A recent op-ed (“Maine Voices: Aroostook Renewable Gateway will be bad for people and the planet,” Aug. 11) written by a professor at Unity College with a doctorate in U.S history posed this question: Why not delve into the possibilities of underground High Voltage Direct Current for the Aroostook Renewable Gateway?

LS Power Development, the company overseeing this project, is committed to providing Mainers with our assessment that’s free from speculation and incomplete analysis.

Our core objective is to develop a transmission project that delivers Maine-made renewable energy, powering Maine’s future electricity needs, with as minimal environmental impact as possible and with maximum economic and societal benefits for Maine residents. We can achieve these critically important goals by carefully managing costs and schedule, considering community impacts, and being mindful of the environment while creating economic benefits and balancing effects on ratepayers. If an underground HVDC project that avoids private property and eliminates the need to negotiate with individual landowners fulfilled these core objectives, we’d be more than happy to consider it.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

We know this because LS Power has vast experience dealing with the costs, risks and supply chain challenges of underground HVDC projects, thanks to our work developing such projects on both the east and west coasts. This experience shows that developing underground HVDC would be over five times more expensive to Maine ratepayers and likely have a greater environmental impact because of the need to dig a continuous trench through aquifers, wetlands and sensitive environmental habitats. By comparison, overhead lines provide the ability to strategically locate intermittent structures to minimize environmental and community impacts.

It’s important to acknowledge that an overhead transmission corridor will not be devoid of vegetation. The cleared forest area will be replaced with compatible plantings that will not interfere with our safe and reliable operation of the transmission line. This ensures that carbon dioxide removal by vegetation in the corridor continues. Some may argue that the CO2 impact of tree removal is significant, but it’s important to weigh this against the immense environmental benefits the project offers. The Gateway enables the King Pine Wind project, which will achieve approximately 1.3 million tons of CO2 avoidance per year – roughly the equivalent of removing 260,000 passenger vehicles annually – making it a powerful contributor to Maine’s clean energy goals.


It’s crucial to note that the op-ed’s referenced study relies on cost estimates from unfinished projects and makes an apples-to-oranges cost comparison that is entirely irrelevant for the 1200MW project requested by the state of Maine. By comparison, the New England Independent System Operator (ISO-NE) has extensively studied the integration of northern Maine renewable energy and evaluated an overhead HVDC solution. The Maine Public Utilities Commission received multiple transmission proposals for the Northern Maine Renewable Energy Development Program and selected LS Power’s overhead project because it best meets the statutory criteria of demonstrating “the most cost-effective and efficient development of renewable energy resources in northern Maine in a manner that best supports the achievement of the State’s renewable energy goals.”

Additionally, several local environmental non-governmental organizations have reviewed information about the proposed routes and potential environmental impacts. They support the MPUC in finalizing a contract for the project. This collaborative support reflects an acknowledgment of the valuable benefits our proposed solution offers and underscores the project’s alignment with achieving the state’s climate goals.

And the economic benefits are substantial. Over 25 years, the Gateway is projected to directly create or enable more than 20,000 full-time equivalent  jobs, generate more than $1.8 billion in new wages and salaries, and contribute approximately $330 million in new tax revenues to the state and host communities all while reducing electricity costs for Maine ratepayers by $3.3 billion. Maine Public District ratepayers not directly connected to the new transmission line will also realize project benefits, including electricity cost savings.

Maine’s clean energy goals are ambitious, with a plan to achieve 100% clean energy by 2040. The “Maine Energy Plan: Pathway to 2040” aims to engage the public and energy stakeholders in developing actionable and affordable strategies to reach these targets.

In pursuit of this goal, engaged citizens have contributed to open houses and feedback sessions, actively influencing the development of alternative routes and innovative solutions for Maine’s clean energy future within this initiative. Prolonged delays incur collective costs in time, resources, and finances, hampering the utilization of Maine’s abundant clean energy to lower electricity costs. Let’s work together to improve alternative routes and bring about lasting positive benefits for the people of Maine. The opportune moment is now.

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