Massive project has given Maine's economy a boost

Maine has benefited handsomely over the past three years by a little known economic stimulus program that involves private rather than public money.

The $1.4 billion Maine Power Reliability Program is one of the largest construction projects in the state’s history, and it will continue boosting Maine’s economy through 2015.

A big part of that work has benefited Androscoggin, Franklin and Oxford counties, and has helped local companies, particularly in the hard-pressed construction industry.

It is the first significant upgrade of our state’s electrical backbone since 1971, and is having an impact in 13 of Maine’s 16 counties.

The Central Maine Power Company project has mainly generated news coverage for the hearings and court cases involving landowners upset by the project’s impact.

But the Central Maine Power project has also had a beneficial impact on the state’s entire economy.

A Sun Journal story Dec. 11 highlighted the most visible part of the project locally, construction of a new 16-acre substation on Larrabee Road in Lewiston.

Crews have removed 55,000 cubic yards of earth and replaced it with 95,000 cubic yards of compacted fill to support the weight of a massive transformer and substation.

The million-pound transformer will arrive in March aboard a 30-axle tractor-trailer. Work at the site is expected to continue for two more years.

The big project arrived at just the right time for the state of Maine. By almost every metric, our economy went into the dumper in late 2007 and it hasn’t fully recovered.

The downturn hit the construction industry particularly hard. New home construction has nearly ground to a halt while businesses have shelved expansion plans.

For some firms, the CMP work was desperately needed.

More than 20 companies in Androscoggin County worked on the project, ranging from Acadia Contractors in Turner to Williams Scotsman in Auburn, a supplier of modular work spaces. Gammon Landscape and Nursery, Maine OXY, Neokraft and even Rose’s Commercial Cleaning in Lewiston have benefited from the project.

Then there are an average of 2,100 direct and indirect jobs that have been sustained during the four-year project, jobs for everyone from laborers to engineers.

CMP estimates the project will pay $242 million in wages and salaries over the four years and will increase Maine’s gross domestic product by $289 million.

The company says about 1,380 of those jobs were created in Western Maine, and about $250 million will be spent on work in our region.

The peak of the construction occurred between the end of 2009 and the beginning of 2011, and is now beginning to slow.

While the project does have an environmental impact, CMP has also given 4,765 acres of land to the state and set up a $1.5 million fund for use in conservation efforts.

There is a downside: Maine ratepayers will pick up a small portion of the cost for the project. The far larger part will be paid by the other states in ISO New England.

We will be left, however, with a more reliable transmission system that will serve the state’s needs far into the future.

The project is an investment in Maine’s future that came at just the right time.

rrhoades@sunjournal.com

The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and editorial board.

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Comments

 's picture

not worth env. degadation

Supporting the construction bubble with windsprawl will only make matters worse when it pops. There is no point building more windsprawl as the energy demand is lessening and people are buying more efficient appliances. Maine does not need the increased capacity , but the Enron gamers do to sell to Mass. The carbon schemers in Germany stole 300 million in carbon credits and 6 have been jailed. The wind scam just continues , like Enron, with most knowing something is wrong but nobody wants to be the one to spoil the subsidy party. Meanwhile, roads are built where roads should not be, along the entire lengths of ridgelines and mtns. and too close to the lakes and peoples' homes. The developers don't care, they just move to the next project as quickly as possible. If windsprawl was a legit business, they would not have to hire a cartel of lawyers. They should go back to chasing ambulances.

 's picture

Frankly I'd rather see this

Frankly I'd rather see this money and these jobs go toward natural gas lines and burying existing power lines. Oh yeah, and fixing our roads and bridges. Jobs jobs jobs that actually benefit the state and the ecnomy!

 's picture

Not the whole explanation

The reporter writes: "Maine ratepayers will pick up a small portion of the cost for the project. The far larger part will be paid by the other states in ISO New England." As Paul Harvey used to famously say "and now for the rest of the story". By socializing the cost of this project through the grid operator ISO-New England, that small portion the reporter refers to is 8%. This means that Maine ratepayers will cover 8% of this project---sounds like a great deal, doesn't it? But by socializing the cost throughout ISO-New England, it keeps Maine ratepayers on the hook for what ISO-NE plans as some $35 billion related to renewable energy projects, mostly resulting from the mandates of RGGI. Now, which would you rather pay, 100% of $1.5 billion or 8% of $35 billion ($2.8 billion). Or not pay these exhorbitant costs at all?

