CARIBOU — The Aroostook Partnership is keeping an eye on a significant economic development opportunity for northern Maine.

The Aroostook Partnership is a unique private-public organization comprised of over 100 businesses, the four colleges and the Northern Maine Development Commission, whose purpose is to spearhead the economic growth of Aroostook County.

This organization focuses on using our main assets and strengths as the pillars of development efforts, and one of our major assets is an abundance of renewable energy in the forms of woody biomass, wind and solar.

Maine’s two well-respected electric utilities, Emera Maine and Central Maine Power, recently submitted a plan to provide the southern New England market with valuable renewable energy. Their proposal to build the Maine Renewable Energy Interconnect would bring meaningful economic growth to Aroostook County and position Maine as a New England leader in the clean energy industry.

POWER TO GIVE, JOBS TO GET

The states of Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island have issued a call for thousands of megawatts of renewable energy for the over 11 million residents in their states. MREI is poised to provide part of that solution: 1,200 megawatts of clean power, delivered in a cost-effective and environmentally sound manner.

Electricity generated from a variety of renewable resources is a key component of our nation’s energy future, and northern Maine happens to be home to significant sources of renewable energy, with over $1 billion of wind projects in place or planned.

Like so many of Maine’s iconic products – potatoes, blueberries, lumber and lobsters – we have an abundance, and selling it where it’s needed creates jobs, raises tax revenues and supports many existing businesses.

The MREI project will provide the essential connection between our valuable renewable energy resources and the southern New England customers willing to pay for this infrastructure and power.

MREI is estimated to create over 3,500 jobs per year, on average, for five years and projected to raise our regional gross domestic product by over $1 billion.

This project has the potential to spur an additional $4 billion of future economic activity in Aroostook County, which is a major game-changer for this region. These are construction jobs, new technical jobs and significant tax revenues for the state that we do not want to miss.

Our southern New England neighbors are now reviewing a variety of proposed solutions to meet their renewable energy needs. They could choose power from New York, Canada or Maine. MREI, as outlined in the proposal, would be built primarily in existing transmission corridors and would tap into wind projects that are already under development in northern Maine.

OUR FUTURE RIDES ON THE WIND

And, as future generation projects come online, whether they are biomass, wind or solar, MREI would have the capacity to transmit that energy as well. Thus, those of us who focus on the economy of northern Maine are more than hopeful that MREI will emerge a winner.

Some suggest that wind power disrupts our landscape. Others ask why Maine should develop projects that benefit out-of-state customers. That is not our view from up here in Aroostook County.

We see all too clearly that Maine’s industrial landscape is changing and old mills and plants are closing.

We have a vast landscape that can be productive. Aroostook County is more than 6,800 square miles. We will still have an expansive and beautiful landscape when these projects are developed.

Last year, those of us who live and work in Aroostook County were pleased to see SunEdison complete its $368 million Oakfield wind project and EDP Renewables make progress on their proposed $600 million Number 9 Mountain project.

These projects are already doing much to boost our local economy and these wind turbines are viewed as an important revenue stream for the future.

NOW IS THE TIME

Existing renewable energy projects and any future generation projects will require the proper transmission infrastructure in order for the clean energy to flow, similar to other Maine exports.

MREI is an essential infrastructure project that will catalyze a new industry for the County. We are ready for this project. Our economy needs it. Our fellow New England states are calling for it. It is time for northern Maine to maximize the use of our assets to make a better future.