Over the past several years, Mainers heard from the Baldacci administration and the Natural Resources Council of Maine about the supposed virtues of wind power, but we never heard much in the way of facts. We listened as they told us wind power would get us off foreign oil, but it turns out we do not use much oil to generate electricity.
We were told by former Gov. Angus King that Maine was the Saudi Arabia of wind power, and later learned that 15 other states had been given that same line. We could be the Saudi Arabia of hydro power, with real fishways of course, or tidal power.
The Department of Energy‘s wind maps show most of the proposed windsprawl sites in Maine are rated “poor to marginal.”
When the industrial developers are asked for production data, they claim confidentiality. After taking massive tax breaks and subsidies from the taxpayers and money from the ratepayers to fund their transmission lines to deliver energy to southern New England, it would seem reasonable to share data with the public. Mainers will pay dearly if our beautiful state undergoes New Jerseyfication from the 1,800 turbines planned along with hundreds of miles of transmission lines and roads. The impact would be excessive and the benefits paltry.
There is some data available from the University of Maine at Presque Isle, as they post their 600 kw data for all to see. Although the turbine has not been working of late, there are 22 months worth of recorded data available.
The turbine has generated 1,142,852 KWH total or slightly over its first year’s goal of 1 million KWH. This means the turbine has performed at 11.7 percent of capacity.
If the larger turbines are functioning at a similar level it would be a waste to sacrifice rural Maine for such a tiny contribution, much of which would be gobbled up to run the electronics.
UMPI has conducted the only public experiment of industrial wind power in the state.
How important is it for Mainers, not only for those living in close proximity to the turbines and transmission lines, but for those who will see the increases in their monthly electric bills?
Maine will be asked to pay for 8 percent of about $30 billion in estimated wind required transmission projects, or about $5,000 per household. That is unreasonable for such minuscule power.
UMPI President Don Zillman characterized his enthusiasm for the turbine as an 11 on a scale of 1 to 10. His enthusiasm is strong, but it is no substitute for empirical analysis, especially since $2 million-plus has been spent, and the wind industry is keeping secrets. There is too much for Maine to lose not to look critically at the data.
The very character and quality of place we enjoy here in Maine is too valuable to risk on unsubstantiated and unproven claims by the pro-wind cabal. Mainers would be within their rights to request a clinical analysis of the UMPI experiment rendered by the university in a multi-disciplinary fashion, drawing upon the university’s engineers, economists, and other experts.
There is no question Gov. John Baldacci favored wind power. In fact, with the support of the NRCM and others warning of an environmental apocalypse, he had the Legislature pass his “emergency” wind legislation with limited debate.
With a new administration, it is time to step back and examine the law that could transform Maine forever with industrial turbines scattered across the landscape of “Vacationland.” A careful review, without the urgency and hysteria which fostered a bill that was never investigated even superficially, is needed.
One of UMPI’s goals was to educate students and Mainers about wind power. The lesson is ongoing – the importance of doing the homework first, the engineering, economic, and financial studies, and observing the experience of Europeans who have been fighting with fickle wind power for years. Maine should not follow the mistakes of others. After all, Dirigo means “I lead” not “I follow.”
Mike DiCenso of Lincoln is a member of the Friends of Lincoln Lakes.
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