CMP bids for project that would create 145-mile transmission line

0

LEWISTON — Central Maine Power is submitting two bids today for a massive clean energy project in Massachusetts that could trigger the construction of a 145-mile transmission line from Lewiston to the Canadian border.

In both bids, power would travel to Massachusetts through the local Larrabee Road substation, according to CMP President and CEO Sara Burns.

Project costs are, for now, under wraps, but CMP estimates paying another $18 million a year in property taxes to Maine communities that host the new line and creating 1,700 direct and indirect jobs per year in western Maine during the six years of permitting and construction.

“Massachusetts ratepayers pay for this; this is how this bid is set up,” Burns said. “(Maine) will get all the construction jobs. Lewiston will have the most significant impact on property taxes.”

In March, Massachusetts put out a request for proposals that would deliver up to 9.45 terawatts of clean energy. A terawatt is equal to 1 trillion watts of power.

Proposals are due today.

Advertisement

Burns said that state’s last clean energy RFP attracted 30 bidders; she expects that many or more this time. A winner or winners are expected to be notified in late January.

Burns said several Maine companies approached CMP about partnering on projects and the company ultimately crafted two proposals.

One, partnering with Hydro-Quebec, called New England Clean Energy Connect, would deliver 1,200 megawatts of hydropower a year. The second, partnering with NextEra Energy, called Maine Clean Power Connection, is more flexible, delivering a potential combination of wind power, solar energy and battery storage in varying amounts.

“Clearly, Massachusetts is looking for a large amount of hydro, so that really weighed into our choice,” Burns said.

Either proposal would use roughly the same new transmission line. If successful, the proposal with Hydro-Quebec would also require the construction of a new AC/DC converter built on land CMP owns on Merrill Road in Lewiston.

In that 145-mile line, 94 miles, from Lewiston to The Forks, is an existing corridor with power lines. A new line would be built next to it.

“From The Forks to the (Canadian) border is where I say we’ve quietly acquired control of over the last couple years — that’s 51 miles,” Burns said. “There’s four landowners involved. It’s industrial forest and they all agree that it’s compatible to what they’re doing.”

Burns said CMP didn’t acquire the land with Massachusetts in mind, but rather from “knowing that the future of the fuel mix in New England has to be more diverse.”

The six New England states have had a common energy market since the 1970s. Just after noon on Wednesday, Burns said the ever-changing electricity mix that hour relied on 58 percent natural gas, 29 percent nuclear power and 5 percent renewable power.

For price stability, that has to change, she said.

According to CMP, its New England Clean Energy Connect proposal would save Massachusetts ratepayers $1.7 billion over 20 years and save the rest of New England, including Maine, another $2.2 billion by driving down prices in the overall market.

CMP plans to start talking to communities and pursuing permits this year, even before bid winners are announced. Construction would start in 2019 and the new line would be in service by the end of 2022.

“We think we have great projects for the RFP,” Burns said. “We’re excited about being chosen as one of the winners.” 

kskelton@sunjournal.com

The blue line running north to south shows Central Maine Power’s proposed 145-mile transmission line. Of that stretch, 94 miles, from Lewiston to the Forks, is already in use as a transmission corridor. A new line would be built beside it for CMP’s proposed project. Above that, 51 miles from The Forks to the Canadian border, would have to be built from scratch. CMP estimates it would create 1,700 jobs for six years.
Advertisement