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October 15, 2012

Carry That Load: GridSolar Seeks Bids for Smart Grid Reliability Project in Maine



Portland, Maine-based GridSolar, LLC is seeking bids from energy consumers and generators for up to 2,000 kilowatts (kW) of grid-tied power to reduce peak loads during a three-year pilot project within the towns of Boothbay, Boothbay Harbor and Southport in the Boothbay region of the state.

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The qualified projects—which may include solar arrays, tidal or wind power, energy efficient lighting and cooling, load shifting, back-up generation, primary generation and energy storage— must reduce the amount of power imported into the region during periods of peak use, such as hot summer afternoons. In doing so, they will help Maine to reduce the risk of blackouts and system failures, and provide more reliability and efficiency for power customers.

The Boothbay service region of Central Maine Power’s electric grid is a peninsula that is served by a single transmission line—and, during the summer months, the electric load is comes perilously close to exceeding the capacity of that line. CMP estimates that it would cost approximately $18 million to upgrade this line to increase its capacity to handle the few hours in any year when it is at risk.

The GridSolar Boothbay Pilot Project involves the development (through third-party entities), operation and control of up to 2,000 kW of distributed generation, energy conservation and demand response in the Boothbay Region. These resources are referred to collectively as non-transmission alternatives or NTAs. In order for these NTAs to provide a reliability benefit, they must be capable of operating so as to reduce the power inflows into the Boothbay Region when called upon to do so. The ability to secure these NTAs will result in a net load reduction in the Boothbay Region, which would avoid the need for the $18 million rebuild of the transmission line. 

Photo of Boothbay Harbor, courtesy of GridSolar

“The Maine Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has designated the Boothbay peninsula as the location for a three-year pilot project to test whether we can improve the stability of the electric grid by making it smarter, instead of larger,” said Rich Silkman, managing member of GridSolar, which has been designated by the PUC to serve as the smart grid pilot project operator.

“The Smart Grid Reliability Pilot Project should enable the Boothbay area to avoid the expense and problems created by new power line construction, while lowering energy costs and reducing pollution.” Silkman added.

The GridSolar Project will comprise three key components:

  • Development of a Smart Grid Platform that will enable  Maine to achieve higher levels of efficiency in the generation, transmission and use of electricity;
  • Creation of an Independent Smart Grid Operator that, unlike Maine's utilities, will be rewarded for increases in energy efficiency and conservation ; and
  • Construction of distributed Renewable Solar Generation in lieu of massive new power lines that will provide the energy locally to meet increases in peak loads

According to the Maine PUC order approving the pilot project, it is designed to test both the cost and the effectiveness of ensuring grid reliability using a range of smart grid solutions, including at least 250 kW each of energy efficiency, demand response, renewable distributed generation (at least half of which will be photovoltaic solar energy) and non-renewable distributed generation (with preference given to resources with no net emissions of greenhouse gases).




Edited by Rachel Ramsey
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