A row of wind turbines located in Oakfield is visible from the playground at Southern Aroostook Community School in neighboring Dyer Brook. Credit: Joseph Cyr / Houlton Pioneer Times

MADAWASKA, Maine — Gov. Janet Mills signed a bill to give Aroostook’s renewable energy industry a boost Tuesday afternoon.

LD 1710, which passed through the Legislature with bipartisan support, looks to connect the Northern Maine energy grid to the one powering the rest of New England. The hope is to facilitate renewable energy exports, which are costly right now as northern Maine’s power has to be wheeled through New Brunswick before it can be distributed in the U.S.

The next step is for the Public Utilities Commission call for bids to build the transmission line. The Legislature has asked the PUC to have a contract in place by November 2022. The law also includes a request for bids on new renewable energy plants in the parts of Aroostook and Washington counties currently unconnected to the ISO-New England grid.

The legislators responsible for the bill, including its sponsor Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Aroostook, hope that this will be transformative for northern Maine’s economy.

“Aroostook County has so much untapped economic potential, especially when it comes to renewable energy production,” Jackson said. “We can’t afford to let it go to waste. I’m hopeful that this new commission will unlock that pent-up economic potential and work alongside our heritage industries to power our communities and economy for generations to come.”

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Hannah Catlin

Hannah Catlin is a reporter at the St. John Valley Times/Fiddlehead Focus in Madawaska, Maine.