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September 5, 2011

A 2011 guide to energy developments in Maine

Maine's energy landscape continues to change, and further changes could be on the horizon with a new administration. Earlier this year, Gov. Paul LePage proposed eliminating renewable energy benchmarks, but lawmakers instead passed a bill directing utilities regulators to study the state's renewable portfolio requirements. How future decisions to keep Maine energy prices low will affect projects remains to be seen.

Here's a status update on the projects making news these days:


Wood pellets

Ashland: After a 2009 fire, pellet-maker Northeast Pellets is operating, thanks in part to a $100,000 federal grant.

Athens: Maine Woods Pellet Co. operates a pellet production facility on 55 acres.

Bethel: Entrepreneur Les Otten launched Maine Energy Systems in 2008, which sells wood pellet boilers and distributes the pellets.

Bethel: Austrian wood pellet manufacturer OkoFEN Pellet Heating has established a company called Maine Eco Pellet Heating LLC that will manufacture wood pellet boilers for both commercial and residential buildings. The company is located in the same facility as Maine Energy Systems.

Corinth: Corinth Wood Pellets LLC has been manufacturing pellets since 2007.

Strong: Geneva Wood Fuels makes and distributes hardwood pellets.


Kibby Mountain: This 44-turbine wind farm by developer TransCanada went fully online in October 2010. The company in January received approval for an 11-turbine expansion on nearby Sisk Mountain, which a citizens’ group is challenging.

Lincoln: Massachusetts-based developer First Wind began building this 40-turbine wind farm on Rollins Mountain in September 2010 and completed construction in July.

Mars Hill: Completed in 2007, this 28-turbine wind farm by First Wind was Maine’s first. A group of residents sued First Wind and the town, among others, over the noise it generates.

Stetson Mountain: The 38-turbine wind farm, developed by First Wind, came online in January 2009. A 17-turbine expansion came online in April 2010, making the wind farm an 83-megawatt facility.

Vinalhaven: Three wind turbines have been running since 2009, but in 2010 the DEP found they violated state noise limits, requiring Fox Islands Wind LLC to take corrective action. A subsequent DEP order confirmed the turbines met requirements, but a citizens’ group has filed a petition to vacate the order.




Old Town: Old Town Fuel & Fiber has begun building a biorefinery to make biobutanol, a sustainable fuel derived from wood and used as a substitute for gasoline.

Natural gas/LNG

Portland: New Hampshire-based Unitil is working on a 14-year, $60 million project to replace more than 100 miles of natural gas pipelines in Greater Portland, and construction in began this summer.




Bangor: The Maine Public Utilities Commission approved a Bangor Hydro Electric investment of nearly $8 million in Smart Grid infrastructure investments, which the company says will conserve energy and lower electricity bills for customers. The project is expected to be completed by the end of 2011.

Orrington: Central Maine Power Co. in 2010 began work on its $1.5 billion transmission line upgrade, which includes building a 345-kilovolt line from here to New Hampshire. The entire expansion project is expected to take around five years to complete and require an average 2,100 employees.

Eastern Maine: It’s been a year and a half since former Gov. John Baldacci and New Brunswick Premier Shawn Graham announced plans for a Northeast Energy Corridor between Maine and Canada. Though the Legislature last year passed a bill that sets up a process for reviewing lease deals on energy corridors, there’s been no progress.

Oakfield: The DEP in January 2010 approved a 34-turbine, 51-megawatt wind farm here, built by First Wind, but that permit was then appealed. In March, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court upheld the permit.




Millinocket: Rockport-based RE-Gen LLC has proposed a $20 million factory that would manufacture Italian biomass furnaces, and won a federal tax credit of more than $900,000 for the project.

South Portland: The Maine Renewable Energy Consortium in 2009 unveiled its preliminary plan to build a $60 million bioenergy plant that would generate electricity from wood chips, but has not yet submitted plans. Last year, the organization won a $1 million grant from Efficiency Maine.


