Seven of the 28 turbines that make up the Mars Hill Wind facility are viewed across a field from a road near the Maine-Canada border. Credit: Kevin Miller / Maine Public

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Ben Lucas is senior government relations specialist at the Maine State Chamber of Commerce. 

For years, many companies have recognized and touted the immense renewable resource potential of Aroostook County. From biomass and hydropower to solar and wind, efforts have been made to harness the low-cost clean energy resources of The County and inject them into the existing regional power grid located near Bangor. Absent adequate upgrades to northern Maine’s electrical system, this dream has not materialized. Now is the time to turn those dreams to reality. 

In spring 2021, the bipartisan leadership demonstrated by Senate President Troy Jackson and Senate Republican Leader Trey Stewart led to the passage of LD 1710, the Northern Maine Renewable Energy Development Program. In late 2022, after issuing a request for proposals and administering a competitive procurement process, the Maine Public Utilities Commission selected a transmission developer (LS Power Grid Maine LLC) and a generation developer (Longroad Energy LLC) to build transmission and wind generation in order to cost effectively unlock The County’s clean energy potential. The utilities commission in evaluating cost and economic benefits to northern Maine along with other criteria determined

“This combination of projects is significantly less expensive than any other alternative combination of transmission and generation projects and meets the statutory criteria.” And “each proposal demonstrated a project of sufficient magnitude that would bring benefits to Northern Maine in the form of jobs, property taxes, and other economic advantages.” 

Identifying diverse support for a commercial project like this often only happens because of the benefits that the project will provide to Maine and the region. These benefits include:

Low-cost, fixed-price renewable energy contracted for the next two decades that provides fuel diversity and reduces reliance on volatile priced natural gas generation.

A multi-billion dollar investment in Maine-made renewable power and transmission that directly benefits Maine.

Suppression of wholesale energy market rates leading to hundreds of millions of dollars in savings in energy costs over the life of these facilities.

Employment of hundreds in high-paying construction jobs for multiple years, not to mention the state and local work and outreach required to help advance these projects to construction.

Significant new revenue for the local property and sales tax base.

Helping Maine meet its renewable energy goals — 80 percent by 2030 and 100 percent by 2040.

Transmission system resiliency and redundancy when considering the influence of extreme weather events. 

This economic development and environmental initiative — benefiting all of Maine — has brought together a broad cross-section of supportive organizations, including business and environmental groups. For example, the Aroostook Partnership for Progress, the Maine Office of the Public Advocate, Governor’s Energy Office, Maine State Chamber of Commerce, Associated General Contractors of Maine, Natural Resources Council of Maine, Maine Audubon, Maine Conservation Voters, The Nature Conservancy and Conservation Law Foundation, to name a few. 

In order for our state to experience the benefits of this effort, the first step is ensuring the grid upgrades receive legislative approval through the passage of LD 924. This is an important signal of support to send to the two companies selected to build their multi-billion dollar projects. Importantly, there will be ample opportunity for Mainers to participate in the local, state and federal permitting processes. 

Time and time again we have contemplated ways to attract new investment, create jobs for Maine companies, and deliver new taxable value to municipalities, all in an environmentally sustainable manner. These two projects offer exactly that. We ask that Mainers stand with the Maine State Chamber of Commerce and many others and let your elected officials know that you strongly urge them to vote in support of LD 924 in order to deliver Maine-made energy that benefits Mainers.