WINTERPORT, Maine — Over the weekend, tons of towers were flown over the Penobscot River by a heavy-duty helicopter as Central Maine Power crews worked on a major piece of the utility’s $1.4 billion Maine Power Reliability Program upgrade.
Installation of the tall lattice towers was completed early Monday morning, CMP spokesman John Carroll said Tuesday. Two were installed near Oak Point in Winterport and two across the river near the Millvale Road in Bucksport. The towers stretch at least 360 feet into the air, he said, and the transmission lines to be installed later will span a 2,400-foot-wide section of the Penobscot River.
Ultimately they will be linked by a new transmission line that will be able to carry 345,000 volts of power through the utility’s grid, according to Carroll.
“These lines are really for moving power out of big power stations and intended to carry power over long distances,” he said.
The utility had contracted with Erickson Air-Crane to fly the tower sections — the heaviest of which weighed 17,500 pounds — from a staging ground at the defunct Winterport airport off the Stream Road.
Joe Brooks, the chairman of the Winterport Town Council, said that Central Maine Power is leasing a portion of the former airport for about $2,500 per month.
“It is a wonderful opportunity for us to pick up a little bit of unexpected income for some of the needs around the community,” Brooks said Tuesday.
He said that the utility project also has brought more employment to the area.
According to Carroll, Central Maine Power is upgrading the bulk power system.
“It’s the backbone of Maine’s transmission grid,” he said.
The existing system was built in the late 1960s and early 1970s, he said. In 2006, Central Maine Power began an evaluation of the system to determine what upgrades would be needed and when. The utility began what Carroll called the “largest construction project ever undertaken in Maine” in 2010. It should be completed by the beginning of 2015, he said.
“It expands our geographic scope, so Maine can import or export more energy developed by local generation,” he said. “Whether through hydro or wind or solar or biomass, we have the infrastructure to import or export more power than we have in the past. It’s been an enormous economic stimulus for the state.”