lines under lake delayed John Bartlett
The proposed Lake Erie Link, a 975-megawatt underwater electric
line that would connect American and Canadian power grids,
is on hold as developers reassess its economics.
"The project is not dead, but is delayed," said Michel Ernst,
a spokesman for Lake Erie Link Limited Liability Co., a
subsidiary of TransEnergie U.S., which in turn is a subsidiary
of Hydro-Quebec Power Co.
The company's plan calls for burying up to three 4.1-inch
diameter cables beneath Lake Erie that would run from Nanticoke,
Ontario, to a new electric substation in Springfield Township.
The company was moving rapidly ahead, obtaining the necessary
U.S. and Canadian permits and regulatory approvals for the
project, when it decided it was time to take a second look.
Earlier this month, the company asked both U.S. and Canadian
agencies to halt the processing of its applications and
The company needs to carefully assess the costs of the project
as well as the market and sales value of the electricity
to be transmitted, Ernst said. Completing the process could
take until the end of 2003.
The company's business plan is to bring power into the states
when regional demand is high in the summer and Canada can
produce an excess of power. Conversely, when the winds of
winter blow and Canadian demands increase, the Pennsylvania
grid has electricity it could sell to Canada.
Lake Erie Link would own the transmission system —
the cables, which are akin to a pipeline — but would
sell the transmission rights. It would not be the broker
for the electricity, Ernst said.
"We will not proceed with construction until we have a large
company agreeing to purchase the transmission rights," he
said. "The Lake Erie Link Project will eventually provide
a reliable and economical new source of power to both sides
of Lake Erie; it is only a matter of time."
The electricity would be transmitted as direct current and
have to be converted to alternating current at both connections.
Direct current transmits more efficiently than alternating
current — the standard current that powers homes and
factories — and offers other technical benefits, he
The Springfield Township substation would be built near
the Bessemer & Lake Erie Railroad crossing on Route
215. The electric cable would remain underground between
the lakeshore and the substation, following Holliday Road
and Route 215.
The entire project is estimated to cost as much as $100
million, depending on the number of cables installed, Ernst
A number of environmental groups, including Great Lakes
United, have raised concerns about the company's plans,
claiming the trenching method used to bury the cables beneath
Lake Erie could stir up contaminated sediments. They also
question whether the link would add to air pollution by
increasing output from Canada's coal-fired power plants,
including the one at Nanticoke, which is the largest coal-fired
power plant in North America and produces more air emissions
than any Canadian facility.
However, the company is not relying on any particular electrical
source, Ernst said.
"Much of the power that would be imported from Canada would
not be coal," Ernst said. "About half of Canada's power
is nuclear and about a quarter is hydro. We would obtain
power from wherever it was available at the least cost and
the next available plant."
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