Maine Mountain Power is now proposing to spend an estimated $85 million to construct miles of roads, clear acres of forest for transmission lines, and erect 18 wind turbines on an undeveloped mountain top, in spite of its own analysis that shows the energy produced will be so expensive it can’t be sold at a profit, even after the company rakes in millions of dollars in federal tax breaks.
As a responsible journalist – Ow! Ow! The anti-oxymoron shock collar has been activated! Ow! – I investigate outlandish claims made by politicians and other primitive life forms. I read reports, consult with experts, and interview people with opposing viewpoints. Or, if I don’t feel like doing all that work, I resort to ridicule.
It works for Fox News.
Ouch! Damn shock collar.
Fortunately, that drudgery hasn’t been necessary in the matter of Maine Mountain Power’s recently revised wind-energy plan. MMP had originally proposed building 30 turbines on Redington Pond Range and Black Nubble Mountain in western Maine. That project drew opposition because the wind towers would have disrupted an environmentally sensitive area and been visible from the Appalachian Trail. In January, the Maine Land Use Regulation Commission, which handles zoning issues in the state’s Unorganized Territories, voted 6-1 to have its staff draft an order rejecting the project.
After that defeat, MMP officials threatened to go to court to have the commission’s decision overturned or to the Legislature to have the commission’s authority curtailed, but nothing came of all that fuming. Except that some environmental groups proposed capturing the heat MMP was throwing off and using it to generate electricity. One scientific study indicated that just the sputtering of Harley Lee, president of Endless Energy (one of the corporations that owns MMP), could produce enough power to light Portland’s West End for a year.
Then, on May 9, MMP announced it was revising its plan. Gone were the 12 wind towers on Redington, nearest the Appalachian Trail. That left just the 18 turbines proposed for Black Nubble. This bold new plan inspired me to seek out expert opinion as to its viability. I was shocked – and not by that friggin’ collar – at what I discovered.
“The winds [on Black Nubble] are not as strong [as] on Redington, so it’ll provide less power, and the capital costs would be greater. The price per energy [unit] would have to be significantly higher. No one would buy it.”
Who said that? It must be somebody with a vested interest in seeing this project fail.
Oh. It was Dennis Bailey, the official spokesman for MMP, quoted in the Lewiston Sun Journal on July 27, 2006. Bailey was reacting to an effort by the Natural Resources Council of Maine to forge a compromise on the wind-power project. The council suggested that MMP drop its plans to put turbines on Redington and develop only the Black Nubble site. Which, more than nine months later, is exactly what the company has suddenly decided is a great idea.
I need a different expert. How about this guy:
“It’s not a real option … [P]roducing less renewable energy at a higher cost is not what’s best for Maine.”
Clearly, this is the opinion of some anti-wind-energy fanatic. Let’s expose his hidden bias. He heads something called … um … Endless Energy and his name is … er …Harley Lee. He was also being quoted in the Sun Journal in response to the Natural Resources Council’s plan.
OK, here’s an assessment from an organization with lots of experience in wind-power generation. According to the Edison Mission Group, cutting the project to one mountain would increase construction costs by 11 percent, raise capital costs by 21 percent, and hike operating costs by anywhere from 7 to 17 percent, depending on how confused you get by the group’s figures. This much is clear: it wouldn’t make economic sense.
And just what is the Edison Mission Group? It’s … hmm … an investor in MMP. Its opinion was also reported by the Sun Journal last July.
Why would a company want to build something it’s already determined is a financial sinkhole?
The only newspaper in Maine that bothered to ask that question was the Kennebec Journal. Reporter Alan Crowell tried to pin MMP down on its previous claims that limiting the towers to Black Nubble would render the project unfeasible. In response, Bailey claimed that statement was correct at the time. Apparently, without anyone noticing, the price of building wind towers has declined significantly in recent months.
Even so, Bailey said the company was looking at unspecified ways to reduce costs and wasn’t convinced it could turn a profit on its new proposal. “It’s still going to be a very expensive project to build,” he told the paper.
Remember, no line of crap is safe to touch. Ever.
Just in case you didn’t follow MMP’s logic through its last couple of twists, here’s a recap. The company is now proposing to spend an estimated $85 million to construct miles of roads, clear acres of forest for transmission lines, and erect 18 wind turbines on an undeveloped mountain top, in spite of its own analysis that shows the energy produced will be so expensive it can’t be sold at a profit, even after the company rakes in millions of dollars in federal tax breaks.
Somebody’s shock collar needs recharging.
May 23, 2007
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