If bid is approved, CMP to invest millions in Lewiston converter station

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LEWISTON — A Central Maine Power official on Tuesday said he felt good about the chances of Massachusetts choosing its bid in January for a massive hydropower project that would trigger a $250 million investment in Lewiston.

Joel Harrington, who works in government relations for CMP, said of the 46 projects submitted after Massachusetts put out the call for clean energy proposals, only three of the 46 have significant hydropower components — and Massachusetts wants hydropower.

That state is looking for proposals to deliver up to 9.45 terawatts of clean energy. A terawatt is equal to 1 trillion watts of power.

CMP first announced its New England Clean Energy Connect bid last July. The project would channel 1,200 megawatts of energy from Hydro-Quebec along a new 145-mile transmission line from the Canadian border to a new AC/DC converter station in Lewiston.

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CMP has been mum about costs, saying it needs to keep that information from competitors until bids are awarded. But on Tuesday during a “power lunch” program at the Lewiston Auburn Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, Harrington said it would mean a $250 million investment here.

The converter station would be on Merrill Road, near CMP’s Larrabee Road substation.

“It’s a great opportunity for Maine and for Lewiston,” he said. “We certainly couldn’t ask for a better community partner than Lewiston.”

The project would entail building roughly 50 miles of new corridor from Beattie Township to The Forks, then building a transmission line next to an existing one between The Forks and Lewiston, where it would hit the main power grid.

“It’s the first direct link that Maine will have with Hydro-Quebec,” Harrington said. “This is something that Maine has tried for many, many years. It’s expensive, but the great thing about this project is that Maine ratepayers pay zero — this is Massachusetts’ project and it’s not borne by Maine residents.”

Massachusetts is picking the winners based on seven criteria, including local support, cost and environmental impact, he said. A decision is due Jan. 26.

CMP has already notified abutters and begun permitting the project in the event it wins the bid. It would still face local planning board approval.

Harrington said the project would mean $18 million in annual property taxes for towns along the transmission line for the next 20 years.

The tax impact on Lewiston wasn’t available Tuesday.

Another $40 million is expected in savings from “energy price pressure” — as more energy enters the market, prices are held down, he said.

It’s also projected to create 1,700 direct and indirect jobs during five years of construction.

CMP has also put in a second bid for a wind power-driven project that wouldn’t require significant investment in a Lewiston converter station. It would connect with new wind turbines near the Canadian border.

“If we’re ever going to bring clean, low-cost Canadian hydro to our region, this is how we’re going to do it,” Harrington said. “We think what’s going to happen is they’re going to select one of the three (large hydropower proposals) — we think we’re very competitive — and a hodgepodge of the other 45 projects, which could be solar, small hydro, wind projects, battery storage projects, a mix of smaller projects from some other sources.”

kskelton@sunjournal.com

Central Maine Power’s map shows its proposed New England Clean Energy Connect, a project for the state of Massachusetts that would deliver power from Hydro-Quebec through western Maine to a new $250 million converter station in Lewiston. Massachusetts is expected to decide on it in January.

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