Cross-Country Hydropower Transmission Line Halted in Maine

A $1 billion dollar project to expand the hydroelectric power initiative in Maine and Canada broke new ground on February 8th. The New England Clean Energy Connect (NECEC) is a cross-border transmission line that will connect Toronto, Quebec, and Maine upon completion. Central Maine Power is the land-holder and a large investor in the project for the U.S. portion, and New England stands to gain enough clean energy to power 1.2 million homes.

Construction in Maine came at the perfect time on the heels of the Covid-19 pandemic. It provided new jobs for almost 400 workers, 275 of which are Maine residents. The hydropower system promises to bring a boon to Maine’s economy and to the state of renewable energy in the U.S.

Even though poles are currently being installed on the massive transmission line that spans 145 miles, a halt in western Maine is a small cause for concern. Three environmental groups — the Appalachian Mountain Club, Natural Resources Council of Maine, and Sierra Club of Maine — have filed a suit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that is still currently under review. Until this lawsuit settles, they are asking for a delay in the construction of the NECEC in their area.

Petitions, signed by thousands of Maine residents, have also been drafted and sent to the state government, asking for further legislative approval on certain aspects of planned building sites. If the ballot measure is approved, it would prohibit certain transmission lines on reserve lands and stop the project in its tracks. With more than 50 miles still left before the transmission line reaches its intended grid, this decision could prove disastrous depending on the scope of limitations being sought.

Hydropower is still the biggest renewable energy source that we have to date; its stream of power is a force to be reckoned with and cannot be discounted for versatility. The only limits to its usability depend on geographical location. The water cycle is endless and self-refilling, which makes it the perfect way to harness kinetic energy.

Upon completion, the NECEC would bring 1,200 MW of power to Maine residents if construction is not nipped before the final stretch. Pending court decision on current tie-ups estimated completion in 2023.

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