Substation size, sites explored

BAR HARBOR — Emera Maine power company is entertaining suggestions from residents for alternative sites for an electrical substation it planned to build on Woodbury Road. Company engineers also are exploring design alternatives for the original site should another suitable location not materialize.

A citizen advisory committee that was formed in the wake of protests over the company’s plans for Woodbury Road is meeting every other week, and plans to do so through the fall in the hopes of reaching consensus with company officials by the end of December, documents filed this week with the Maine Public Utilities Commission (PUC) state (see related documents at the bottom of this article).

Concurrently, a separate advisory group is meeting regularly to discuss the company’s proposal to run new transmission lines from the Town Hill substation to the new substation downtown. The company originally planned to use the Crooked Road for such purposes, but was met with protests from Town Hill residents, who are encouraging them to use Route 3 instead.

Residents who signed onto a formal complaint with the PUC over the substation plans said in the report submitted to the PUC that they are satisfied with the negotiation process so far. They want to give it time to work. Emera officials also recommended that the PUC give the process time.

“The substation advisory committee … are optimistic that a solution acceptable to all is distinctly possible,” attorney Arthur Greif wrote in the citizens report.

Residents who signed onto the official complaint over the transmission line plans also are encouraging PUC officials to let the advisory group continue to do its work before any investigation is mounted.

The substation advisory committee has scheduled a third meeting for this Thursday, Aug. 28. The group has seen preliminary sketch plans for possible alternative designs and has suggested a number of other sites to locate the substation.

Emera officials have made it clear that any potential new substation must be within one to two miles of the center of Bar Harbor’s heaviest demand area, which runs approximately from College of the Atlantic to Main Street to the Mount Desert Island Hospital. The facility also needs a minimum of two acres of land.

The advisory group has presented the following locations to Emera for potential substation construction: The funeral home on Prospect Avenue; a vacant lot at the corner of Harbor Lane; a portion of the international ferry terminal property; a field on Cromwell Harbor road; Edgewood Street; the solid waste transfer station; the Eagle Lake Road right-of-way below the Park Loop Road; and on Eden Street hotel properties.

Emera officials have not responded specifically to these suggestions, but plan on doing so at the Aug. 28 meeting.

Meanwhile, company officials are stating that if a suitable location is not found, they will use the Woodbury Road site, but with a different design.

Original plans for the substation, permitted by the town in December 2013, call for a 26,000-square-foot, open-air facility. The dimensions would have been 230 by 112 feet, reaching a height of 28 feet, plus lighting rods. Emera officials said at the Aug. 12 meeting that it is now clear that that design will not work at the site, and it is no longer being considered.

The two remaining options include a low-profile and a compact substation. Emera officials claim that the low-profile design would be only 19 feet tall. But residents at the meeting argued that with the foundation factored in, the height would be the same.

The compact design, on the other hand, would have much of the equipment hidden in a building. While this design may be the most visually pleasing to abutters, it is considered by Emera officials to be the least reliable of the options.

Whichever design is chosen, should the substation be constructed on Woodbury Road, company officials have agreed to use a combination of design, fencing and vegetation buffers to reduce noise.

Robert Levin

Robert Levin

Former reporter Robert Levin covered the people, businesses, governmental and nonprofit agencies of Bar Harbor. [email protected]
Robert Levin

Latest posts by Robert Levin (see all)

Never miss a beat! Subscribe to our weekly newsletter and get top stories sent straight to your inbox.