Houlton: Maine Public Service Co. and CMP completed studies for a 26-mile transmission line from Haynesville to here that would connect the MPS network to the rest of Maine and New England. The 345-kilovolt line is expected to be privately funded and done in 2014.

Wiscasset: Toronto developer Transmission Developers Inc. has proposed a $1 billion high-voltage underwater cable that would transport renewable energy generated in Maine to Boston, but still needs to complete environmental studies and ISO-NE system impact studies.

Natural gas/LNG

Robbinston: Developer Downeast LNG, based in Washington, D.C., is still working to finalize its environmental impact study with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and is consulting with the U.S. DOT on recent changes to federal safety standards for LNG facilities. A revised draft will be issued after Downeast LNG completes consultations with the DOT.

Central Maine: Portland-based Kennebec Valley Gas Co. has proposed building an 80-mile natural gas pipeline from Richmond to Madison that would serve 12 communities. Those towns will be asked to approve a TIF to help finance the $80 million project, but the company still needs to net large commercial users to make the project viable. The PUC gave initial approval to the pipeline in August. Construction could begin as early as 2012 if approved.

South Portland: Despite recent layoffs, Fairchild Semiconductor said it is still interested in working with the city to build a 25-megawatt natural gas power plant. The original proposal, floated in 2009, called for the plant to be built on the National Semiconductor campus.


Midcoast: GridSolar is still working with the PUC and other parties to develop a smart-grid plan to support non-transmission alternatives to CMP’s line upgrades. The company is working on a proposed pilot project here, and has proposed one in the Portland area as well.


Eastport: Ocean Renewable Power Co. plans to install its full-scale tidal turbine unit in Cobscook Bay over the next two years, after a demonstration project successfully generated grid-compatible power. The company has also proposed a turbine manufacturing center, called the Maine Marine Energy Center, at the Eastport Business Center. Last fall, the city and Washington County won a $1.4 million federal grant for the project, expected to create 75 jobs. In March, the company partnered with an Alaskan electric association to launch a pilot project in Cook Inlet, and in July the company formed a subsidiary to develop a tidal project in Nova Scotia.

Eastport: Tidewalker Associates has received a preliminary permit from FERC to develop a tidal power facility at the entrance to Half-Moon Cove, between Eastport and Perry.

Pembroke: Pennamaquan Tidal Power LLC has received a preliminary permit from FERC to develop a tidal power plant at the entrance to Cobscook Bay from the Pennamaquan River.

Wiscasset: FERC has issued a preliminary permit to the town and the Chewonki Foundation to study tidal currents for a potential power project and underground transmission cable, and in June gave the entities an 11-month extension to file a draft license application.

Wiscasset: Toronto-based Riverbank Power Corp. has proposed a $2 billion underground hydropower station that would generate 1,000 megawatts of electricity. The company has a preliminary application from FERC but is still collecting data.

Yarmouth: A California inventor has pitched testing his technology that would use effluent from the town’s wastewater treatment facility on the Royal River to produce hydrogen and other gases as a clean energy source. He needs to raise as much as $6 million to develop a commercial prototype.


Bingham: First Wind is proposing to build 52 turbines along a ridge that stretches from here to Blanchard and Mayfield townships. Earlier this year, Somerset County commissioners voted against a TIF agreement that would have applied to the 32 turbines slated for Mayfield Township, marking the first time a TIF for a wind power project has been rejected in the state. First Wind still plans to move ahead with the project.

Carroll Plantation: First Wind in March submitted a permit application to LURC for a 25-turbine wind farm in the area of Bowers Mountain in Carroll Plantation and Kossuth Township, about eight miles south of First Wind’s 55-turbine Stetson Mountain wind power facilities. Public hearings on the project were held this summer. Meanwhile, the Penobscot Nation and the Passamaquoddy Tribe are opposing the project based on its proximity to religious sites.

