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Company hopes to send wind energy from Maine to Plymouth

PLYMOUTH – It’s a modern variation on the classic elementary school science project: making electricity from potatoes. In this case you take the potato fields of Maine, plant a few dozen wind turbines, and drop a cable down the Penobscot River into the Gulf of Maine, then underwater 220 miles to Plymouth.

Along with electricity, the cable would bring tax revenue to town.

In a presentation to selectmen this past week, Anbaric Transmission President Stephen Conant said the electricity would be brought to an area that needs it.

The wind-generated electricity from Maine, supplemented during windless periods by hydroelectricity produced in Canada, would be brought to Massachusetts, where the need for electricity will become more acute with the loss in 2019 of more than 600 megawatts of energy now produced by the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station.

Conant said Plymouth is the preferred site for the underwater cable, not only because of its Massachusetts location but because of infrastructure that Pilgrim will leave behind when it is decommissioned.

The company would need to build a converter station that includes at least $100 million worth of electrical equipment to convert the DC power flowing through the underwater cable to AC power, the type of current used in homes, Conant said.

There would actually be two converter stations, one in Maine that changes the current to DC – which is best for transmission – and one in Massachusetts that converts it back to AC.

Anbaric is not alone in this effort. It is part of what is called the “Green Line Infrastructure Alliance,” and its chief partner in this effort is the power company National Grid.

Conant said the project, which would take at least seven years to complete, is in the preliminary development stage. The company hopes to break ground in 2020.

While Plymouth is its preferred location for the converter station, the company has also evaluated locations in Salem, Lynn Harbor and Boston Harbor.

Conant said the converter station produces no emissions and little fuel is consumed onsite.

The converter stations can be designed to suit any taste: a 400-megawatt facility in Vermont looks from a distance like a red-stained barn and farmhouse, he said.

Cooling units on the converter stations produce noise, but Conant said that could be reduced in the design process.

The size of the converter station envisioned for Plymouth would require about 20 acres.

The facility would employ trades workers during construction, but produce few, if any, permanent jobs, Conant said.