CMP ready to start work on power grid upgrade

Posted July 27, 2010, at 4:48 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Central Maine Power Co. said Tuesday it will start work on its $1.4 billion power grid upgrade in a matter of weeks now that it has the final federal approval.

CMP, the state’s largest electric utility, said it has received the final permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for one of the largest construction projects in the state’s history. It includes five new power substations and 450 miles of new or rebuilt transmission lines.

A new 345,000-volt transmission line from Orrington to Eliot will double the capacity of the state’s power grid.

Work will begin in August, a few months later than planned, with surveying work to be followed by tree clearing, CMP spokesman John Carroll said Tuesday.

Sara Burns, CMP president, said the state’s economy would get a boost, with construction work sustaining 2,000 jobs over the five-year project.

“It’s infrastructure to serve Maine communities for generations, but in the short term, it will also provide jobs when Maine people need work,” she said.

Once work is completed, Mainers will benefit from a “smarter, stronger grid” that is bulked up to handle future wind power projects, she added.

Iberdrola USA, CMP’s corporate parent, sold three natural gas utilities in New England to help pay for the power grid improvements. Iberdrola will pay for the improvements, about half with cash and half through borrowing. The money will be recouped from New England electric ratepayers.

The project passes through 75 cities and towns, most of which have given local approval.

So far 53 municipalities have signed off on the work, Carroll said. Delays in obtaining approvals in the remaining towns won’t affect the work schedule in the coming year, he said.

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