Maine approves construction of substation needed for Maine Power Reliability Program

Maine regulators have approved construction of a substation needed as part of Central Maine Power’s (CMP) 440-mile, 345-kV Maine Power Reliability Program (MPRP). 

In its March 22 order, the Maine Public Utilities Commission (PUC) granted the request of CMP and Public Service of New Hampshire (PSNH) to build new switchyard facilities in the Eliot, Maine, area to be known as the Eliot substation.

A PSNH spokesperson told TransmissionHub April 13 that the switchyard will serve as a terminus of the MPRP transmission line. That is, it will connect the Maine line with the PSNH transmission system, he said.

According to the PUC, the companies said the Eliot substation is the superior solution to address reliability needs, citing economic, public health and safety reasons. For instance, the PUC said the estimated aggregate cost of the switching station is $36m, which, as PSNH noted, is almost $20m less than an original MPRP proposal. Furthermore, in addition to minimizing the footprint of the proposed substation, PSNH has agreed to take other steps to provide buffering mitigation, including planting vegetation and trees aimed at mitigating the proposed switchyard’s aesthetic and visual impact, the PUC said.

Among other conditions for approval, the PUC said that PSNH and CMP on July 1, and every three months thereafter until the substation and associated components are completed, are to file a progress report summarizing any significant developments in the construction and development of the switchyard.

A CMP spokesperson told TransmissionHub April 17 that when Maine regulators approved all of the transmission line and substation work in Maine, they held one piece – the Eliot substation – out for further review. Some of that was based on timing, he said. “That is being developed by PSNH, not by Central Maine Power, and they were just on a different time schedule for the review and permitting of that part of the project,” he said.

He said: “But, we didn’t have to wait to start our project. It was very clear that there would be a review process and presumably, we would have a place to terminate our project, so it didn’t hold the project up or anything.”

Indeed, construction on the project began officially in September 2010, he said, adding that the project obtained all of the major approvals in the early summer of that year, including from FERC, ISO New England and the PUC. All of those permits are in place, with the exception of permits from two towns. Work in those communities will not happen until 2014 so if the permits were obtained now, they would expire, he noted.

“We have all of the approvals we need and we are moving ahead [and are] on target to be done in 2015,” he said.

Among other things, the spokesperson said the MPRP project “has been very important to the Maine economy during this recession. By our estimates, right now, we have well over 2,500 people working on it on a daily basis.”

The $1.4bn project includes the construction of six new substations and expansion or modification to 40 other substations, he said.

PSNH is a wholly owned subsidiary of Northeast Utilities (NYSE:NU). CMP is a subsidiary of Iberdrola USA, which is a subsidiary of Iberdrola S.A.

About Corina Rivera-Linares 3205 Articles
Corina Rivera-Linares, chief editor for TransmissionHub, has covered the U.S. power industry for the past 15 years. Before joining TransmissionHub, Corina covered renewable energy and environmental issues, as well as transmission, generation, regulation, legislation and ISO/RTO matters at SNL Financial. She has also covered such topics as health, politics, and education for weekly newspapers and national magazines. She can be reached at clinares@endeavorb2b.com.