PORTLAND, Maine – Southern New England states want to buy more renewable energy, and wind developers in Maine are lining up to sell it to them.
Maine has New England’s biggest pipeline of wind projects in the works, and developers of nine projects have asked for long-term contracts with utilities in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island. The projects altogether would add another 2,140 megawatts of wind power capacity in Maine.
That’s about 3.5 times the capacity of Maine wind turbines online in November 2015.
Wind developers with projects at various stages dominated bids submitted to the group of southern New England states, which seek to buy an amount of electricity equivalent to 38 percent of the output from Maine power generators in 2014.
In addition to the wind power expansion potential, the bids were notable for two grid-scale solar arrays that would be many times larger than any operating or proposed in Maine.
Two bids led by Ranger Solar would seek to put 50-megawatt solar arrays at the Sanford Airport and another – that could scale up to a capacity of 80 megawatts – on 250 acres in Farmington.
That solar capacity is notable for a dearth of similarly sized grid-scale solar projects in the state, but the wind proposals took the spotlight for Maine’s role in the regional bidding. Those proposals reflect the strong level of interest in accelerating wind development in the state but still don’t capture the whole picture.
The projects seeking a buyer in the southern Maine procurement represent about 60 percent of the 3,641 megawatts of wind capacity under consideration for Maine, according to interconnection requests to the region’s electric grid operator.
That’s power for which Maine doesn’t have the network to transmit south, and the reason why more than half of the proposed capacity additions submitted last week were jointly filed with utilities Emera Maine and Central Maine Power Co.
For a joint Emera-CMP bid that would reach into Aroostook County, wind and solar developers SunEdison and EDP Renewables have proposed adding about 1,250 megawatts of new wind capacity, on top of about 1,300 megawatts installed or scheduled for constructio n in Maine.
Those Aroostook projects include the 600-megawatt, 174-turbine King Pine proposal from SunEdison, which acquired Massachusetts wind developer First Wind one year ago. The company began testing wind conditions in 2011 for that site, which would be built in the Unorganized Territory northwest of Houlton on the border of Aroostook and Penobscot counties.
The proposal from EDP Renewables includes a 250-megawatt proposal at Horse Mountain in southern Aroostook County, between Stacyville and Sherman.
It also includes a possible expansion of its previously announced 250-megawatt Number Nine Wind farm. The proposal submitted last week envisions expanding that project to a capacity of 400 megawatts.
CMP and Emera announced their transmission project last week, but they did not disclose the wind projects that would supply power to the proposal for a new transmission line able to send 1,200 megawatts of electricity south.
Public versions of bids to the southern New England energy request were published Monday afternoon.
Also in the bidding mix is a proposal from developer EverPower, which seeks to build a 250-megawatt wind farm in the Washington County towns of Cherryfield and Deblois.
Another proposal from CMP into western Maine would connect to another 461 megawatts from projects proposed by NextEra Energy Resources and 85 megawatts of capacity from SunEdison’s Somerset Wind proposal, which proposes 26 turbines spread across the townships of Johnson Mountain, Chase Stream and Misery Township.
CMP proposed a 66-mile line running from Johnson Mountain Township connecting with its existing grid in Pittsfield to serve those projects.
Patriot Renewables also bid to have southern New England states buy power from its 23-megawatt Canton Mountain wind farm, which is in the works.
SunEdison also bid for the states to buy power from its 72-megawatt Weaver Wind project in Hancock County, proposed for a site in the town of Eastbrook.
All of the projects put forward for Maine will compete with numerous proposals for wind, solar and transmission projects elsewhere in the region.
Representatives from Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island are expected to review the proposals and issue notice of the winning bidders as early as this summer.
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