So much of this is unnecessary. Going down the road of the wind folly is going to bankrupt our regional economy and send electrical rates sky high. Why don't we start with the premise that we in Maine do not need additional electricity generation from wind power since our hydro output alone is enough to satisfy RGGI mandates. We are also a net exporter of electricity, yet we have higher rates than the national average, a problem that needs resolution without adding expensive wind power with its huge environmental footprint. Wind power is certainly not the answer now, and in the future when Federal subsidies go away, it will be a disaster.

 's picture

Not Great News

This powerline is not the great news this reporter makes it out to be. As usual, there is a slant and a lack of research and reporting the whole story. I have followed this project since its inception. When it comes to reliability for in-state delivery, I'm fine with that, although such upgrades should be part of an on-going capital improvement budget. As for the expansion of the transmission lines from 115 kv to 345 kv, this is a huge and potentially dangerous expansion. Homeowners near this project were not adequately informed as to what this entails or thousands of people would have howled about it. I went on record with the PUC objecting to its lack of involving the public when I attended at hearing in Gorham and there were no local people, just the representatives of the companies that will gain from this.

This is a project that is hugely overdesigned, for one simple reason: it must be designed for the few days in which there might be surges of power from industrial wind power sites. CMP and the PUC kept denying or playing down this factor, instead selling it as reliability and helping to keep Maine up to date or planning for some nebulous future. After the PUC gave approval, CMP has actually touted the expansion as being for planned wind power projects. Once again, the huge cost of this unpredictable, unreliable source of electricity, with capacity factor of about 25% at best is manifested in this costly and unnecessary expansion of transmission lines. Here's the rub: without this transmission capability, the wind sites don't get built; without the wind sites, there is no need for the transmission line expansion. So the wind industry and CMP, owned by the Spanish Company Iberdrola, the second largest operator of wind power in Europe, get their way and the residents of Maine get stuck with mountains devastated by industrial wind sprawl, a spiderweb of new connecting powerlines, and this dangerous, overbuilt transmission line. The taxpayers and the ratepayers end up enriching CMP and the wind industry.

 's picture

And, if you think $1.5

And, if you think $1.5 billion is going to be the final tab, have you forgotten the Boston Tunnel ? This project is running behind schedule and many parts of it are still in the design phase. Many parts that have been built are in the process of modification, mainly because, engineers haven't a clear picture on what devices will be needed to compensate for the erratic nature of wind driven electric generators.

Jim Cyr's picture

Maine's economy a boost?

Go for the smart meters, layoff meter readers, thus causing a huge slow down in recovering power outages from the lack of laid off resources . "real economy boost" ??

 's picture

Have you seen it?

Drove by the thing in Lewiston the other day,,, also drove by a new one up in South Monmouth,,, egads! Too bad for the people living anywhere near it, you'll never sell your property now.
And for anyone even wondering,, the CMP project has nothing to do with our current administration, or the GOP legilsature. This project and the several thousand jobs it created was put together before we made the "big mistake" of 2010.
And considering this one project added over 2000 jobs to our economy, it makes the results of LePage's work all the more depressing.
November 2011 jobs numbers,, we have 4000 fewer jobs than one month ago,,, and about 7000 fewer jobs than a year ago. LePage and his box of tools in Augusta will point to the falling unemployment rate, but that's the result of people falling off the benefit rools, and moving out of state.
I miss Baldacci!

 's picture

now control the flow of local power

Now what maine needs is a law form the PUC to supply maine first with the locally generated power at a lower rate.

cause the Maine Power realiablity project is really just a big pipe line to export the electricty out of state where is can get a higher rate.

 's picture

on site = local generation = no transmission loss

10-30% loss in transmission

 's picture

rate hikes

There is a downside: Maine ratepayers will pick up a small portion of the cost

How much is Maine's share of the cost? it is a rate hike.

2.The Renewable Portfolio Standard : Wind Power Marketer's dream. Charging $85 to $100 per megawatt into a grid where commonly the price is $55 per megawatt. Higher prices = rate hike

3. The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative penalizes conventional electric generators . That's an increase in costs = rate hike.

4. Efficiency Maine , a program that places a surtax on everyone's electric bill. That's an increase = rate hike.

. So, what part of increasing costs due to incorrect renewables don't you understand, ?

Steve  Dosh's picture

Massive project has given Maine's economy a boost

Nice , 11.12.19 9:40 pm hst •
" A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon it adds up to real money. " attributed to Senator Everett Dirksen , US politician (1896 - 1969)
~ Merry Christmas Maine ~ http://ibew1253.org/JATC.htm
The Dosh family *<;Q~

 's picture

rate hikes

Higher prices increase rates, high-priced transmission construction, and other related integration costs will crush the region's economy.

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