Last Spring at the DEP hearings in Bangor the staff was working through the required elements of the permitting process for the proposed new power line from Quebec to Maine and on to Massachusetts. Undergrounding came up as a viable alternative route that has been used in other HVDC power transmission. The applicant was adamant, and rightly so, that undergrounding was too expensive. Much of this expense had to do with keeping the wire cool in the confined space, as hot wires lose conductivity. What remains however after the discussion is the heat. The amount of heat was never mentioned beyond the fact that it varied with load. Therefore, with the new 800-mile powerline we will rely on the atmosphere to cool the wire. Our atmosphere is already heated enough to cause climate change, do we need a new 800-mile radiator when local generation and use is such a better option?
Heat is rising in the Gulf of Maine, rapidly. With sixty years of un-natural Canadian dam releases, it cannot be concluded that these releases have no impact on increasing water temperature. A valid comparison, at similar latitude, is release from Siberian river dams that Russia has promoted as great for shipping – adding 5 weeks to the shipping season. Hydro Quebec has been absent from this discussion.
Culturally, friction between native people and Hydro Quebec continues to rise. CMP and Hydro Quebec have not mentioned the plight of native populations forced to relocate due to flooding of ancestral land. Seems like providing additional market for this type of devastation is not anything of which we can be proud. Or, as Lucien Wabanonik recently said regarding his article in the Lewiston Sun Journal “Do you really want to derive your power from cultural genocide.”
Politically temperature is rising particularly with the announcement of additional charges for connecting new solar generation to the existing grid. This item, making issues difficult for local renewable generating sources, was specifically hi-lighted by opponents at the onset of NECEC discussion. There was certainly a rapid, knee jerk reaction from CMP last week after the Governors message to the PUC to start an investigation. But, blaming the young engineers? Leaders Lead.
Contractually, Massachusetts is anxious to either get the power flowing or find another source, hopefully in their backyard. The budget restriction and contract deadlines were always an issue at the hearings. It seems there was no budget restriction with the millions spent on advertising and now on construction that may result in a really, expensive zip line.
Words from the proponent’s praise of the project must be followed with the question of; what is the rest of the story? This will be a power/energy corridor. This NECEC project, if ever built, is the first of additional lines. Abutting lines will create a significantly wider corridor, devastating this unique, globally significant forest that we are so fortunate to have in Maine.
As appeals are heard in courts, the Army Corps of Engineers process under scrutiny, a questionable Department of Energy permit granted without public hearing, rapid construction taking place, early PUC hearings collected over 2,000 comments against the project while 11 were in favor, it seems things are about to boil over. Then, there is the referendum approved this week with a very large cushion. Volunteers and a few paid collectors turned in over 100,000 signatures from residents of over 500 Maine towns. Last week the acting BEP Commissioner seemed to think the recent 700-page amendment to the project is “not of statewide significance”. Thanks to volumes of input from concerned citizens, that mind is now open for greater consideration. The U.S. Department of Energy ignored a promise they made to Senator Collins of 30 days of public input before ruling on the Presidential Permit. That never happened for some reason. To follow suit, just last week the Governor is talking about removing four Kennebec dams with no public hearing. Is there an un- favorable trend here?
From air and water temperature rises, to cultural issue friction, to racing construction to create a “done deal” image, to unexplained maverick political action: Yup. It is hot!