Friday, December 13, 2013
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But wind opponents say these generator lines don’t account for the added costs that ratepayers across the region will bear to beef up transmission lines. Major wind projects are located far from population centers in New England, and new investments will be needed to move the power south from Maine and maintain a stable and reliable grid.
Also, wind power is intermittent. These Maine projects are likely to have capacity factors in the 30 percent range, a measure of how much electricity a turbine actually produces over a year, compared to its maximum design if the wind blew all the time.
“Transmission is the elephant in the room,” said Chris O’Neil, an attorney who represents Friends of Maine’s Mountains. “Grid reliability and stability is going to suffer, and it will be very expensive to either fix or deal with.”
The issue of how to integrate growing amounts of wind, while balancing ratepayer cost and system reliability, already is under study by the region’s grid operator. These power purchase agreements add new urgency to ISO-New England’s task.
The role of wind power could be tempered by more imported hydroelectricity from Canada. But advocates of Canadian hydro, such as LePage, downplay the difficulties of building new transmission corridors needed to move the energy.
Utilities recognize the challenge, however. Northeast Utilities, one of the major power companies signing the Massachusetts and Connecticut wind contracts, has been blocked for three years by conservation groups from building the Northern Pass line through New Hampshire, to import power from Hydro Quebec. A competing corridor proposal called the Northeast Energy Link, led by National Grid and the Canadian parent company of Bangor Hydro, would move wind and hydroelectricity through Maine along the interstate and Maine Turnpike.
But even if these projects gain traction soon, more wind likely will be required to meet southern New England’s renewable power goals. Look for much of it to come from Maine.
Tux Turkel can be contacted at 791-6462 or: