Maine sees the future of power transmission, and it won’t always include big new lines

Big batteries and efficiency are chosen as an alternative to a new Brunswick-Topsham power line, thanks to a new law that pushes utilities to explore new ways to assure reliability.



On a scorching summer evening a few years from now, big batteries at locations that might include Bowdoin College or the Topsham Fair Mall could discharge for five hours or so into the area’s electric distribution system. Commercial air-conditioning units around Brunswick and Topsham may briefly cycle down to reduce power demand, along with refrigeration units at supermarkets and restaurants.

These and other measures will help assure that the lights stay on during periods of high power demand for roughly 8,000 Central Maine Power customers in Brunswick, Topsham and Harpswell.

CMP could achieve a similar level of reliability in this area by totally rebuilding an aging, 5-mile transmission line. But energy experts found that just installing new poles and wires would be a more expensive solution. Instead, they’ve come up with a strategy to trim power use at crucial moments. If it works, the old transmission line will come down.

Maintaining reliability without new transmission lines is called a “non-wires alternative.” The alternative plan ramping up soon in Brunswick and Topsham was approved this month at the Public Utilities Commission. It’s the first case under a 2019 law aimed at reducing future electric costs and, in this instance, projected to save customers $8.5 million over the project’s lifetime.

That’s not a big number by itself, and it’s a savings off bills years in the future. But the recent PUC approval is worth noting because it’s part of a new way of planning utility investments in Maine. It’s happening as New England faces the potential of spending billions of dollars to upgrade the grid to handle an accelerated shift to an electrified economy, a future of plug-in cars and heat pumps, powered largely by solar and wind generation.

Part of that planning process is making sure the state’s transmission and distribution systems can handle demand during the hottest and coldest hours of the year, when air conditioners are blasting or heaters are straining. Non-wires alternatives such as battery storage and energy efficiency hold the promise of maintaining reliability without building costly transmission capacity that’s rarely needed.
In this instance, power now flowing over the old transmission line will be rerouted to different, existing circuits that will undergo some cost-effective upgrades. That’s how electricity will get to the batteries, and to everything else.

Think of it like highway construction, said Michael Stoddard, executive director of Efficiency Maine, the state’s conservation agency. It’s expensive to build and maintain extra travel lanes on a highway that are only congested during holiday weekends.

“This is like being able to get away with one less lane on the highway,” Stoddard said.

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Comment by Dan McKay on July 8, 2022 at 12:22pm

Improving Interconnection


The Solar Futures Study found that solar and wind energy and energy storage deployment will need to dramatically expand in order to meet the Biden-Harris administration’s goal of a decarbonized electricity system by 2035. These clean energy and energy storage resources need to be connected to the distribution and bulk power grids through a process known as interconnection. The process involves an interconnection customer, like a wind or solar developer, who submits an application to an electric service provider or independent system operator responsible for managing and operating the grid, to connect a new generating facility. The electric service provider must then evaluate the existing resources on the grid to determine whether the project can be built, connected, and operated in a safe and reliable way.  

Interconnection is dictated by a complex network of laws, regulations, and administrative processes that have been developed at the regional, state, or utility-territory level. Current interconnection procedures, however, are not designed to accommodate the deployment of the hundreds of gigawatts of solar energy, wind energy, and energy storage resources needed each year to meet climate goals. Consequently, many new clean energy projects get delayed in interconnection queues, sometimes for years, awaiting review, study, and approval. At the same time, it is important to be sure that adding new resources to the grid will not result in safety issues, equipment problems, or power outages.

Because interconnection is inherently a local, state, or regional process involving many stakeholder groups – an interconnection customer, an electric system provider or grid operator, and a regulatory body that establishes the rules – interconnection challenges vary depending on location. In addition, the challenges are multi-disciplinary and require expertise in electrical engineering, economics, regulation, and technology. Solving interconnection delays and streamlining processes requires an open, inclusive, and collaborative “all hands on deck” approach.

