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Harpswell man’s biomass plan gone with the wind  

A Harpswell consultant who planned to build a $50 million biomass boiler in the Millinocket area lost his spot on the power grid to a wind farm project and has scrapped plans for the plant – and the 30 jobs he hoped it would bring to the area.

“We can’t get the power out, so the project is essentially dead,” Jerry Tudan of Peregrine Technologies in Harpswell said. “Nobody’s going to commit to building a $50 million project if you can’t sell the project.”

Tudan planned a biomass plant that would have provided renewable power using sawdust and bark. He also hoped to build a chip mill so the biomass plant could control its own fuel, he said.

“We were looking at 30 to 35 jobs,” he said.

Tudan had lined up investors for the 17-megawatt project, which he said Tuesday would more than provide a town of 15,000 people with domestic power.

But during the course of “due dilgence,” during which developers worked on issues including environmental permits, First Wind, a Massachusetts wind project developer, registered for the spot on the power grid that Tudan had planned to use.

“When we started, we had a window (of opportunity to use) a regional line that would accept 15 megawatts without any trouble,” he said. “During the course of due diligence, we lost that window.”

Tudan said electricity transmission line upgrades throughout the state are necessary, particularly in light of many alternative energy projects currently proposed – he likened the situation to “squeezing a football through a ketchup bottle.”

According to the Associated Press, ISO-New England manages the transmission of electricity through the 45-, 115- and 345-kilovolt lines connecting various power company systems. It’s open, on a first-come, first-served basis, to generators that meet reliability standards.

Three of Maine’s largest utilities – Bangor Hydro-Electric Co., Central Maine Power and Maine Public Service – have plans to lay new lines, but none will likely materialize before 2011, at the earliest, the AP reported.

“Serious upgrades have to be made to accomodate all of this power,” Tudan said, adding that $3 billion in line upgrades are planned throughout the state over the next five years. “We’re very, very limited in the state of Maine as to what we can put out there.”

But for Tudan’s biomass project, the new lines won’t be ready in time for Millinocket to see Tudan’s biomass project – which he said “would have been a sweet project. At this point, “there’s nothing anyone can do if the lines are maxed out. An upgrade is being planned, but we’re looking at 3 years or so away.”

Instead, he will search for another location in northern Maine – “somewhere where there’s a lot of wood and a lot of room on the grid.”

Beth Brogan

The Times Record News

26 June 2008

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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