HALLOWELL, Maine (AP) — Despite attacks on the New England Clean Energy Connect, state regulators have begun the process of collecting proposals for a high-voltage transmission line to serve as a conduit for renewable energy projects in northern Maine.
A state law required the Maine Public Utilities Commission to begin planning for a transmission capacity of at least 345 kilovolts to connect northern Maine renewable energy projects to the New England power grid.
The project aims to address one of the obstacles to renewable projects in rural Maine — access to the power grid.
It's a similar to the proposed 145-mile (233-kilometer) transmission line that would be a conduit for Canadian hydropower to the New England power grid. But it would serve a different purpose as a conduit for Maine-based renewable energy projects.
State voters rebuked the New England Clean Energy Connect in November, and the permit was suspended by the Department of Environmental Protection. Work has halted for the time being.
But supporters are hopeful for a different outcome in northern Maine. Aroostook and parts of Washington County are currently disconnected from the New England grid, requiring electricity to be routed through Canada, said Maine Senate President Troy Jackson, of Allagash.
That has stymied development of wind and biomass projects that could produce lots of electricity.
“This has been the holy grail of clean-energy development in Maine for well over a decade, and this has been the first opportunity to really try and make that a reality,” said Jeremy Payne, executive director of the Maine Renewable Energy Association.
That process began Monday with a request for proposals issued by the Maine Public Utilities Commission. Those are due March 1.
A second phase of the project calls for a request for proposals for renewable energy generation projects. Those are due May 1.