I was disturbed, but not surprised, to read Rep. Stacey Fitts’ letter in the Sept. 14 edition of The Times Record.
Mr. Fitts wrote, “Wind power has been a real boost to Maine’s economy: $1 billion of investment…”
What Mr. Fitts doesn’t say is that while $1 billion has been spent on industrial wind developments built in Maine, approximately two-thirds of that money has gone overseas to countries like China, where the turbines are manufactured.
Two-thirds of that $1 billion was not “invested” in Maine.
He also made no mention of that fact that the lion’s share of the money “invested” in wind comes from federal, state and local subsidies: grants, loan guarantees, tax production credits, renewable energy credits, accelerated depreciation and tax increment financing. This is money from our pockets, and the pockets of future generations of Mainers.
Mr. Fitts wrote: “Woodstock … is excited about getting an additional $400,000 per year due to tax revenue from its wind project …”
To make such a generalization and tout it as fact is shameful. Some residents support the project. Some do not. I was in Woodstock last month and I sat in a large room full of residents who weren’t in the least bit enthralled with the prospect of turbines atop Spruce Mountain.
Mr. Fitts might care to speak with the Patriot Renewables crew to see just how welcoming Woodstock has been. He might also like to speak with Maine Revenue Services to clarify exactly how many years that “tax revenue” increase of $400,000 is expected to last.
Patriot Renewables promised the taxpayers of Freedom a reduction in taxes, too. Not only did their tax bills rise, but PR requested a $1.4 million tax abatement from the town in 2010. I think that pretty much killed the excitement level in Freedom.
Mr. Fitts wrote: “Wind power is subsidized at much lower rates than fossil fuels.” While that might pass the “technically true” test, it certainly wouldn’t pass the “straight-face test.”
Mr. Fitts is aware of the numbers. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, wind energy is subsidized at a rate of $23.37 per megawatt hour (MWh). Compare this to natural gas and coal, which receive 25 cents/MWh and 44 cents/MWh, respectively.
Yes, grid scale wind energy is new, so it hasn’t caught up to the total dollars spent on non-renewables. But at the current per-MWh rate, it won’t take long for this erratic, undependable and very expensive energy source to do exactly that.
The question legislators like Mr. Fitts should be asking is: Do we let this poor energy source bleed us dry while damaging our mountain ecosystems and causing health problems for our citizens? Or do we call a halt to wind development now, while we study wind’s true costs, its output, its reliability?
The wind isn’t going anywhere. If its benefits can be proven to outweigh its negative impacts, can we not continue the massive build-out a few years from now?
Maine already produces more energy than we consume, so there is no hurry for wind.
Conscientious legislators will want to err on the side of caution. They’ll want to study existing wind facilities before investing another $1 billion of our money in this energy source.
The people of Maine expect straightforwardness and integrity from our representatives in Augusta. Ethics should compel Mr. Fitts to recuse himself from any wind-related legislation, due to that fact that his employer is the engineering firm Kleinschmidt.
Its website states that “Kleinschmidt is involved in other aspects of the energy industry and has performed a number of investigations related to the development of other renewable energy sources, including wind…”
On that same page, it states: “We have been very active in the development of state regulations in Maine, where one of Kleinschmidt’s engineers is a member of the Governor’s Ocean Energy Task Force.”
Mr. Fitts said he “would like to offer some perspective about the work that has gone into setting our energy policies.”
The people of Maine deserve an unbiased perspective.
Karen Bessey Pease lives in Lexington Township.