengthen transmission lines against weather events and enable the reliable transmission of clean energy from Northern New York into the state's electric power grid.

New York Power Authority Interim President and CEO Justin E. Driscoll said the Smart Path Connect project will connect to the Smart Path transmission line.

"Smart Path is a transmission rebuild project that begins right here in Massena and extends south 80 miles to Croghan. It began in early 2020 and, despite the setbacks we experienced that year due to the pandemic, it's three-quarters of the way complete and on schedule to be concluded next year," he said.

"Smart Path Connect on the other hand has two distinct sections that connect to our original Smart Path line," Mr. Driscoll said. "The first section on this northern end here in Massena runs east for about 45 mile to the town of Clinton in Clinton County. The other section will connect to Smart Path on the southern end, extending approximately 55 miles south from Croghan in Lewis County to Marcy in Oneida County."

He said upgrades to the northern section will be managed by the Power Authority in conjunction with its contractor, Michels Power, Inc. The upgrades on the south end will be managed by National Grid New York.

"NYPA and National Grid are working together on this project so that we can carry more energy across the state, including more clean energy. We're very proud of the project and the impact that this project is going to have on the state's clean energy transition, unlocking renewable generation up here in the north country and moving it around the state," Mr. Driscoll said.

He said that would prevent transmission congestion and make the energy grid more resilient "so the storms like the recent storm in Buffalo, which we seem to see more and more, do not interrupt service."

To do that, he said, they had to take an "all hands on deck approach."

"It's public and private entities like NYPA and National Grid that are coming together to collaborate on vital transmission projects just like this one in other parts of the state as well," Mr. Driscoll said.

Brian Gemmell, chief operating officer for National Grid Electric, said the project was "a natural fit" for National Grid.

"We see ourselves as a thought leader in pushing the agenda not only for our communities, our customers, but the state, pushing that resilient, affordable and safe network as we transition to decarbonization," he said.

Mr. Gemmell said they would be connecting many communities over the next year with the project that will "allow the interconnecton of 1,000 megawatts of new renewables in the north country, allowing that power to flow north and south on the network" as well as reduce the demand for fossil-based generation across the state

"The entire project will also reduce 1 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year," he said.

New York Independent System Operator President and CEO Rich Dewey said the power grid was going through a "remarkable transformation."

"We haven't really seen significant changes like this in the power system for the last 75, 80 years," he said. "But, what we're going to see for the next 10 years is going to be a remarkable transformation that's going to replace high-emitting older fossil fuel generators with clean energy resources, and the ability to move that power around the state to where we need it is going to rely remarkably on these infrastructure upgrades that we're talking about today."

Mr. Dewey said New York's current transmission system was inadequate, "so projects like this are so vital to be able to lead that transformation to introduce the technology, the infrastructure and the investment that is going to be so incredibly necessary in order to be able to meet the policy goals established by the state for the clean energy objectives."

Like Mr. Driscoll, he said it would require "an all hands on deck approach."

"So, for organizations like National Grid and NYPA to be able to work together to design the construction and the operation of like this a project is the kind of partnership and cooperation that we're going to need to see across the board and across the industry," he said. "I'm excited to be a witness to it."