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Maine DEP grants conditional approval for NECEC project [free access]

May 13, 2020

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has given conditional approval for the high voltage direct current (HVDC) New England Clean Energy Connect (NECEC) project, being developed by Central Maine Power Company (CMP), a subsidiary of Avangrid Networks Inc.


The approval contains a set of conditions to minimise the environmental impact of the project, and requires extensive land conservation and habitat protection plans. For instance, the width of the corridor in Segment 1, originally proposed to be 150 feet, is now limited to 54 feet at its widest point, with forest preservation required. The company will be responsible for the conservation of more than 700 acres of deer habitat; is prohibited from using herbicides throughout Segment 1 of the corridor; and is commissioned to permanently conserve 40,000 acres in west Maine. Further, the conservation plan must be designed to offset the effects of corridor fragmentation, prioritise the conservation of large blocks of land, and promote habitat conservation of mature forests.


The NECEC project, in combination with additional smaller improvements at various facilities in Maine, will have the capacity to deliver up to 1,200 MW of power from Hydro-Québec’s vast hydropower generating fleet in Canada, to Massachusetts through Maine. CMP proposes to provide a new link through a ±320 kV HVDC transmission line between Canadian Hydro-Québec and the New England grids. In Maine, the line will begin at the Canadian border in western Somerset County, and run 145 miles (234 km) to a new alternating current (AC)/DC converter station in Lewiston. The project will be connected to the power grid of Independent System Operator-New England (ISO-NE) in Massachusetts.


To date, the NECEC has received permits from a number of state agencies, while additional permits required to begin construction are expected in the second quarter of 2020.


The project is facing strong opposition due to its likely impact on the environment. The company hopes to break ground in May 2020 and finish the project in late 2022, but still needs to secure further federal clearances from Department of Energy (DoE) and US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE).