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Sisk and TransCanada

The Sisk project is back on the LURC drawing board. The LURC commissioners rejected their initial proposal for 15 turbines but now TransCanada has been given another go at their ill-conceived plan to expand their northern Franklin County wind turbine empire.

We hear the same arguments about jobs and green power time and time again but little is publicly acknowledged about the actual delivery of wind power. While TransCanada will not release their data about Maine wind power generation, other areas in the U.S. and elsewhere have been studied. I have recently seen three studies, one each from Colorado, Texas, and the UK, that have looked at the energy economics and carbon impact of wind power.

In no case was wind energy effective in substantially decreasing carbon emissions and in one case, Texas, the analysis indicated a net carbon cost. This was due to the need to inefficiently cycle back up natural gas turbines in tandem with the wind generation, and the net decrease in efficiency outweighed any wind based carbon offset.

Spain has now conducted this experiment on yet a larger scale. There, where it is very windy, wind can make up as much as 25 percent of their energy portfolio yet they have not realized a carbon benefit from wind. Because of wind’s high rate of subsidy, power prices have gone up, hitting consumers during a serious recession.

On the other hand, as in many parts of the world, increasing demand there has far outstripped the capacity of green energy, so it seems to remain the case that if we hope to halt the rise in CO2 emissions we must tackle the demand side head on. Putting our faith in wind energy as a path to either energy independence or a carbon solution serves only as a costly distraction. How costly? In the U.S. wind, on a megawatt basis, gets more subsidy than either gas or coal. And the cost of wind power, per kilowatt generated, is going up, not down as the industry “matures.”

Why? Higher than expected maintenance costs, greater than expected equipment failures. Wind has not proven to be reliable and where applied widely has only succeeded in driving up the cost of power.

Nowhere in the world have citizens willingly accepted expensive power. I hope Maine does not provide an exception by allowing the wind industry to continue to ravage our landscape to their own ends.

Steve Bien