Northern Maine considers options to gain direct access to New England electric grid

January 22, 2015

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Form EIA-860;

Republished January 22, 2015, 2:45 p.m. to correct an error in the text.

Northern Maine is a unique power market: unlike any other part of the Lower 48 states, this region is connected to one of the three main power grids serving the United States and Canada only via transmission lines that run through Canada. Currently, grid operators are considering transmission options to give northern Maine direct links to the rest of New England in an effort to enhance reliability and expand access to electricity markets.

The transmission grid in northern Maine, which includes the transmission systems of Maine Public Service Company and Eastern Maine Electric Cooperative, is operated by the Northern Maine Independent System Administrator (.

NMISA links to the rest of New England through connections with the Canadian utility New Brunswick Power Corporation. Various proposals over the past decade have sought to build transmission to directly connect NMISA to ISO New England (ISO-NE), which operates the rest of the transmission grid and wholesale electricity markets in New England. Such a connection may address reliability concerns, provide access to ISO-NE’s markets for northern Maine’s generators, and enhance .

Traditionally, NMISA had more generating capacity than it needed and exported power to New Brunswick. In recent years, however, lower natural gas prices allowed natural gas-fired generators in New Brunswick to compete with (and often . These proposals include building new transmission facilities to connect with ISO-NE, adding new generation capacity, adding demand response, and reinforcing transmission connections with New Brunswick.

Other proposals include some wind farm developers that are building generators within NMISA’s footprint and establishing their own transmission lines directly into ISO-NE. These developers are seeking to benefit from the area’s favorable wind resources and the need for reducing carbon emissions under the that began operating in 2009 to connect the 83-megawatt (MW) Stetson Wind projects to ISO-NE. The Stetson Wind farm is physically located within NMISA’s footprint, but it is connected to ISO-NE, not to NMISA.

More generating capacity is coming to the area: a 148-MW wind project (, it is possible that the Number Nine Wind Farm transmission tie will also connect NMISA to ISO-NE.

Additionally, in anticipation of an ), there are at least three potential projects to build high-voltage direct-current (HVDC) lines from northern Maine to Massachusetts.

  • The would transmit up to 2,800 MW of renewable energy—including onshore wind from northern Maine and imports of hydropower from eastern Canada to New England.
  • , initially used as a jet fuel pipeline to the former Loring Air Force Base, to construct the land-based portion of a land/sea HVDC line to Boston.
  • The is a proposed 230-mile 1,100-MW HVDC line delivering renewable energy from northern and eastern Maine and eastern Canada into southern New England, using existing transportation corridors in eastern Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts.

Principal contributor: Lori Aniti

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