CMP proposes expanding South Portland waterfront substation

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SOUTH PORTLAND — To adhere to updated federal grid reliability standards, Central Maine Power Co. is proposing to expand its Knightville substation.

The property at 2 Ocean St. is a 24-acre piece of the city’s waterfront and is assessed by the city at $2.2 million, according to tax records.

The substation is proposed to be expanded by about one-third for what is being called the Bright Line Project, CMP spokeswoman Gail Rice said, noting that planning for the project is in the “very preliminary stages.” 

A public meeting with South Portland residents is slated for 7 p.m. July 18 at City Hall to discuss improvements to the grid that will affect the region, as well as the proposed substation expansion. 

Southport Marine leases some property from CMP, and was notified it will no longer be able to store vessels on the land because of the expansion plans, city Planning Director Tex Haeuser said.

Haeuser said CMP needs to improve the electric transmission system in the greater Portland area, known as the Portland loop, and part of the plan is to add equipment to the so-called Cape Station in Knightville. 

Haeuser said the project will have to go before the Planning Board, but is not large in scale; improvements will focus on the equipment and the elevation within the confines of the substation to cope with concerns about rising sea level.

South Portland aquaculturist and retired attorney Peter Stocks, who is also a former member of the Economic Development Committee, said he is wary of further development of the waterfront. According to Stocks, it’s clear from polling and public scoping that South Portland residents do not want further industrial development on the waterfront, whether it’s petrochemical operations or energy generation.

He said about 65 percent of the residents of the city support waterfront  development, but not heavy industry. “It’s a prime piece of real estate, and the gateway to our city, and to see this 1950s-style substation – it’s really ugly,” Stocks said. 

He said due to purported health concerns related to electromagnetic fields and the aesthetics of the Knightville site, he would argue against expansion. 

Stocks said he hopes CMP will consider expanding elsewhere in the city or reducing the size of the existing substation. 

He said the state and South Portland are heavily dependent on tourism, which is another consideration in his opposition to the expansion. 

Haeuser said he is taking no position on the proposed expansion, but the city is strongly in favor of renewable substitutes being explored in improvements to the grid system in the region, known as a Non-Transmission Alternative pilot project.  

“Not only is it more environmentally friendly, but it saves ratepayers money,” Haeuser said.

CMP applied to the Public Utilities Commission in 2008 to update transmission systems in the state. Projects were approved for new transmission lines, except for the Boothbay region and for Portland and South Portland, pending further study.

Juliette Laaka can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or at Follow her on Twitter @JulietteLaaka.

Central Maine Power wants to expand its Cape Substation in South Portland to meet federal standards for grid reliability.