Gerald L. Wilson
Sudbury resident, former Dean of Engineering and Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at Massachusetts Institute of Technology; former NStar trustee
A proposed transmission line from Sudbury to Hudson is predicated on a finding from the Independent System Operator of New England, which is regulated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. ISO New England has the responsibility to perform load-flow and fault studies to ensure that the design of the electric power system meets a specific reliability requirement so that any two events on it, such as loss of a line or a piece of equipment, do not lead to the loss of power to a significant number of electric utility customers in New England. ISO New England, not Eversource, has concluded from these studies that the line from Sudbury to Hudson will be needed to meet these reliability requirements.
The electric utility supply of the United States is based on a sharing of facilities and energy sources for both purposes of supply and reliability. There are two transmission corridors whose final sections exist for the benefit of Sudbury, Maynard, and Concord. One begins in Medway and passes through Sherborn, Natick, Framingham, and Wayland. The second, which begins in Waltham, passes through Weston. In effect, the citizens of Medway, Sherborn, Wayland, Weston, Waltham, Framingham, and Natick have had to sacrifice some of their environment for the benefit of Sudbury.
A large group in Sudbury, Protect Sudbury, opposes this line, either overhead or underground, if built along an existing MBTA right-of-way. The group also opposes any overhead line through any route in Sudbury. If only the citizens of Wayland and Weston could have successfully opposed the construction of transmission towers in their towns that supply Sudbury! No tower, no power!
Eversource, in an effort to compromise with Sudbury, has proposed as its preferred alternative to place the needed line underground instead of the originally proposed overhead line, at substantially increased costs. In my view, those additional costs should not accrue to the citizens of Framingham, Marlborough, Northborough, Westborough, Grafton, Hudson, Shrewsbury, Stow, Southborough, and Berlin, who would have to pay more for their power. If the line is to be built underground, or is to be placed elsewhere at even greater costs, Sudbury should bear those additional costs.
Chairman, Sudbury Board of Selectmen
While Sudbury strongly opposes the proposed Eversource transmission project within the MBTA right-of-way, we do support using existing utility corridors through Sudbury along Route 20 or other existing underground street routes. We welcome a public-private partnership with Eversource on a resilient underground conduit for these new transmission lines with the added public benefit of fortifying vulnerable overhead lines from hazard such as the Nov. 13 incident in which an exposed Route 20 overhead live-wire caught fire, causing a dangerous four-hour electrical blaze and power outage. Utilities should not be allowed to create new corridors while neglecting adjacent existing corridors.
This project does not give us a real rail trail. Sudbury wants a rail trail but not the one Eversource is offering — a utility access road dressed up like a rail trail which clear-cuts a swath of over one million square feet of trees causing untold damage to our environment and landowner property values. Given the conflicting studies on the health impact of high-voltage power lines, it is a serious concern to have them so close to residential neighborhoods.
In 2008, Eversource claimed this project was “vitally urgent.” In 2017 no one seems to have noticed it has not happened. What the public has suffered from in the meantime, however, is outages from toppled overhead lines, which could be prevented through an underground street project. Since receiving approval of its design from ISO New England, Eversource has filed with the state’s Energy Siting Board an application that lists a more expensive all-underground design as its preferred alternative but still allows for a variation that would include overhead lines and avoid existing street routes. These plans should now be re-evaluated against more cost-effective and less damaging alternatives.
This MBTA corridor was originally taken from Sudbury landowners via eminent domain for public transportation. This land should not be given to a Fortune 500 company for a use inconsistent with public transportation.
Creating a new high-voltage corridor through neighborhoods, backyards, wetlands, vernal pools, horse farms, playgrounds, and drinking-water well areas is unnecessary. There are existing utility corridors. We do not need a new one. We are eager to work with Eversource on an alternative solution whenever it is willing. Until then, Sudbury will fight this project on all fronts.
Last week’s argument: Should Lexington voters approve the proposed debt exclusions to fund building projects?
Yes: 27.59% (8 votes)
No: 72.41% (21 votes)