Monday, March 10, 2008

CMP weighs adding 200-mile power line

Portland Press Herald

The company is looking at property along its existing transmission line from Orrington to N.H.

The Associated Press
March 9, 2008

BANGOR — Central Maine Power Co. is considering a $1 billion project that includes building a 200-mile, 345-kilovolt transmission line that would run alongside its existing 345-kilovolt line from Orrington to Newington, N.H.

Federal, state and local approvals would be needed.

In January, CMP completed a yearlong study of the region's power needs and electrical infrastructure.

CMP spokesman John Carroll said a new line is needed to keep the system reliable as the company faces a growing market.

CMP is surveying property to determine suitability for the project and in some cases providing homeowners with information about the possible purchases of rights of way, easements or land.

CMP also has commissioned a study of alternatives, such as energy conservation and new generation sources.

The utility hopes to complete its assessments by late spring and submit studies and applications to the Maine Public Utilities Commission.

"If and when the case comes before us, it will be adjudicated with vigorous review, as all such cases are, and the commissioners will follow their statutory mandate to protect the interests of Maine ratepayers as well as shareholders" in the regional power grid such as CMP and other utilities, said PUC spokesman Fred Bever.

CMP serves the southern third of the state, parts of northern Franklin and Somerset counties and the southern parts of Penobscot and Hancock counties.

Under the rules of ISO New England, which oversees the region's wholesale power grid, most transmission projects are considered regional investments, and costs of construction and maintenance are shared with other participating New England utilities and their customers.

Carroll said the company primarily is looking at land that borders existing transmission corridors.

"We're looking mostly for 25 to 75 feet in width, on average," Carroll said. "In many cases we might be nicking the corner of someone's property."

Eminent domain is "very much a last resort," Carroll said. "We've been very successful as a company negotiating reasonable property values with people," he said.

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