Bar Harbor Businesses Deal With Stuttering Power Issues

The posts came onto social media fast and furious late Thursday afternoon.

“We’ve lost power.”

“Lost power…again. Closed for the night.”

“Another power outage, another dinner out…?”

For the second time this week, Bar Harbor restaurants, shops, and residents in downtown proper lost power Thursday evening right during the dinner rush. The power issues weren’t due to an accident on the island.

“Running a restaurant, or any business right now, is extremely challenging,” said Thirsty Whale co-owner Heather Sorokin. “We live in a community where we have a limited timeframe in which to make money to sustain us through the winter months. Losing power multiple times in the middle of dinner service is not only a hit for our business, but for our employees as well.”

In a note to Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce members, Chamber President Alf Anderson contacted Versant Power “in order to understand the cause of the issues and to learn what steps are being taken to prevent future power outages.”

He went on to write, “It appears that the cause of the outages is the increased demand for electricity in the downtown area, especially on these hot, humid days, which required adjustments to be made to the load balancing of the power being delivered.

“The team at Versant tells me that they are confident that the short-term solution they’ve implemented will prevent similar outages to those that occurred this week. They are also currently investigating the need for action on a longer-term basis. Of course, they are not able to guarantee future outages will not occur but they have acted quickly to address the cause of previous outages and understand the impact they have had on businesses in our community.”

That impact is on registers and psyches.

“The process of having to shut everything down, explain to our guests that we are unable to feed them, and to contact everyone on our waitlist is very stressful,” Sorokin said. “Versant states that the power loss is due to over demand. I have heard that they have a temporary fix. I can only say that the people in the business community that I have spoken with are very nervous going forward. Demand will not go down in the foreseeable future and continued loss of revenue during the height of the season will be difficult to recover from for everyone.”  

The Chamber is surveying members to try to explain the impact that the service interruption had during the busy week, which many retailers consider traditionally one of the busiest in the season. Anderson plans to share the responses with the utilities company.


In December 2017, Emera Maine bypassed the old substation at Edgewood Street for the remaining customers that were still on that grid and instead routed them through a new substation. That $9.3 million substation is where Prospect Avenue meets Eden Street and began operations in 2016 after the company’s purchase of the Jordan Fernald Funeral Home, which was then torn down. Two other substations serve the town.

The $9.3 million Acadia Substation project at the corner of Eden Street and Prospect Avenue was meant to be the end of the company’s push to prevent blackouts and brownouts on Mount Desert Island. The projects included transmission lines on portions of the Knox Road and Route 3, a substation in Somesville, and back-up power lines under the Trenton Bridge. Its cost was Emera’s justification for a customer rate increase for electricity distribution.

Neighbors had appealed the building of the substation. A 2015 citizen’s petition modified the town’s land use ordinance to no longer allow “public utility facility” in multiple town districts. The permits for Emera’s substation project were approved prior to those changes being enacted.


An AP News article.

Bill Trotter’s article from 2014:

Versant’s website.

For a story about how summer heat and storms are straining power grids nationwide, click here.

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