Six new solar projects and one existing wind farm were selected Tuesday by the Maine Public Utilities Commission as the best clean-energy choices to supply power for Central Maine Power and Versant Power customers.

Among solar developers, Glenvale LLC and Walden Renewables were awarded two projects each, and Swift Current and C2 Energy Capital LLC were awarded one project each. These new solar projects will sign contracts for 100 percent of their energy output.

The one existing project winner, for 50 percent of its 132-megawatt output, was Helix Maine Wind Development LLC. The wind farm is in the Boundary Mountains of Franklin County.

“Today’s announcement by the PUC is further evidence of extraordinary momentum in Maine’s clean energy sector, which is creating good-paying jobs across our state, reducing our dependence on fossil fuels, and continuing our fight against climate change,” said Dan Burgess, director of the Governor’s Energy Office. “The projects selected by the PUC will provide renewable energy at competitive prices, which will benefit Maine ratepayers and move Maine toward its nation-leading climate and energy goals.”

More details about the projects will be available when the PUC releases its formal order.

In total, the projects have a generation capacity of 289 megawatts. They will provide power for first-year contract prices that are very competitive in New England’s wholesale power market.

“I am again pleased with the results of this procurement, as participation was robust and the bids were very competitive,” PUC Commission Chairman Philip Bartlett said. “Initial prices range from 2.8 cents to 3.9 cents per kilowatt-hour. These prices, combined with the economic and environmental benefits that the projects will provide, are a positive outcome for Maine.”

Based on estimates provided by the bidders to the PUC, the projects also will:

• Reduce greenhouse gas emissions by roughly 260,000 tons per year.

• Create roughly 175 full-time-equivalent jobs during construction and 14 full-time-equivalent jobs in each year of operations.

• Lead to initial capital spending with Maine-based entities of more than $86 million, and purchases of goods and services averaging more than $2.6 million annually during the 20-year contract term.

• Pay taxes to Maine entities and host communities averaging $4.1 million annually during the 20-year contract term.

Tuesday’s selection was the second part of a bidding process set up to satisfy a 2019 law to expand the amount of clean energy that Maine utilities must have in their supply mix.

Known as a renewable portfolio standard, the law upped the target level of green power to 80 percent of electricity sales by 2030 and 100 percent by 2050. These levels are considered an essential element of Maine’s strategy to combat climate change and lower greenhouse gas emissions.

Interest groups that support clean energy reacted favorably following the decision.

A spokesman for the Maine Renewable Energy Association, a trade group representing clean energy generators in the state, said the outcome will be a good deal for electric customers.

“Today’s unanimous approval by the Maine PUC demonstrates (that) a highly competitive bidding process will help to bring low-cost, high-value Maine-made solar and wind for the benefit of all Maine ratepayers,” said Jeremy Payne, the association’s executive director. “As expected, the solicitation attracted a high number of bids. The approved contract pricing was between 2.85 and 3.95 cents/kwh, which offers tremendous short, medium and long-term value to homeowners and businesses alike.”

The Natural Resources Council of Maine said the project awards create a future in which Maine residents and businesses are powered by clean energy from local resources.

“The PUC’s approval of seven very competitive solar and wind energy projects is further proof that Maine’s vital transition to 100 percent clean energy is accelerating and beginning to deliver vast economic, environmental and public health benefits,” said David Costello, the group’s climate and clean-energy director.

Last September, the PUC approved contracts for 17 renewable power projects – largely solar, but also wind, biomass and hydroelectric. Taken together, those projects will have a generating capacity of 492 megawatts. They represent the largest procurement of clean-energy initiated by the state since at least the 1980s and 1990s, when laws designed to reduce dependence on imported oil spawned a fleet of wood-fired, hydroelectric and waste-to-energy projects.

More than 70 renewable energy developers presented proposals to the PUC, which analyzed them and drew up a short list.

Those first-pick projects were expected to create 450 jobs during construction and 30 jobs during each year of operation. They also were projected to spur an estimated $145 million in spending, including roughly $11 million in wood harvesting payments.

In both cases, the PUC scored each bidder through an evaluation process that put the greatest weight on customer benefits, notably competitive rates. They will be achieved mostly through 20-year contracts with CMP and Versant. Advantages for the state’s economy, such as job creation, capital investment and benefits to host communities, also were part of the scoring.

Both rounds of contracts also highlighted how large-scale solar power has emerged as a cost-competitive alternative to natural gas, the dominant form of power generation in New England.

The number of homes powered by a megawatt of solar power can vary significantly from state to state, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. In Maine, roughly 130 homes would be powered by 1 megawatt, the trade group estimates.

Based on legislation, when all the projects are online, they will generate energy equal to 14 percent of Maine’s retail electricity sales during 2018, or a total of 1.7 million megawatt-hours.


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