November 23, 2017
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Maine projects aim to cash in on Bay State hunger for clean energy

By Darren Fishell, BDN Staff
Updated:
Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Troy R. Bennett | BDN
A pair of sneakers hang from a power line on Boynton Street in Portland.

The preferences of Massachusetts utilities and policymakers could advance a range of massive wind, solar or power lines through Maine by 2022.

It’s tough to pin a hard number on how many projects power companies have proposed for Maine in response to the Bay State’s call for energy that does not derive from fossil fuels. But it’s clear big plans are underway.

In total, 14 companies bid projects located in or passing through Maine. Another proposed a power cable passing through Maine waters from New Brunswick to Plymouth, Massachusetts.

Eleven of the proposals include new wind turbines — often combined with battery storage — and two include new solar farms.

After losing out in a previous procurement from southern New England, Maine wind projects bid in even more power this time, seeking approval from Massachusetts utilities and the state’s Department of Energy Resources to have Bay State ratepayers support their projects.

A subsidiary of NRG Inc. submitted a 630-megawatt proposal on the border of Penobscot and Aroostook counties that would use a transmission corridor extending from Haynesville to Searsport and then underwater to Boston.

But they weren’t the largest of the bunch.

A combined proposal from Pattern Energy and EDP Renewables would supply up to 1,200 megawatts of new wind capacity, presumably in Aroostook County. Pattern bought the rights to develop bankrupt SunEdison’s massive King Pine Wind farm in 2016 and EDP has pursued its No. Nine Wind project for years.

The companies jointly filed a bid for the “Nine Kings” project, at a maximum capacity of 1,200 megawatts, according to the filename for the related bid documents that were heavily redacted, leaving the location and other details about the project unconfirmed.

That filename was the only place the number appeared amid project documents that were heavily redacted, even hiding a letter of support from Gov. Paul LePage’s Energy Office.

The former director of that office — now the assistant secretary of energy in Massachusetts — wrote a letter of support in 2015 for the project, after reaching an agreement for the company to fund a program to reduce heating bills for some Aroostook County residents.

Many of the bid documents are obscured in similar ways, making for uneven information about the projects. Some companies openly disclose their project locations. Others disclose only the county and leave clues as to the specific parcel where they’d land.

Some of the projects piggyback on big proposals to pipe hydropower from Quebec down into southern New England, providing steady new generation for the regional grid that doesn’t rely on natural gas.

[ CMP unveils plan that could quench LePage’s thirst for Quebec hydropower]

That includes proposed wind farms along Maine’s western border and a 150-megawatt solar farm in at the former Moscow Air Force Station in Moscow, which would benefit from a Central Maine Power Co. line through the western part of the state.

Such projects notoriously have attracted local opposition, and anti-wind activists in the Greenville area raised concerns about the impact that the latest Massachusetts procurement could have on wind development in Maine, which has almost all of the region’s wind resource.

[ Wind power foes: Don’t ruin Maine’s beauty to feed ‘green energy’ demands]

Those projects are just one possible supplier in a mix of options CMP provided to Massachusetts, which CMP President and CEO Sara Burns called a “cafeteria plan” of options for the state.

The other projects include EverPower’s Bryant Mountain Wind, in Milton; Apex Clean Energy Holdings’ 90-megawatt project, in Columbia; Calpine Wind Holdings’ 45-megawatt Long Mountain wind and storage project, in Greenwood; EDF Renewable Energy’s 150-megawatt Timberline Wind Farm project, identified only as somewhere in western Maine; SWEB Development’s 20-megawatt Silver Maple Wind project, in Clifton; and Longroad Development Corp.’s 73-megawatt Weaver Wind project in Hancock County.

Longroad, run by former executives and First Wind, have taken over that project and proposed a separate 122.5-megawatt solar farm somewhere in the vicinity of Farmington. Bid documents state only that “the nearest long-term precipitation and snow data were from Farmington, Maine.”

View the full bid documents submitted into the Massachusetts clean energy procurement online at macleanenergy.com.

 

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly described an energy project proposed in Moscow. NextEra has proposed a 150-megawatt solar farm there.


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