High-voltage transmission to turn Big Apple green

It has been a while since New York City was seen as futuristic in any way, but that perception may be about to change (in environmental circles at least) after bidding opened last week for several high-voltage transmission projects, including a 330-mile line running from the Canadian border to the Big Apple. It is a tendering process that Joe Biden‘s team will be following closely in the hope that the new lines could serve as a template for other cities as the new US president seeks to deliver on his election pledge to clean up his country’s environmental act.

Jorge RoyanThe potential of high-voltage transmission to contribute to US efforts to reduce carbon emissions lies in their capacity to act as energy-efficient conduits between its conurbations and the large solar and onshore wind farms that are increasingly supplying them with clean energy. Almost by definition, however,  these tend to be located on rural lands some distance away from those conurbations. In upstate New York, for instance, while almost 90% of the electricity consumed upstate already comes from zero-carbon sources such as hydropower, nuclear, solar and wind, New York City itself still relies on fossil fuels for 69% of the energy it consumes.

New York governor Andrew CuomoIn July 2019, New York’s Governor signed off on one of the most aggressive environmental laws in the country. The Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act requires the state to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 85% below 1990 levels by 2050 and offset the remaining 15% with measures such as forest planting and carbon capture for underground storage. Under the terms of the act, the city is now committed to sourcing 70% of its energy from renewable sources by 2030,.

“This buildout is just unprecedented,” says New York Power Authority’s CEO Gil Quiniones. “The sheer amount and magnitude of these transmission projects will completely change the grid.”