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Industrial Wind Power in Maine’s Mountains Is Bad Policy (Testimony of Citizens Task Force on Wind Power)  

Author:  | General, Maine

The historic Hall of Flags in the rotunda of the state capitol in Augusta, Maine, was the setting for a November 6th press conference announcing the formation of the Citizens Task Force on Wind Power. The group is a coalition of citizens from around the state drawn together in the common purpose of advocating for responsible, science based, economically and environmentally sound approaches to Maine’s energy policy, according to co-chair Steve Thurston. Thurston highlighted the key concerns of the group in the release that is posted here. Co-chair Monique Aniel, M.D., set the tone for the press conference by recounting how the arrogance of the developer of Record Hill Wind in Roxbury, Maine, ignited her concern over the siting of utility scale wind projects in Maine

Other speakers included economist J. Dwight who addressed economic problems of wind energy; Gary Steinberg of Friends of Lincoln Lakes who spoke of denial of citizens rights relating to permitting processes; Carolyn Dodge who spoke of wind developers’ violation of Native Americans’ respect for natural resources; Jon Carter of Forest Ecology Network who spoke of the devastating impact of wind development on the vast forests of the northern two-thirds of Maine. Bringing the Press Conference to a close, Brad Blake of Friends of Lincoln Lakes used the scale of the Rollins Project proposed by First Wind to demonstrate the huge impact of the state’s goals for utility scale wind power for 2020.

Citizens Task Force on Wind Power is concerned that the state government under the leadership of Governor John Baldacci has committed the state to public policy that aggressively promotes development of utility scale wind projects without adequate citizen input to public policy and denial of citizen involvement in permitting processes. In 2008, the Maine Legislature passed the “Expedited Wind Permitting” law that negates citizens’ rights and opens the floodgates for a proliferation of wind projects that will destroy more than 300 miles of ridgelines and permanently clear cut more than 50,000 acres of forest in rural Maine. The group also notes that development of wind projects in rural Maine is the major reason for a proposed $1.4 billion expansion of transmission lines by Central Maine Power Company, which is owned by Iberdrola. Maine has operating wind power sites in Freedom, Mars Hill, Stetson Mt., and Kibby Mt. Another project in Roxbury is under construction for site access even though the permitting for the project is under appeal and the transmission line capacity is inadequate to bring the electricity to the grid.

Our testimony follows.

INDUSTRIAL WINDPOWER IN MAINE’S MOUNTAINS IS BAD POLICY

Following are the key points about industrial industrial wind power that the government and the wind industry are not talking about.

Political

  • The “Expedited Permit” wind law was an “emergency” bill from the governor which passed through the legislature in 15 days with very little scrutiny and no debate in April 2008. The bill was the result of the Governor’s Task Force on Industrial wind power, whose mandate was to identify and remove obstacles to industrial industrial wind power development in the state, and not to examine the pros and cons or negative impacts of industrial wind power.

Environmental

  • The wind law established a goal of 2,700 megawatts of installed capacity by 2020 which equates to 1,800 GE 1.5 MW turbines spaced approximately 1/5 mile apart = 360 miles of ridge line for the turbines.
  • Hundreds of miles of new access roads and transmission corridors fragmenting deep forest habitats and fragile ecosystems must be constructed to gain access to the top of the ridges and connect the turbines to the grid. As much as 50,000 acres of clear cutting will be required. Compare that to 3,000 acres for the Plumb Creek development, recently appealed by NRCM. Ironically, NRCM fully supports industrial industrial wind power on Maine’s mountains.

Maine’s Economy

  • Tourism is Maine’s #1 industry, as important to the mountain region as the coast. The installation of more than one thousand turbines on Maine’s ridges will change the experience for tourists as well as residents. Access for hiking, snowmobiling, hunting will be restricted.
  • Maine’s “Quality of Place” has received a great deal of attention recently. The Governor’s Task Force defined Quality of Place as “our majestic mountains, unbroken forests, open fields, wild rivers, pristine lakes, widely celebrated coast, picturesque downtowns, lively arts and culture, authentic historic buildings, and exceptional recreational opportunities. It is our principal advantage in today’s global economic competition. Quality of place will help us keep and attract skilled workers and entrepreneurs to fill Maine’s declining workforce population.”

