Maine's hydropower potential examined in study

BANGOR, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- The Governor's Energy Office has released a study with some ideas on how Maine's hydroelectric dams can boost their output.

The LePage administration started the study last spring. It looked at the more than 800 dams across the state and what potential they have to produce power.

The dams range from ones that span the entire river and have the potential to produce many megawatts of power to small dams built for old mills. Some of the mills don't have power producing equipment it would have to be installed.

The state's consultants looked at the potential of different dams producing power and ranked them into three different categories from limited to significant development potential, taking into account the investment needed.

They found 110 dams they said could be outfitted with new equipment or upgraded all across the state, generating power for an additional 120,000 homes.

However, the study notes that investing millions of dollars into dams is not worth it in Maine's current energy market conditions.

The Natural Resources Council of Maine agrees.

"Wind power and even solar power have much better payback periods than the study showed for some of the hydro potential," said Dylan Voorhees, the council's clean energy and global warming project director. "The conversation we're more likely to have about renewables is about wind power and solar power and maybe a little bit of tidal power."

Still, the director of the Governor's Energy Office said the study answers some questions his department had which will inform a discussion on whether or not the state should find ways to make itself more hydro-friendly.

"What we were trying to assess is what resources are available, what are the ballpark economics and how can we promote more production from our existing infrastructure," said Patrick Woodcock.

"The next step is to try to determine [if] there some policies that we should amend in our laws and in our policies to try to promote hydropower within the state."


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