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September 26th, 2013

Maine Wind Gets Much Bigger

by Andrew Price, President & COO

Maine Wind Gets Much Bigger

Between Friday September 20th and Monday September 23rd, more than 580 MW of new wind power deals were announced, representing more than $1 billion in project costs. If the announced projects all move forward, they would represent a doubling of Maine wind power capacity to more than 1,000 MW. While the electricity has been sold to out-of-state utilities, the projects are physically located and interconnected to the power grid in Maine. With a peak electric load of about 2,000 MW, significant existing hydroelectric and biomass generation, and limited transmission capacity, Maine generators already experience difficulty exporting electricity out of the State in many hours. The addition of 580 MW of new wind power generation should lower power prices in Maine as “congestion” costs associated with the limited ability to export the electricity, increases power prices south of Maine. It will be interesting to watch how the addition of these significant new wind power facilities changes the energy landscape in New England.

Governor Malloy of Connecticut announced on Friday that two state utilities had purchased the output of the 250 MW Number Nine project being developed by EDP Renewables. The average cost to Connecticut Light & Power and United Illuminating was announced to be less than 8 cents per kWh. The project was selected among 47 competing bids received in response to a request for proposals for renewable energy that was issued by Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. The RFP was aimed at helping Connecticut achieve a goal of getting 20% of its electricity from renewables by 2020.

EDP Renewables North America is currently owned by EDP Group based in Portugal. The Houston based company also operated as Zilkha Renewable Energy and Horizon Wind Energy and was briefly owned by Goldman Sachs before being sold to EDP Group. EDP Renewables has developed wind farms in many states including: New York, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Washington, Oklahoma, Minnesota, Oregon, Texas, Indiana and Illinois. The Number Nine project, which still needs Maine DEP approval as well as approval from the Connecticut Public Utilities Regulatory Commission, is not expected to start generating power until 2016.

First Wind, already the operator of 5 wind farms in Maine, announced that it signed 15 year power purchase agreements with Massachusetts utilities for two Maine wind farms, Oakfield and Bingham. First Wind estimated that the average cost of the electricity sold under the agreements would be 8 cents per kWh.

The Oakfield Wind Project is a 48 turbine, 147 MW project in northern Maine. The Oakfield project was originally envisioned to be connected to Maine Public Service, the utility for northern Maine. This was not ideal as Maine Public Service is not electrically interconnected to the power hungry load pockets in southern New England. The Oakfield project is now expected to be connected via a new transmission line to a Bangor Hydro Electric substation, making delivery of power into Connecticut a possibility. The 62 turbines of the 186 MW Bingham Wind Project would be connected to a Central Maine Power substation in Parkman Maine via a 17 mile 115 kV transmission line.

First Wind received approval from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection for its Oakfield project in January 2012 and is still pursuing approval of its Bingham project. The Oakfield project is expected to be online in 2015.

First Wind has wind and solar projects in operation or under development in Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, New York, Washington State, Utah, California and Hawaii.

Photo Credit: Andrew Price

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