CMP transmission line project advancing through permitting process

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CMP’s map of the proposed New England Clean Energy Connect.

FARMINGTON – A project utilizing 145 miles of transmission lines to deliver Canadian hydroelectric power to the New England grid is continuing to progress this fall, as Central Maine Power moves ahead with the permitting process and continues to collect endorsements from local officials.

CMP announced the New England Clean Energy Connect earlier this year, in response to a request for proposals by Massachusetts to bring up to 9.45 terawatts of clean energy power into the state. CMP’s proposal would run 145 miles of direct current line from the Canadian border in western Somerset County down into a new AC/DC converter station in Lewiston. That line, in addition to small improvements to other Maine facilities, would deliver 1,200 megawatts of power from a Canadian hydroelectric company, Hydro-Québec, to the New England grid.

Approximately 45 miles of the 145-mile corridor would be new line, running from Canada into The Forks. CMP would be working with four landowners to accommodate that new line. South of The Forks, the project would make use of the preexisting corridors, including those near Farmington and Jay in Franklin County.

CMP also submitted a second proposal, the Maine Clean Power Connection, which would use 140 miles of similarly-positioned AC lines to transport clean energy from a collection of wind, solar and storage facilities in eastern Canada and western Maine. A total of 46 bids were submitted in response to the Massachusetts RFP. Other proposals submitted by other companies in response to Massachusetts RFP include connecting to Canada through New Hampshire and a proposal to run cable beneath Lake Champlain in Vermont.

Massachusetts will be selecting projects in January in advance of further negotiation and the developing of more advanced plans. The project would be in service by 2022.

On Tuesday, county commissioners agreed to write a letter in support of the project, which has also garnered local endorsements from town officials in Jay and Farmington, as well as the Greater Franklin Development Council.

Regionally, Joel Harrington, the CMP manager of government and community relations, said that the project would generate an annual average of 1,700 construction jobs over the five-year life of the project. The NECEC is expected to provide an $18 million tax impact.

Energy savings, as previously reported, are projected by CMP to save New England customers $3.9 billion in the next 20 years, with Massachusetts customers saving $150 million annually. Maine customers would reportedly save $40 million annually.

Additionally, Harrington said, the project includes a $50 million investment into energy innovation and storage research that would benefit Maine universities, including the University of Maine at Farmington.

Following three public informational hearings held in Winslow, Bingham and Lewiston, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection has found CMP’s application for permits in relation to NECEC to be complete, kicking off a 185-review period. The Maine Public Utilities Commission has issued a notice of proceeding in response to CMP’s petition for a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity. By statute, the PUC must make its determination within nine months unless that period is extended.

Prior to voting to endorse the project, Commissioner Charles Webster of Farmington asked if any other project would be operating in Maine. Harrington said that one or two proposals would be in Eastern Maine, but that the NECEC and CMP’s second proposal, the Maine Clean Power Connection, were the only bids that would pass through western Maine.

“We think we have a competitive bid,” Harrington said, adding that the project represented as much as five years of work.

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