Versant crews repair damage to power lines along Bennoch Road in Orono after a Tuesday afternoon thunderstorm. Credit: Nina Mahaleris / Penobscot Times

OLD TOWN, Maine — Improvements to electricity service for Versant Power customers in the Old Town-Orono area may be coming soon.

Versant Power officials say the company is committed to improving service in the Old Town-Orono area after an “unacceptable” number of outages since 2020. 

There have been at least 15 service interruptions to the area since 2020, with customers experiencing on average two to three sustained transmission line outages a year, according to the company. 

Versant power serves several thousand customers in the area. 

Frequent power outages have plagued the area for several years with no clear epicenter, but the estimated multimillion-dollar project will install equipment that will communicate information regarding the location of problem areas to more quickly remedy the issue, the company said. 

The plan put together by Versant will take several years to complete, and will also include work to tie together three transmission lines that will allow service to continue from a line that is still operational during an outage. 

Work has already begun and will likely go through 2023, Versant spokesperson Judy Long said. 

The company said over the last year and a half, several instances of vehicles hitting utility poles caused outages, but that the severity of outages shouldn’t have been as bad as they have been. 

“We know that our customers depend on us. We are not satisfied with the service our customers in the Old Town/Orono area have experienced over the last two years, and we’ve been working to analyze and implement effective solutions as quickly as possible while maintaining the affordability of service,” Versant Power president John Flynn said. 

Other causes for outages over the past year and a half appear to be weather related, and the company will also install better electrical wire in heavily forested areas, as well as replacing more than a dozen poles and equipment, the company said.

Mitch Stone, Orono’s economic development director, said the news of Versant’s plan is welcome news given how reliant schools, businesses and individual homeowners are on electricity. 

“It will greatly benefit the Orono community based on the fact that once the power goes out it kind of puts us at a stand still and it costs money for our community,” he said.

Old Town City Manager Bill Mayo said the move is a good first step toward fixing the power issues his city has faced. 

“I know they have been trying to figure this out over the last year,” Mayo said. “Obviously it’s difficult for residential folks but particularly for businesses too. It can cause a lot of problems like at the Bell’s IGA with freezers and all that.” 

Both Mayo and Stone both said they don’t know exactly what Versant is doing to fix the issues, but agree any improvement is welcome.

Sawyer Loftus

Sawyer Loftus is a reporter covering Old Town, Orono and the surrounding areas. A recent graduate of the University of Vermont, Sawyer grew up in Vermont where he's worked for Vermont Public Radio, The...