Maine’s “Quality of Place Investment Strategy”, adopted by executive order in July 2008 contains the following goals:

  1. Protect, strengthen, and develop Maine’s Quality of Place assets, both natural and built;
  2. Make the State’s several regions more economically competitive and prosperous through increased investment, job opportunities, regional incomes, and public revenues; and
  3. Create new jobs and valued products and services in Maine that will succeed in national and global markets for local, regional, and state benefit.

These goals are in direct opposition to the development of 2700 MW of industrial industrial wind power in Maine’s mountains and are absolutely irreconcilable.

Human Health Concerns

  • Turbines cause sleep disturbance at long distances for some people due to low frequency noise which travels further in the atmosphere than higher frequencies.
  • People living within range of turbine noise around the world report symptoms similar to the complaints of folks living at Mars Hill and Freedom – sleep disturbance, headaches, aggravation, anxiety – caused by the intense sound of the enormous blades ripping through the atmosphere.
  • The wind industry is in denial about these well documented and very serious health concerns, and Maine CDC has exhibited a startling lack of medical ethics by ignoring the complaints of citizens whose lives have been negatively impacted by the very first turbine installations in the state.

Electricity Produced by 2,700 MW of Wind Turbines in Maine’s Mountains

  • 2700 MW @ 25% average capacity factor = 675 MW electricity delivered on average to the ISO NE grid.
  • 675 MW divided by average ISO NE grid demand of 16,000 MW = only 4.5% of grid demand will be met by 2700 MW of wind turbines.
  • Cost of Wind Generated Electricity
  • 2700 MW x $2 million per MW construction cost = $5.4 billion plus $1.5 billion new CMP transmission project to serve remote wind projects = $6.9 billion installed cost.
  • Percentage of industrial wind power installed cost provided by taxpayer subsidies = approximately 2/3 of cost = $4.3 billion dollars
  • Transmission lines must be built to accommodate 100% of the capacity of the wind project, even though the wind project will only produce erratically at about 25% of rated capacity. Ratepayers will pay for this gross over build of transmission capacity with higher rates due to the under-utilization of the infrastructure.

A Much More Cost Effective Use of Our Tax Dollars

  • If $4.3 billion was instead directed to conservation and efficiency programs it would equal more than $10,000 per household in Maine, which could be used for incentives to encourage massive reductions in heating oil usage. By contrast, Maine’s current year budget for C and E programs is about $15 per household. The
  • government and the wind industry pay lip service to C and E while pouring 90% of subsidies into industrial industrial wind power.
  • Without these massive subsidies wind projects cannot pay their property taxes, or their TIF payments, or come up with the money to remove the turbines when they stop working.

Summary

Towns considering wind projects need to understand industrial wind power’s reliance on massive government subsidies (our tax dollars) for its existence. When political support for industrial wind power dries up and the subsidies are removed all of the “tangible benefits” towns believed they would get indefinitely will disappear. The limited liability shell corporations that own the wind turbines will abandon these projects, having received handsome returns on their
investments. Lack of funds to remove the turbines and restore the sites, due to the DEP’s failure to require up front set aside of these funds will leave towns with no ability to remove the turbines, or deal with the long term environmental consequences of high mountain clearing and road building.

Citizens Task Force on Wind Power is a newly formed coalition of citizens from around the state drawn together in the common purpose of advocating for responsible, science based, economically and environmentally sound approaches to Maine’s energy policy.

Dr. Monique Aneil co-chair 207 364 8422
Steve Thurston co-chair 207 545 2151 or 802 384 5267
Brad Blake – Public Relations 207 773 4252

November 14, 2009, via masterresource.org

This article is the work of the author(s) indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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