Letter to the Editor: Is Solar More Effective than a Transmission Line?

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To immediately bring 1200 MW of electricity in from Quebec, CMP will cut approximately 1200 acres of forest. This includes a 150 ft wide stretch, 53 miles long, that is newly cut (approximately 950 acres) and another 92 miles of existing corridor that will need to be widened (approximately 250 acres). To produce the same amount of electricity, solar farms would have to down as much as 4706 acres.

I used a Maine solar farm already in operation to make this determination. The 300 acre solar farm built in Farmington is said to be capable of generating 76.5 MW of electricity. That amounts to 0.255 MW per acre. At this rate, 4706 acres would be affected. That’s an impact approximately 4-times greater than the transmission line.

Standing mere feet from the ground, the structures solar panels mount to don’t leave a lot of space for the land to be used for other purposes. Power lines, on the other hand, being suspended a hundred feet of more off the ground, are regularly used for other purposes. While solar farms are fenced in, the land beneath power lines remains accessible.

Solar power doesn’t reduce the need for infrastructure upgrade either. In fact, it advances it. For a solar farm to connect to the grid a substation or high-voltage transmission line must be tapped into. If a high-voltage transmission line is present, a switchyard must be constructed to convert the low-voltage power generated by the solar farm to the high-voltage traveling through the transmission line. And, if the transmission line linking the site to the nearest substation or high-voltage line isn’t capable of carrying the additional electricity, it has to be upgraded.

Proponents of solar would have the taxpayer accept this burden. They would charge 10 government appointees, each selected from a pool of politicians who have demonstrated poor fiscal responsibility, to oversee these upgrades and more. They would put the expense on our tab, pretend it could be paid in the future but take payment in the form of rate increases. They’d say the increases were temporary, but eventually they’d have to admit to underestimating the cost of upkeep and raise them again.

We’ve been through this before. In 2000, a group of legislators promised to reduce rates by forcing CMP to sell off its electric generation assets and began managing billing and transmission line upkeep alone. They then sold CMP’s electric generation assets to NextEra, a Florida based electric company eager to expand, which later contested the deal, forcing Maine taxpayers to fight it in court. Our electric rates increased almost immediately.

Interestingly, it is NextEra that provided the majority of the funding used to fight the transmission line that will link us to Quebec. By fueling opposition, NextEra added $100 million to the cost of the project, which in turn led to more rate increases. They aren’t fighting for us, but politicians looking to make a name for themselves don’t care. They only care NextEra moves people, so they’ve jumped on that bandwagon. By the way, NextEra is rebranding, declaring itself a solar developer, though most of its electricity is generated from fossil-fuels.

Jamie Beaulieu
Farmington, Maine

Opinion pieces reflect the views of the individual author, and do not reflect the views of the Daily Bulldog, Mt. Blue TV, or Central Maine Media Alliance. Publication of an opinion piece does not equate to endorsement of the content of the piece.

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