A major utility in New York is among the companies vying to build a transmission line to connect Northern Maine to the rest of the U.S. power grid.
ConEd submitted its Maine Power Link proposal to the state Public Utilities Commission last week and plans to also propose renewable energy projects that would supply the line, according to a press release. Those plans are due in May, and the PUC will choose projects that should move forward by November.
Other transmission bids were also due last week, and the PUC planned to make details of those proposals available beginning Monday to companies that want to build generation projects. The PUC did not respond to a request for details on other proposals that may compete with ConEd.
The process is part of a state program that aims to build a significant amount of wind, solar or biomass energy in Aroostook County, as well as a transmission line to export the power to the south. Currently, the county has to route all of its power through New Brunswick, Canada, posing a major cost barrier for developers to use the region’s ample space and high winds.
ConEd, on a website about its new transmission plan, says it’s been working on finding a solution to Northern Maine’s energy limitations for years. The company touted early praise from a range of stakeholders. It hopes to build 1,200 megawatts of new renewables to connect to the new power line and maximize use of existing rights of way.
When other states have conducted requests for energy proposals like this, such as in Massachusetts, they’ve ended up with a huge range of projects to choose from. Both of Massachusetts’ choices to import Canadian hydropower into New England ran into opposition in other states – first in New Hampshire, and then in Maine.
ConEd’s website for the transmission project promises “a new standard of transparency and cooperative engagement” to involve local stakeholders and keep the project focused on Maine.
Communication with abutters and a sense that benefits were being funneled out of state were key stumbling blocks for past transmission lines that have stalled in Northern New England.