Maine Breaks Ground On Huge Grid Upgrade

Maine is setting the stage for greater energy efficiency and increased use of renewables, embarking on a $1.4 billion grid upgrade and spending $166 million to install smart meters in 620,000 homes and businesses.

Maine Gov. John Baldacci heralded the twin projects, said to constitute the largest infrastructure upgrade in state history, for their environmental as well as economic benefits. Central Maine Power and its parent Iberdrola said the smart-grid work would create 2,000 jobs every year through its completion in 2015.

image via University of Maine at Presque Island

The project calls for construction of five new 345-kilovolt substations tied together with some 450 miles of new or rebuilt transmission lines, Iberdrola said in a press release. The grid spans the state from the Canadian border — where Maine gets power, including hydroelectricity, from New Brunswick — to the south, near the New Hampshire border. Maine itself is aggressively pursuing wind power, sometimes controversially, an effort that will be enhanced with the upgraded grid, according to the state and Iberdrola.

“Both the transmission project and the advanced meters will yield significant benefits in terms of reliability,” Iberdrola USA’s Bob Kump said. “Just as importantly, because the transmission project is a foundation for the development of renewable energy and the smart grid program will help customers reduce energy consumption, these projects are about protecting the environment for future generations.”

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Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.