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CMP sees transmission line as precursor to wind power

Billed as a stepping stone to accommodate the future integration of wind-generated electricity, Central Maine Power Co. began construction this week of a transmission line between Moscow and Benton.

Starting at the Wyman Hydro Substation in Moscow and ending at Heywood Road Substation in Benton, the 39-mile line will consist of about 465 utility poles.

The $33 million line “will improve the reliability of Maine’s transmission system, and supports the state’s goals of the promotion of wind generation development in the state,” according to the Maine Public Utilities Commission’s order approving the project.

The line will be built in an existing right of way, though some land will be cleared to make way for the poles, according to the order. The project cost will be shared by utility customers throughout New England, with CMP’s customers paying about 7 percent.

CMP expects the additional line to enhance electricity reliability in Somerset County, in addition to the Kennebec County communities of Benton, Clinton, Waterville and Winslow.

It also will provide increased operating flexibility, greater longevity and a better ability to “accommodate the integration of additional renewable generation in western Maine,” according to the approval order granted Aug. 15.

The first pole was set Monday in Moscow, and work on the Wyman Hydro Substation began last week, according to a release from CMP. The project is scheduled to be completed this spring.

The poles will be spaced about 450 feet apart and stand 70 to 80 feet in height. The line will be built parallel to an existing one.

Along with the new transmission line, the project involves adding a 115-kilovolt terminal with breakers and expanding the existing control house at Wyman Hydro Substation in Moscow, according to the release.

“Our work to strengthen the grid in Somerset County is part of more than $500 million in system investments CMP has planned for 2011 alone,” President Sara Burns stated in the release.

CMP, a subsidiary of Iberdrola USA, is Maine’s largest electricity transmission and distribution utility. The company delivers electricity to more than 600,000 homes and businesses each year, representing about 80 percent of Maine’s annual consumer sales of electricity.