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MPS, CMP move ahead with detailed analysis of proposed power line 

Two of Maine’s electric companies are moving ahead with a more detailed analysis of a high-capacity power line connecting Maine Public Service Co. with the rest of the New England power grid, officials said Thursday.

Based on preliminary findings, Maine Public Service and Central Maine Power will conduct further study of a power line between Limestone and the Detroit area, linking Maine Public Service’s coverage area in Aroostook County with CMP’s network and the regional power grid, said Maine Public Service CEO Brent Boyles.

The goal is not only to link Maine Public Service with the regional power grid but also to provide capacity for proposed wind power projects totaling 800 megawatts, five times Maine Public Service’s existing load. Aroostook’s existing 42-megawatt wind power project on Mars Hill sends its electricity to Canada.

The northern Maine power grid’s isolation has been a barrier to competition. In December 2006, the Maine Public Utilities Commission’s standard offer solicitation attracted only one bidder.

Sara Burns, CMP’s president, said her company is excited to be working with Maine Public Service Co.

“Creating access to renewable resources is critical to gaining control of our electricity costs here in Maine, and it’s essential to reaching our environmental goals. Through this partnership, northern Maine can be a leader in those efforts, while expanding their local employment and tax base,” she said.

One challenge is how to fund the project.

Simply connecting to the power grid would cost $40 million, but the costs outweigh the benefits because the project would be fully borne by Maine Public Service customers and there is no far-reaching benefit, officials said.

Instead, Maine Public Service and CMP will look at a new line that nearly doubles capacity. The line, between 150 and 200 miles long, would cost between $400 million and $500 million, but it would be economically feasible with the participation of ISO-New England and its member utilities, officials said.

Associated Press


11 April 2008

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