Clifton: A businessman’s plan to build a five-turbine wind farm on Pisgah Mountain has received local approval, but still needs state permits.

Frankfort: New Hampshire-based Eolian Renewable Energy has proposed a four- to six-turbine wind farm on Mount Waldo here. After getting wind of the proposal, residents voted to adopt a wind moratorium, but selectmen in August decided not to enforce it and allow the company to proceed with testing.

Monhegan Island: A proposed National Center for Deepwater Offshore Wind Research at the University of Maine here was awarded $10 million by the Senate Appropriations Committee. The U.S. energy department chose UMaine as one of three universities in the country to receive $10 million to fund its offshore wind test center off Monhegan Island, one of three state-selected test sites. UMaine is planning to design and deploy two 10-kilowatt and one 100-kilowatt floating turbine prototypes.

Moscow: The Penobscot Nation has purchased a 1,274-acre site here and is considering developing wind power and exploring ways to generate power using a water source.

Roxbury: The U.S. Department of Energy has issued a $102 million loan guarantee to Record Hill Wind to build a 22-turbine wind farm here. The project stalled last year after the Concerned Citizens to Save Roxbury appealed its permit from the DEP, but the Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruled against that appeal in March. Record Hill Wind is a joint venture between New Hampshire’s Wagner Forest Management and former Gov. Angus King’s company, Independence Wind.

Rumford: First Wind is still looking to put 19 wind turbines along Black Mountain here and in Roxbury, and last fall leased office space in Rumford. However, the company is holding off finalizing plans until voters decide on a wind power ordinance; the first ordinance was defeated in November, and a second ordinance voted down in June. A third one is in the works that could end up on this November’s ballot.

Township 16 LURC gave initial approval to a 19-turbine wind farm on Bull and Heifer hills proposed by Blue Sky East LLC, a subsidiary of First Wind. Additional review is scheduled before LURC’s final vote this month.




Burnham: San Diego-based International WoodFuels LLC in July 2009 proposed a $20 million wood pellet manufacturing facility adjacent to wooden golf tee maker Pride Manufacturing Co., but delayed construction last June. The company has been mum on its plans.


South Portland: The city has put on hold plans to create its own energy company that would buy electricity at wholesale rates and sell it back to residential and commercial users. A city official said the amount of working capital needed to set it up outweighed the benefits in electricity savings.

Natural gas/LNG

Calais: Developer Calais LNG has pulled its state application to build a $1 billion LNG terminal here, after multiple requests for extensions to complete its application. Calais LNG said the “extreme turbulence of the capital markets” stalled the project, as it struggled to find a new investor after GS Power Holdings LLC, a subsidiary of Goldman Sachs Group Inc., backed out. It plans to refile its application in the future.


Pleasant Point: The Passamaquoddy Tribe was awarded a $120,000 grant in 2008 from the federal government to test the tidal power in waters off the reservation, but in May 2010 pulled its preliminary permit with FERC. No word on where the project is now.


Highland Plantation: Regulators’ concern over a 39-turbine wind farm’s impact on wildlife habitat forced Highland Wind LLC to pull its state application, citing a need for more time to address concerns. The company is a subsidiary of former Gov. Angus King’s Independence Wind.




East Millinocket, Millinocket: Both Katahdin Paper Co. mills are closed; however, hope is on the horizon. New Hampshire-based Cate Street Capital in August signed an agreement to buy the mills, and hopes to install natural gas lines and explore a renewable fuel project if the deal closes.

Natural gas/LNG

Pleasant Point: Beleaguered by lawsuits, Quoddy Bay LNG’s proposal seems to be dead; it has no state or federal applications on file.


Saco: Portland-based GridSolar in 2009 brokered an agreement with Saco officials to build panels on city-owned land, but has scrapped that project to focus on others related to its exploration of non-transmission alternatives to CMP’s massive power line project.


Mindy Woerter, Mainebiz e-news editor, can be reached at


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