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Land-based wind won’t offer enough power to justify its downside  

Credit:  By Steve Thurston, The Portland Press Herald, www.pressherald.com 24 August 2011 ~~

OQUOSSOC – “They are doing an awful lot of damage to our quality of life, our mountains. I don’t think it’s going to lower the cost of energy. I think in 10 years we’re going to be like Sweden and Denmark and we’re going to be swearing at ourselves.”

As reported by Susan Cover, these words were spoken by Gov. LePage at a town hall meeting in Rockport earlier in the summer (“Governor takes town hall meeting to Rockport,” June 18).

Thank you, Gov. LePage, for having the courage to say what many informed citizens are saying about former Gov. John Baldacci’s decision to embrace the wind industry.

In April 2008, the former governor’s “emergency” bill to remove all roadblocks to wind turbine projects was unanimously approved by the Legislature “under the hammer,” meaning with no debate on the floor and no roll call vote.

The “expedited wind law” was like a night train that barreled through Augusta virtually unnoticed by Maine’s elected representatives.

Three years later, every wind project approved under the new law has been appealed, and opposition to wind projects is growing rapidly. Responsible citizens realize that Maine’s wind turbine laws do not protect the environment or its citizens.

Many towns have declared moratoriums on wind projects, and are making changes to their bylaws to prevent wind turbines from blighting the landscape and creating annoying nighttime noise in quiet rural settings.

The cumulative effect of the state’s goal of 2,700 megawatts of land-based wind power was ignored by the wind law and by the Governor’s Task Force on Wind Power that preceded that law.

Perhaps that was intentional, because to describe the effect of hundreds of miles of Maine’s ridges dominated by gigantic wind turbines, sending pulses of noise into the valleys and flashing red strobe lights into the night sky, would be to acknowledge the absurdity of the law itself.

It would be admitting regulatory malpractice for failing to protect Maine’s iconic mountains from intrusive industrial development.

The environmental benefits of Maine’s goal of 2,700 MW of wind power have not been proven. Because wind does not always blow wind turbines typically achieve only about 25 percent of their installed capacity. So 2,700 MW would only provide about 675 MW of actual generation.

The grid operates at an average daily demand of about 17,000 MW, so Maine’s wind power goal will only provide about 4 percent of this demand, but will require about 1,500 turbines spread over several hundred miles of Maine’s ridges throughout the mountain regions.

Wind power has other drawbacks that prevent it from being a valuable source of power. It is a grid operator’s worst nightmare due to its unpredictability from one minute to the next.

The primary responsibility of the grid is reliability. The grid must maintain a close tolerance between supply and demand so that a steady supply of electricity is constantly available. In order to accommodate the erratic nature of wind power, the grid pays other, controllable generators to provide “spinning reserves,” which can be placed on line within seconds to fill in when wind fluctuates.

Wind power therefore does not replace fossil fuel generation on a one-to-one basis as proponents claim. It is a symbolic gesture, not a real solution to our energy needs.

The only legitimate argument for wind power is that a handful of construction companies are benefiting from the massive taxpayer subsidies that enable wind projects to be constructed.

But for decades Maine has protected the environment. No other type of development would be permitted to destroy the landscape on such an enormous scale simply for the sake of the jobs that are created. Let the construction industry put their heavy equipment to work rebuilding Maine’s roads and bridges, not blasting highways across the tops of Maine’s priceless mountains.

All Mainers would benefit from improved transportation infrastructure. Very few Mainers will benefit from wind turbines, but all Mainers will lose if the wind industry continues to wreak havoc on Maine’s landscape .

Gov. LePage understands that wind power is an expensive, heavily subsidized source of undependable electricity that will not benefit Maine ratepayers. He also recognizes that Maine’s goal of 2,700 MW of land-based wind power by 2020, a legacy he inherited from his predecessor, will harm Maine’s quality of life.

If we will be swearing at ourselves in 10 years, wouldn’t a more sensible course of action be to abandon mountaintop wind power now, before it is too late?

Steve Thurston of Oquossoc is cochair of the Maine Citizens Task Force on Wind Power.

Source:  By Steve Thurston, The Portland Press Herald, www.pressherald.com 24 August 2011

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

The copyright of this article resides with the author or publisher indicated. As part of its noncommercial effort to present the environmental, social, scientific, and economic issues of large-scale wind power development to a global audience seeking such information, National Wind Watch endeavors to observe “fair use” as provided for in section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law and similar “fair dealing” provisions of the copyright laws of other nations. Send requests to excerpt, general inquiries, and comments via e-mail.

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