CHPE Is a $6 Billion Transmission Line to Bring Hydropower to NYC

By Chanak Maduranga

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CHPE Is a $6 Billion Transmission Line to Bring Hydropower to NYC
  • The 339-mile CHPE transmission line aims to provide hydropower to a million New York City homes.
  • The underground transmission line will run through waterways, raising some environmental concerns.
  • This article is part of “Transforming Business: Infrastructure,” a series exploring the advancements reshaping US infrastructure.

Beginning in 2026, 1,250 megawatts of electricity could speed along 339 miles of underground cable to provide a million New York City homes with hydropower generated in Canada.

The $6 billion Champlain Hudson Power Express transmission line is under construction to help New York state meet its clean-energy goals.

It’s also part of a larger nationwide push to create more transmission lines to bring renewable energy to the country’s aging electrical grid.

When CHPE (pronounced “chippy”) broke ground in 2022, it became one of New York’s first Tier 4 projects, the state’s program aimed at sourcing 70 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030.

“We’re looking forward to the day when we are going to be turning on the switch and bringing that clean energy into New York City,” Donald Jessome, the founder and former CEO of Transmission Developers, the company behind CHPE, told Business Insider.

From nuclear to natural gas to hydropower

The Indian Point nuclear plant once provided about 25% of New York City’s power needs. New York shut it down in 2021 because of concerns about groundwater pollution and the plant’s proximity to a city of over 8 million people.

The state has been making up for the loss with three natural-gas plants that came online between 2018 and 2020. According to EPA data, carbon emissions in the New York City area rose by about 20% between 2019 and 2022.

These carbon-emitting plants are necessary because New York City isn’t well-connected to upstate’s plentiful renewable sources, like hydropower and wind. With so few transmission lines, about half of New York’s power is generated by 24 gas and fuel-oil plants within the city.


Red and white towers rise from a power plant in New York City with buildings in the background

Nearly half of New York City’s power comes from plants within the city, including the Ravenswood Generating Station in Astoria.

Lokman Vural Elibol/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images



“Because of bottlenecks in the grid south of Albany, there’s a limit to the extent to which that generation can be used to satisfy demand in the New York City area,” Ryan Calder, an assistant professor in environmental health and policy at Virginia Tech, told Business Insider.

CHPE will bypass Albany, Poughkeepsie, and other cities north of New York City. The transmission line will tap into Hydro-Québec‘s existing generation and send a fraction of it to New York, avoiding upstate bottlenecks that can tax the grid during peak-demand times.

Bringing renewable energy to New York City

Much of the US is struggling to connect renewable-energy projects to the electrical grid. About 930 gigawatts of solar, wind, nuclear, and other electricity sources are waiting for grid access, according to the Department of Energy. That’s more than three times as much wind and solar power as the US generated in 2022 and enough to power roughly 171 million homes.

More transmission infrastructure is crucial to connecting new sources of carbon-free energy.


A map of New York, Vermont, Massachusetts, and other neighboring states with a blue and green line running from the Canadian border to Queens, New York

The map shows where the 339 miles of cable will run from the Canadian border to Queens, New York.

CHPE



Transmission lines are like highways for electrons, Calder said. They connect sources of energy generation to areas of demand.

“A lot of renewable sources of electricity, wind, and hydroelectric power in Canada are far from densely populated urban areas,” he said.

Once CHPE is up and running, it will reduce carbon emissions by 37 million metric tons, New York state officials said in a statement.

Since hydropower doesn’t emit CO2, methane, and nitrous oxide like fossil-fuel plants, a recent study from Calder and his coauthors estimated the project will save an additional $13.2 billion in social costs by 2050. That includes potentially preventing over 300 premature deaths.

Gas-fired power plants contribute to poor air quality, which can lead to health problems like asthma. The asthma rate for children in New York City, especially in poorer neighborhoods, is one of the highest in the country. Switching to a cleaner energy source could improve health outcomes for kids and adults.

Buried cables from Canada to Queens

CHPE workers will bury the high-voltage direct current cables underground beneath Lake Champlain and the Hudson River, running from the Canadian border and Queens, New York.

Environmental groups, including the Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity, have objected to the project and the route. They’ve raised concerns over Atlantic sturgeon habitats and Hydro-Québec’s history with First Nation communities in Canada.

The company’s past projects flooded Indigenous lands, a process that created methylmercury, a neurotoxin, in waterways, Grist reported. Methylmercury accumulates in fish and can make its way to humans. Ingesting mercury can have serious health effects.

Others have expressed concern about CHPE’s financial backing from the private-investment group Blackstone, which also invests in natural-gas pipelines.

Jessome said TDI worked with local communities to address their concerns about construction.


A crane lifts large reels of cable off a barge

CHPE will use high-voltage direct current (HVDC) cable to connect New York City with Canada.

CHPE



Since the CHPE construction won’t involve creating new dams, Calder said he didn’t factor the impact of flooding into his study. Other environmental concerns, such as how the project could affect fish habitats, were outside the scope of the study.

New York has six years to achieve its goal of powering 70 percent of its grid with renewable energy. The state’s officials are banking CHPE providing a chunk of that energy.

“We’ll be in that community for the next 60, 70, 80 years,” Jessome said. “This project’s here for the long term. It’s going to have benefits well into the future.”

Chanak Maduranga

passionate journalist behind 'USA News Now 24', dedicated to delivering timely and accurate updates on US affairs. Committed to journalistic integrity and informing audiences with credible news coverage.

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