Maine utilities join forces for grid upgrades to support wind projects

Maine’s two largest utilities, Emera Maine and Central Maine Power, said July 7 that have agreed to jointly develop electric transmission projects to enhance the strength and capacity of the state’s bulk power grid and improve access for new, mostly renewable generation resources.

Emera Maine and Central Maine Power (CMP) recently signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) for joint project development that identified a number of potential projects. These projects would improve links between southern New England and northern Maine, where more than 2,100 MW of wind power projects have been proposed.

The agreement between the utilities comes in response to a call by the six New England governors for investments in the region’s energy infrastructure to diversify the energy portfolio and gain access to new renewable energy resources.

The companies have outlined two initial phases of work. Phase One will analyze the feasibility of each project. Phase Two will include all development activities from design, engineering, siting, through construction bidding.

Central Maine Power is the state’s largest utility and is nearing completion of the Maine Power Reliability Program, a $1.4bn investment in new transmission lines and substations to reinforce its 345,000 volt bulk power grid.

“Our Maine Power Reliability Program is the largest construction project ever in Maine, and one of New England’s largest transmission projects,” said Sara Burns, president and CEO of Central Maine Power. “It’s a vast and complex undertaking, but four years into construction, the project is on time and on budget.”

Emera Maine, which includes the former Bangor Hydro Electric and Maine Public Service, serves approximately 154,000 homes and businesses in eastern and northern Maine. Significant transmission projects completed by Emera Maine include the 43-mile, 115,000 volt Downeast Reliability Project, and the 85-mile, 345,000 volt Northeast Reliability Interconnect in 2007.

“Electric transmission can be a significant challenge to new low/no emitting generation sources seeking to enter our New England market,” said Gerard Chasse, president and COO of Emera Maine. “That’s a challenge that our companies have been working together on for some time, particularly in Northern Maine.”

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.