ORRINGTON, Maine — Additional capacity will be needed at the Emera Maine substation on Fields Pond Road when the state’s largest wind project begins to operate next year, so work is under way to expand, officials say.
“It’s for the Bingham wind project,” Ellen Foley, spokeswoman for ISO New England, an independent organization that runs the New England power grid, said Monday. “It’s for a series capacitor [at the substation], and Blue Sky West LLC is paying for it.”
The $398 million, 62-turbine Bingham wind farm is owned by Blue Sky West and Blue Sky West II, and will have turbines located in Bingham, Abbot, Parkman, Mayfield Township and Kingsbury Plantation. Both Blue Sky West companies are former subsidiaries of Massachusetts-based wind power developer First Wind, which was purchased in January by SunEdison for $2.4 billion, adding wind farms to the company’s solar power portfolio.
First Wind began developing the Bingham project in 2013 and secured a deal later that year for Massachusetts to buy the power the wind farm generates.
Construction started on the 185-megawatt Bingham wind project in July and is expected to be complete by 2016, which also is when Emera Maine expects to finish up the Orrington upgrades.
“Emera Maine is constructing a ‘series capacitor’ in one of the transmission lines that travels south from Orrington substation,” Emera Maine spokeswoman Susan Faloon said in a Monday email. “Series capacitors increase the capacity of a transmission line; they allow more electricity to move through power lines without having to replace or increase the size of the existing lines. The project is necessitated by the construction of new generation facilities here in Maine, and will allow them the ability to deliver their product to market.”
Since the added capacity is required by competitors of Emera, “who are moving power across our system, the cost of the project is covered by those generators, not Emera Maine,” Faloon said.
Town Manager Paul White said Monday that Orrington will benefit from the upgrade.
“It’s a $15 million to $17 million expansion so it will have a positive impact on the [property tax] rate, there is no question about that,” the town manager said.
The Orrington substation is a hub for the state’s electrical transmission system and is a primary interface between Emera Maine’s system and Central Maine Power, which recently completed its five-year $1.55 billion Maine Power Reliability Program project that also provided improvements at the substation. The upgrade doubled CMP’s electric grid capacity in Maine.
Once completed, the town should see a quarter-million dollar increase in property tax revenues, White said.
“It’s going to be a positive impact,” the town manager said. “It will probably bring in around $225,000 to $250,00 in tax revenues.”