A subsidiary of energy delivery giant Consolidated Edison Inc. is proposing a new transmission line aimed at connecting an anticipated fleet of wind, solar and biomass energy projects in northern Maine to New England’s electrical grid.

Con Edison Transmission Inc. announced plans Wednesday to build the Maine Power Link project, which could deliver up to 1,200 megawatts of renewable energy to the regional transmission system in southern Maine.

The proposal comes four months after Maine voters rejected ongoing efforts by Central Maine Power’s domestic parent company, Avangrid, to build the $1 billion New England Clean Energy Connect, or NECEC, transmission line through western Maine to connect the grid to hydroelectric power generated in Canada. That project, which has a capacity similar to the ConEd proposal, is partially built but on hold pending court challenges.

Two-thirds of the 145-mile NECEC project also follows existing rights-of-way, but environmental groups and others opposed the new 54-mile corridor that was cut through working forest in western Maine.

The Maine Power Link route would mostly follow existing utility rights-of-way, ConEd said. Those could involve corridors owned or controlled by CMP and Versant Power, the Oakfield wind farm in southern Aroostook County and its 59-mile Maine GenLead transmission line to Chester in Penboscot County, and the Maine Electric Power Co. or MEPCO line, which runs from Chester to Pittsfield, north of Waterville.

Where it’s necessary to expand or build new rights-of-way, the company said it plans to first meet with communities, environmental groups and other stakeholders before negotiating with landowners. There are no plans to put lines underground, it said.


The project was submitted to the Maine Public Utilities Commission on Tuesday. It’s a response to a bid process mandated by a law passed last year creating the Northern Maine Renewable Energy Development Program. The bill, L.D. 1710, was presented by Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash.

The bid process is confidential, but ConEd chose to make its proposal known Wednesday.

“We wanted to let the people of Maine know we’re in the mix,” said Stuart Nachmias, ConEd Transmission’s president and chief executive.

The renewable electricity that would move over the line is subject to a separate bid process for generation that’s underway at the PUC, with submissions due May 1. The PUC is scheduled to select the winning projects by Nov. 1.

“We cannot disclose any information about bids received at this stage in the procurement process,” the PUC said Wednesday. “The commission will carefully review all submissions consistent with the statutory guidance.”

If the Maine Power Link is selected by the PUC, Nachmias estimated, it could take up to four years to complete the project.


While Maine Power Link didn’t indicate how many average homes could be served by yet-unknown generators providing the transmission line with up to 1,200 megawatts of wind, solar and biomass energy, the NECEC project’s 1,200 megawatts of hydroelectric capacity is designed to meet the needs of 1.2 million residences.


In announcing its project, ConEd appears to acknowledge what many see as a shortcoming of the NECEC process and has learned from that experience.

“The Maine Power Link team recognizes that its success or failure hinges on a robust, open and transparent siting process, engaging with stakeholders from Day 1, before any land is purchased or applications filed,” it said. “We view this as an essential step in our process to protect the environment and meet our energy goals.”

In an interview with the Press Herald on Wednesday, Nachmias also pointed out that the power would be produced in Maine – not Canada – and could help turn Aroostook County into a clean-energy hub.

Most of Aroostook County and parts of Washington County aren’t connected to the U.S. electrical grid and receive much of their power through Canada. Economic development and energy interests in Maine have been trying for decades to connect northern Maine with the rest of New England. A new transmission line also could provide a path for large, proposed wind energy projects in northern Maine that so far have lacked a connection.


Nachmias declined to discuss the specific routes the company is considering or where it would enter the regional grid.

“We’ve identified an interconnection point that we think is a very good location,” he said. “This project’s solutions are the result of an exhaustive review of Maine’s energy grid, its objectives and our experience as an industry leader in transmission development. We believe that this project will help the people of Maine achieve their clean energy goals, bring needed clean energy generation to market, preserve the beauty of Maine’s communities and create sustainable economic opportunity.”

ConEd said the Maine Power Link would provide cost-effective delivery of renewable energy to support increased electrification and decreased dependence on fossil fuel imports and their volatile prices. It added that the proposal is based on a comprehensive review of transmission options for the state.

The proposed solutions include “options not previously considered that offer value for customers with options for expansion. … By maximizing the use of existing rights-of-way, Maine Power Link minimizes the visual and environmental impacts of the project,” it said.

ConEd said it is committed to “proactive and transparent communication with stakeholders and will set a new standard of cooperative engagement with local communities and stakeholders throughout the siting, permitting and construction process.”



The Northern Maine Development Commission endorsed the project, saying it will provide hundreds of construction jobs.

“The renewable wind, solar and biomass energy projects it will facilitate will drive the demand for local businesses such as mills to produce timber products, fuel and aggregate suppliers, and heavy equipment rentals to support construction activities,” said Robert Clark, the commission’s executive director.

ConEd’s attempt to forge upfront agreements on a route has won early, tentative support from leading environmental groups with which it’s engaging.

“Maine Audubon is grateful to the team behind Maine Power Link for their proactive engagement as they work to locate their project in a manner that avoids environmental and ecological impacts to the greatest extent possible,” said Eliza Donoghue, Maine Audubon’s director of advocacy. “We are optimistic that early engagement with stakeholders, including conservation and clean energy advocates like Maine Audubon, will result in both more efficient processes and better environmental outcomes.”

The Natural Resources Council of Maine is a staunch opponent of the NECEC line. But Jack Shapiro, the council’s climate and clean energy director, said it’s taking a different tack on ConEd’s proposal.

“The bottom line is (the council) supports responsible, renewable energy and transmission development that delivers real climate benefits,” Shapiro said. “We really want to see the potential for developing significant new renewable projects in Aroostook County to be realized, and this could be a key step in that direction, especially if it can be done at a reasonable cost.”

The proposal also underscores a recognition that new transmission lines will be needed to move away from natural gas and oil generation, said Jeff Marks, Maine director and senior policy advocate at the Acadia Center.

“Shifting the country to clean electricity will require a lot more major transmission lines,” Marks said. “The controversy over the NECEC project has crystalized critical issues that Maine must grapple with, including how to transition to a modern energy system that benefits communities, protects critical lands and habitat, and serves all consumers equitably while rapidly shifting away from fossil fuels towards reliance on cleaner electric options needed to meet the state’s climate targets by 2030.”

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