Central Maine Power Co.'s $1.4 billion transmission upgrade will not support the additional construction of alternative energy projects in Maine, as wind and other energy developers believed it would, according to a report from the Portland Press Herald.
A preliminary study by ISO-New England, which operates the regional transmission grid, found that, even with the transmission upgrades, the system won't be able to handle moving large amounts of power from wind farms and other alternative energy developments in northern and eastern Maine to points south. CMP's Orrington transfer station is unable to handle the influx, leading to instability in the grid. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission agreed with those findings. ISO-New England is still working on a more complete stability analysis, which isn't expected until the fall.
The conclusions so far have been a surprise to energy developers, various sources told the paper. They believed the Maine Power Reliability Program -- which includes building or upgrading 500 miles of transmission lines from Orrington to the New Hampshire border -- would make it easier for them to send their power to the rest of New England. Jeremy Payne, executive director of the Maine Renewable Energy Association, said the recent revelations could stall renewable energy projects. Renewable power developers who can't get their energy south using CMP's connection in Orrington can build their own to connect to the grid.
But CMP spokesman John Carroll said the reliability program's focus has always been on increasing load, not the ability to transfer power from other lines in Maine to the New England grid. He said developers and others involved should have known this from the beginning. Maine regulators approved the program in 2010.
A total of nine existing or planned renewable energy projects have already been affected. According to the Press Herald, they were unable to participate in an annual auction for future capacity payments, which would provide them additional money for generating power during peak usage. Capacity payments can be worth millions of dollars and vital to a project's success, the paper reported. Affected projects include First Wind's Rollins and Stetson farms, Verso Paper's biomass boiler in Bucksport and Black Bear Partners hydro dams in Stillwater and Orono.