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Lack of wires blocks 800 MW in Maine

Lack of transmission capacity has stymied an 800 MW wind project proposed for construction in phases in Maine's Aroostook County. It has been indefinitely put on hold. Aroostook Wind Energy (AWE), a subsidiary of Texas-based Horizon Wind Energy, suspended work on the project after a study suggested its size was more than the regional electric grid could cope with, reported the Portland Press Herald last month. A related plan to bridge a 40-kilometre gap between the transmission networks wires of two utilities, Central Maine Power and Maine Public Service, is also in danger. The Maine Power Connection would enable interconnection of AWE's project and move the power south to the high priced load centres of New England, according to Fred Bever of the Maine Public Utilities Commission. Aroostook County and Northern Maine are not connected to the rest of Maine, but are connected to the grid in New Brunswick, Canada. AWE, which has invested millions of dollars in northern Maine land rights, believes its project's success is contingent on reaching the New England grid. The study's findings could also threaten a separate $625 million transmission plan to move energy from northern Maine and Canada into New England load centres. Horizon, owned by EDP of Portugal, did not respond to a request for comment. Last year, a task force appointed by Maine's governor set a wind power goal of 2000 MW by 2015 and 3000 MW by 2020, much of which would be exported out of state. Maine has more wind power potential than all other New England states combined, the task force discovered. Last month, the state's second wind plant, the 57 MW Stetson project, was added to the existing 42 MW Mars Hill project, upping Maine's online total to 99 MW. Both projects are owned by First Wind.

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