Future of Water Power
As consumption of energy increases due to growing populations Maine must make a choice on how to adapt to a growing market. Maine is said to be the most heavily dammed state within the country. This process was build upon a variety of industries including logging and paper mills. However, It was not until Walter Wyman revolutionized hydroelectric power in the State. Since then Maine has grown rapidly and allowed hundreds of dams to be built on its rivers totaling between 650-700 dams. This boom was caused by the numerous benefits including being renewable energy, low cost, promotes energy independents, and provides flood control among others. In 1999, when the Edwards Dam was removed, precedent was changed forever. The construction of dams had almost stopped completely and very few river projects have been proposed since then. The role in which Maine will act is uncertain, however it will be interesting to see which root the state will take in order to adapt to the ever-changing environment.
During peak demand the state of Maine uses 2,200 megawatts of electricity, according to the Maine Public Utilities Commission PUC. New England's annual peak demand is 28,100 megawatts. Over a year, the state's total energy use is 12,600 gigawatt hours, while New England's annual energy usage is 132,700 gigawatt hours. As seen by these figures Maine does not contribute heavily to New England's consumption. Both peak load meaning the maximum capacity at a given moment (e.g a hot July day at 5pm) and base load the lowest amount in order to run ambient object full time (factories, refrigerators and clocks that run full time) have a significant economic markets in the Maine. However, state law requires 30 percent of electricity supplied must be of renewable sources. Legislation has also been passed to increase this number to 40 percent by 2017. Hydroelectric plants will benefit from the current desire for the country to distances itself from fossil fuels and go "green". Though hydroelectric makes up 17.5 percent of the total energy consumed by the state it is still a large percent in comparison. According to Kurt Adams, the Chairman for PUC there are two forms of water-based the state is currently interested in; hydroelectricity and tidal power. "Tidal is probably the next most substantial piece of technological innovation. There are over 40 types of technologies for tidal energy. Investors are looking at understanding which of these are going to be successful..". Competing with wind and biomass energy will not be easy because of the environmental impacts dams are associated with. In the years to come it will be interesting the transformation Maine will undergo in terms of hydroelectric power, tidal, pump storage systems, refurbishing of existing dams, or invent a new source of hydro energy.
Other than the much debated Passamaquoddy Tidal and the Future of Water Power by Anders Nordblom '10 there have been other tidal dam projects across the state. For example: The Maine Tidal Energy Company has filed two applications to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in hopes of jump starting states interest in tidal power. The first of the two projects is the Kennebec Tidal Energy Hydroelectric Project (FERC docket number 12666-000) located on the Kennebec River near Chops Point and West Chops Point, in Sagadahoc County, Maine. The project would consist of 50 tidal in-stream energy conversion devices (TISEC) with a capacity of 0.5 to 2.0 MW individually. "The project is estimated to have an annual generation of 8.76 gigawatt hours per unit per year which would be sold to a local utility." The second project is the Penobscot Tidal Energy Hydroelectric Project (Docket number 12668-000) located on the Penobscot River west of Verona Island, in Hancock County, Maine. This project would comprise 100 TISECs with the same 0.5 to 2.0 MW generation capabilities. The same annual generation of 8.76 gigawatt hours per unit per year is the goal for this project as well. Again the power would be sold to a local utility.
Refurbishing existing dams has become a popular alternative to constructing new dams. This can be seen with the Penobscot River Restoration Project(Amanda Lindsy's ES 319 Dam Project), where power was traded within a company to appease environmentalist. Another example of refurbishing is the existing Corriveau Hydroelectric Project (FERC Docket number P-12629-000). F & B Wood Corp filled for an application with FERC to receive a new hydroelectric power generation licenses. The existing dam consists of a 1500 foot long and 9 foot high structure, with three 350 kilowatts of generating capacity. The restored project will be able to produce an average annual generation of 1,306,900 kilowatt-hours. Countless other project waiting upon a FERC approval include the Flagstaff Reservoir Hydroelectric Project located on the Dead River in Somerset, the Abenaki Hydroelectric Project located on the Kennebec River in the town of Madison, and the Lockwood Hydroelectric Project on the Kennebec in Waterville. At of these re-licensing will add power to the grid through restorations. Also projects once thought to have diminished in popularity have been reintroduced such as the Dicky-Lincoln dam in Northern Maine.
Click here to view maps and figures regarding the future of power in Maine.