PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Massachusetts intends to finance up to 40% of a wind power project in far northern Maine, potentially giving the state the partner it needs to make the project a reality.
The partnership comes as states in the Northeast are struggling with surging energy costs. The region is heavily dependent on natural gas and feeling a crunch from tightening global energy supplies.
The Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources determined in a public finding that the 1,000-megawatt project would bring clean energy to the state while reducing ratepayer costs in the winter. The decision came in late December, months after Republican Gov. Charlie Baker signed an act authorizing Massachusetts to coordinate with other New England states to develop long-term clean energy projects.
The Maine Public Utilities Commission is expected to take up the subject as soon as this month.
The Aroostook County project, called King Pine, was proposed by Boston-based Longroad Energy. It would bring power to tens of thousands of homes. But it needed a financial commitment from an outside entity to make sure costs remain as low as possible for ratepayers in Maine, said Maine Senate President Troy Jackson, a Democrat.
The project has found that partner in Massachusetts, Jackson said. The state's commitment will also help finance the Northern Maine Transmission Line needed to distribute power, he said.
“Massachusetts’ commitment to provide financial support for the proposed Northern Maine Transmission Line marks a critical step in the right direction,” he said, adding that the project "can unleash the economic potential of Aroostook County and provide affordable and reliable homegrown renewable energy to the good people of Maine.”
The project follows the creation of the Northern Maine Renewable Energy Development Program, which the state established to try to better promote clean energy projects in its vast rural north.
Supporting the project's development provides “the benefits of clean energy and associated transmission towards meeting the commonwealth’s decarbonization goals,” the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources said in its December finding.
Maine officials have also touted the importance of renewable energy to the state's future. Gov. Janet Mills, a Democrat, signed a bill in 2021 to help create the first floating offshore wind research area in the country.
The finding from Massachusetts to participate in the wind project is “welcome support,” said Dan Burgess, director of the Governor's Energy Office in Maine. He called the effort a “vital and transformational clean energy project.”
The future of a major offshore wind farm off the coast of Massachusetts is uncertain. A Connecticut energy company, Avangrid, is planning to build a 1,200-megawatt wind farm, enough to power 750,000 homes, known as Commonwealth Wind. But company officials asked the state in December to dismiss the power purchase agreements because they felt they could no longer obtain the financing to build the project, due to the state of the economy and rising interest rates. The state denied this request last week.
Avangrid now wants to revise its bid for the project and resubmit it in the state’s forthcoming solicitation for offshore wind power this spring.
Associated Press writer Jennifer McDermott contributed to this report in Providence, Rhode Island.