ELLSWORTH, Maine — Bangor Hydro-Electric Company has completed a project it says will vastly improve service in eastern Hancock County and western Washington County.
Moreover, the five-year, $61 million ‘Downeast Reliability’ project has been completed on time and under budget, company officials said Monday at a news conference.
A small group of people gathered Monday at a new substation on Route 179 in Ellsworth to commemorate completion of the project. Representatives of the company said completion of the project, marked on the approximate 15th anniversary of the 1998 Ice Storm, would prevent a similar long-term outage if another such catastrophe were to occur today.
The 1998 Ice Storm, which coated structures, tree and towers with inches of ice, brought power lines to the ground across much of Maine and left tens of thousands of people without electricity for weeks in the middle of winter.
“This project is a real game-changer,” Kim Wadleigh, Bangor Hydro’s vice president of transmission and distribution operations, said at the gathering. “If the Ice Storm happened again today, the impact on customers from out transmission system would be much different.”
Bangor Hydro Project Manager Steve Sloan said that the project included the installation of a second, looped primary 115-kilovolt line stretching 43 miles from Ellsworth to Columbia. The redundancy will reduce the effects of power outages in the region by rerouting power to the other line if one of them goes out. Either line, company officials said, can carry the entire load to the region.
The completion of the project also will make it easier and less inconvenient for the company to maintain and repair the service, he added.
“We are able to run a much stronger system,” he said.
The project is a once-in-50-years investment in the energy infrastructure of coastal Down East Maine, according to company officials. It injected tens of millions of dollars in the region’s economy and “will strengthen the economic vitality of the region for the long-term,” they said.
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