Bridging the gap of energy eras

Nearly two years ago, then already five years into the debate about the Eversource/Hydro-Quebec transmission project known as Northern Pass, we swallowed our objections and said something had to be done. Coal and oil-fired power plants were going dark. So too were nuclear power plants, including Vermont Yankee on New Hampshire’s border.

The threat of continued climate change, the needless deaths caused by air pollution from power plants and the mercury in lakes that makes eating locally caught fish hazardous to one’s health all spoke in favor of importing Canadian hydropower.

So did the region’s out-sized reliance on a single fuel – cheap natural gas obtained by fracking, a technology that, like hydropower, is not without its own environmental drawbacks.

Demand for electricity, thanks to better technology, energy conservation and the steady increase in solar and wind power, has grown slowly – but that will change. The need could be met by Northern Pass, whose approval is now before the state’s Site Evaluation Committee, by a similar proposal called Power Link by National Grid and Citizens Energy, a Massachusetts nonprofit, or other players in the energy business.

Both proposed transmission lines would cut through Concord: Northern Pass along an existing power corridor in East Concord and the Heights, and Power Link near the city’s border with Hopkinton and Bow.

The city council wants the committee to reject the Northern Pass proposal unless the line is buried as it passes through Concord, but its representative, Deputy City Attorney Danielle Pacik, said a compromise might be acceptable.

Any compromise must include an alternative to the 160-foot-tall towers that the state Department of Transportation wants Eversource to use as it crosses a bridge along Interstate 393. Towers that tall could be seen, according to a consultant hired by the city, from as far off as Dimond Hill on the Hopkinton border.

A little bit of damage to the viewshed for the sake…

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