PORTLAND, Maine – Utilities Emera Maine and Central Maine Power Co. on Thursday put forward a joint bid to sell new wind energy from Maine to southern New England states.
The companies joined competition for a massive collective purchase of new renewable energy capacity backed by Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island. The companies said winning the bid for their 150-mile transmission proposal would bring money into Maine, as states to the south would shoulder the cost of the transmission work.
“The investment will be in our state and the cost will be paid by people who would select this project and are willing to pay for it, so it’s a win-win,” Alan Richardson, Emera’s president and chief operating officer, said in a telephone interview.
Emera and CMP announced their bid along with other generators and utilities Thursday. Each company or its affiliates also had intentions to put forward individual bids, including a wind and hydro line from Emera.
CMP on Thursday also announced its bid to build a 66-mile line proposed by Emera that would run from Johnson Mountain Township to its existing grid in Pittsfield.
Another project based at the Loring Commerce Centre in Limestone also filed a previous intention to submit a bid for the regional procurement, with a transmission line that would travel from Haynesville to Searsport and then underwater to Boston.
Ryan Gahagan, a project manager with that Maine Power Express project, said the company ultimately did not submit a bid, “as it is not quite the right fit for the project at this time,” he wrote in an email. The project is still in development, he wrote.
Full details of all the bids actually submitted by Thursday’s noontime deadline were not immediately available. A spokesman for the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection said public versions of the proposals were being processed Thursday and would eventually be posted to the website for the multi-state purchase, at cleanenergyrfp.com.
A few groups, including Emera and CMP confirmed their submissions at or before Thursday’s deadline.
The Vermont Green Line project submitted by Anbaric and National Grid proposes to connect 400 megawatts of wind power and Quebec hydropower to the regional grid. Eversource Energy’s Northern Pass line through New Hampshire proposes bringing about 1,100 megawatts of Quebec hydropower to New England.
Both issued statements early Thursday confirming submission of their bids, and many more generators and transmission companies are expected to pile in for a piece of a rather large procurement pie.
The companies announcing bids are competing for a procurement of at least 5,000 gigawatt-hours of power per year, based on procurement caps in each state, according to CMP and Emera. That’s about 38 percent of the total electricity generated in Maine in 2014.
Other Maine companies attended a bidder’s conference in December, including Dirigo Solar, which has a term sheet with state regulators to sell power from various solar installations around the state.
Central Maine Power Co. and Emera’s joint project would connect wind power from Aroostook County into the regional grid, with a 150-mile, 345-kilovolt line from Hammond to Pittsfield, traveling alongside existing power lines from Haynesville to Lincoln and then through towns west of Interstate 95 to Pittsfield.
Executives for both companies said Wednesday that they’ve mapped out the most efficient route, but the exact path of the proposal hasn’t been determined.
The transmission line proposal looks to support up to 1.2 gigawatts of new wind power capacity in Aroostook County, where the wind power potential outstrips the transmission capacity.
The County is not interconnected with the regional grid managed by ISO-New England, a gap that must be bridged to bring any power down to the purchasing states in southern New England. A recent report from the regional grid operator estimated there is 3,641 megawatts of proposed wind power capacity in Maine alone, which represents about one quarter of all new power generation proposed throughout New England.
The proposal would bring closer a connection between the northern Maine grid and the New England grid that serves the rest of the state, but Richardson said construction of that project “would likely make it much closer and cheaper to make that connection.”
Emera and CMP announced one year ago that they would collaborate on a transmission line to bring at least 250 megawatts of new wind power into the regional grid, from a 119-turbine project proposed by EDP Renewables about 9 miles west of Bridgewater.
That project requires a connection from Houlton to Haynesville, which the proposal submitted Thursday would do, and then some.
Executives for the companies will now wait until as late as this summer to find out whether selection committees in each state have picked their project. Company officials declined to state publicly the total cost of the project, citing competition with other proposals.
Sara Burns, CEO of CMP, said she thinks the proposal has good chances.
“We are the utility that has the most current experience in Maine building a project and getting it done on time and under budget,” she said, referring to the $1.4 billion Maine Power Reliability Program.
Richardson, with Emera, said he felt the project had a benefit in using existing rights-of-way and the skills of both companies.
“I’m sure there will be lots of others but I think ours will be a very strong solution,” Richardson said.
If selected, the companies estimated the project would support thousands of new jobs in the state and lower energy costs across the region by about $70 million annually, starting in 2020.
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