No one organization or entity can solve interconnection challenges alone. That’s why DOE and the national labs are partnering with utilities, grid operators, state and local governments, clean energy industry, energy justice groups, non-profits, and others to share data, develop a roadmap, and facilitate new solutions to improve interconnection procedures and enable 2035 climate and equity goals to be met. Involving everyone across the interconnection ecosystem will help reimagine, retool, and shape the grid of the future.

Comment by Dan McKay on July 8, 2022 at 5:21am

"Energy Rationing" or " How to kill Granny by shutting her air conditioner or heater down"  

Comment by Robert Powers on July 7, 2022 at 9:51pm

And...large under sea cables as well as underground cables will also be used. so will follow other pipeline and utility routes.   They are already in the planning stages.

Comment by Thinklike A. Mountain on July 7, 2022 at 9:01pm

It is not incompetence, and it is not senility - it is part of the plan to destroy America.
Millions Of Barrels From US Emergency Oil Reserve Sent Abroad, Including To China

Comment by Thinklike A. Mountain on July 7, 2022 at 8:56pm

Glenn Greenwald: ‘Public Trust in Media Close to Non-Existent’ – But, ‘Almost Zero Self-Critique from Journalists about Why’

Comment by Stephen Littlefield on July 7, 2022 at 8:30pm

Oh this is going to make me want to move away from my home in Topsham, I cringe at ignorance! This is going to be another cluster, Everything has shown that batteries are not the answer to any question except maybe phones and watches. But then we have the fraud "non-profit" plan that will cost taxpayers billions on top of a high monthly payment(Thanks Seth Berry, you commie) that will drive everyone out of the state! Too many socialists with their pipe dreams running the state, reminds me of a 'Cheech and Chong" movie!

Comment by Penny Gray on July 7, 2022 at 6:28pm

Wow this is going to be so dang cheap and reliable it's a wonder it taken them so long to figure out that a few large batteries can power the planet for hours at a time, no more power lines needed, ever!  Just solar panels, wind turbines and let's all join hands and sing Kumbaya!


Maine as Third World Country:

CMP Transmission Rate Skyrockets 19.6% Due to Wind Power


Click here to read how the Maine ratepayer has been sold down the river by the Angus King cabal.

Maine Center For Public Interest Reporting – Three Part Series: A CRITICAL LOOK AT MAINE’S WIND ACT


(excerpts) From Part 1 – On Maine’s Wind Law “Once the committee passed the wind energy bill on to the full House and Senate, lawmakers there didn’t even debate it. They passed it unanimously and with no discussion. House Majority Leader Hannah Pingree, a Democrat from North Haven, says legislators probably didn’t know how many turbines would be constructed in Maine if the law’s goals were met." . – Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting, August 2010 Part 2 – On Wind and Oil Yet using wind energy doesn’t lower dependence on imported foreign oil. That’s because the majority of imported oil in Maine is used for heating and transportation. And switching our dependence from foreign oil to Maine-produced electricity isn’t likely to happen very soon, says Bartlett. “Right now, people can’t switch to electric cars and heating – if they did, we’d be in trouble.” So was one of the fundamental premises of the task force false, or at least misleading?" Part 3 – On Wind-Required New Transmission Lines Finally, the building of enormous, high-voltage transmission lines that the regional electricity system operator says are required to move substantial amounts of wind power to markets south of Maine was never even discussed by the task force – an omission that Mills said will come to haunt the state.“If you try to put 2,500 or 3,000 megawatts in northern or eastern Maine – oh, my god, try to build the transmission!” said Mills. “It’s not just the towers, it’s the lines – that’s when I begin to think that the goal is a little farfetched.”

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Hannah Pingree on the Maine expedited wind law

Hannah Pingree - Director of Maine's Office of Innovation and the Future

"Once the committee passed the wind energy bill on to the full House and Senate, lawmakers there didn’t even debate it. They passed it unanimously and with no discussion. House Majority Leader Hannah Pingree, a Democrat from North Haven, says legislators probably didn’t know how many turbines would be constructed in Maine."

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