Regulators approve ‘Southern Loop’ project

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(Host) Vermont utility regulators have given approval for expansion of a major electricity transmission line through southern Vermont.

The so-called ‘Southern Loop’ project would stretch for 51 miles between Cavendish and Vernon.

The 365-kilovolt line would follow the route of an existing line through 13 towns in Windham and Windsor counties.

Kerrick Johnson is an executive with the Vermont Electric Power Company, which operates the transmission system throughout the state.

He says the upgrade is badly needed.

(Johnson) “At peak times almost 60, maybe 70 percent of Vermont’s entire load runs along or is carried by the line that is there right now. It doesn’t take much. That’s a real reliability problem. You don’t want all of your reliability eggs in one basket, as it were, and that’s the situation today.”

(Host) Central Vermont Public Service is also involved in the project.

CVPS says it upgraded some of its transmission system with new voltage equipment. The company says that allowed planners to scale back the transmission line project.

Some people are still opposed to the project. Tom Clynes is an environmental journalist and a member of the Southern Loop Awareness Project. He says the project relies on a technology that will soon be outmoded.

(Clynes) “The rest of the country is going to be going towards digital sensors and high-tech load management systems that move the power around more efficiently and sense instability and isolate the problem areas to avoid blackouts. We’re basically getting a 1950s system and we’re paying $300 million for it.”

(Host) The utilities say the project is necessary. They plan to begin clearing trees along the route in May. Construction should be complete at the end of next year.

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