The Office of the Public Advocate (OPA) and the Efficiency Maine Trust (EMT) have recently issued a statement urging the Public Utilities Commission to deny Central Maine Power’s request for a $63 million power grid upgrade needed for the Nordic Aquafarm project. The two agencies stated that CMP’s request failed to “adequately demonstrate the asserted need.”
The upgrade to the grid known as Section 80 south of Belfast has been contemplated since 2007, but CMP pushed the PUC to make it a priority item and for it to be paid for by ratepayers because Nordic Aquafarms needs a minimum peak demand of 28 Megawatts to pump huge amounts of water though its plant.
How much power is 28 Megawatts? This is equal to the energy use of Belfast, Northport, Lincolnville, Camden, Rockport and Rockland combined. One company would use more power than all the homes and businesses in this entire region.
EMT manages programs to improve energy use and reduce greenhouse gases. The OPA negotiates rates and services on behalf of utility customers. They stated: “Implementing the project without quantifying the need using the most up-to-date information would result in a costly investment that is not responsive to actual conditions.”
Nordic Aquafarms carbon footprint:
The factory requires 8 diesel generators, each with a 67 foot smoke stake, an on site concrete plant for construction, and a waste disposal facility. The 8 diesel generators could supply 14 megawatts, not the facility’s minimum peak demand of 28 megawatts.
A conservative calculation shows the factory adding between 550,000 and 759,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents to the atmosphere each year.
Forest liquidation, and the removal of 35 acres of soils, from 8 to 52 feet deep (the soils are unsuitable and must be replaced) will equal a loss of 13,465 metric tons of carbon above and below ground. The forest is currently estimated to be sequestering 42.9 metric tons of carbon each year, and will sequester more as it ages.
Nordic Has Not Met the Belfast Planning Board’s Permit Conditions
The only letter from CMP provided by Nordic during the Planning Board permitting process is not an interconnect agreement or contractural commitment (see copy below).
Unfortunately for Nordic, since the energy studies failed, there is no pathway forward without an unapproved, unfunded capital improvement. This letter cannot even be considered a precursor to a commitment by CMP.
FROM THE PLANNING BOARD TRANSCRIPTS:
10/19/2020 Board Member D. Bond: Has CMP committed in writing to have adequate capacity for Nordic’s needs at all times?
10/21/2020 Board Member G. Gilchrist: Does CMP understand Nordic’s power needs, and can they provide it?
12/9/2020: Jeff (a board member) says I think that’s a worst case scenario if the project’s built and then they’re (Nordic) coming back and saying well actually we need to be burning diesel all the time because CMP can’t meet our needs. I imagine if the negotiations go as such the rate payers would be paying for the upgrades needed for Nordic’s project.
12/3/2020: Ed Cotter, Senior Vice President of Projects at Nordic Aquafarms: I can’t see how I can tell CMP how to do their work or you know the cost structure as well, whether this is born by Nordic or CMP rate payers, or somewhere in the middle, depending on the results of our negotiation. They’re governed by the PUC and CMP’s rules. I can understand your concerns, I just don’t want to put us in a position where we can’t fulfill the needs put forth in this condition.
"For the reasons described herein, the Public Utilities Commission (PUC or Commission) should deny the request of Central Maine Power Company (CMP) for a Certificate of Public Need and Convenience (CPCN) for its Section 80 Rebuild Project on the grounds that the request is premature and that CMP has failed to adequately demonstrate the asserted need. In its filing and subsequent updates, CMP has failed to document that the proposed capacity upgrade is necessary to meet the needs of the Midcoast region."