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Reaction varied to Angus King’s Bethel talk on energy, wind power

BETHEL – Reaction Wednesday morning to former Gov. Angus King’s progress report on wind power in Maine varied depending on points of view.

Robin Zinchuk, executive director of the Bethel Area Chamber of Commerce, which hosted the presentation at The Bethel Inn Resort, said it was a learning experience.

“The vast majority of the people that were here this morning haven’t been to any of the wind hearings, so this was a wonderful opportunity to hear about it,” Zinchuk said.

“I think that Angus’ presentation reflected all of the learnings that he’s had since he got involved in the project, and I think he’s sensitive to the folks who have concerns and he reflected that this morning.”

“I certainly learned from listening to folks who have serious concerns and continue to have serious concerns about it,” she said.

“But I think the moral to the story is that wind is one part of the solution and it’s something that we, perhaps, have more control of than other parts of our energy mix that we have no control of, and I think that Angus’ presentation reflected that and I think that’s what people took from this.”

Monique Aniel and Steve Thurston of the Citizens’ Task Force on Wind Power, one of the entities that unsuccessfully fought and lobbied to prevent the Record Hill wind farm from being permitted, continued the fight.

Aniel said King “talks about the second electrification of the state, because we all know that we are not using oil and coal in Maine to produce electricity, so he has to find a second reason to explain his project.”

“But the absurdity of it all is pretty clear,” she said.

“The 2,700 megawatts of wind power in the law would represent about 675 capacity megawatts, because of 30 percent capacity, and that’s about 1,800 turbines if we have to achieve what Angus King says, which is to use wind for electricity for cars and for heating.”

“That would represent 17,000 turbines – plus or minus – which would be about 3,000 miles of ridges,” Aniel said.

“The people in the River Valley, whose towns haven’t voted for turbines yet, they need to ride up Route 17 and go down to Roxbury Pond and take a ride out on the West Shore Drive and see if this is what they would like to see happen in their towns,” Thurston said. “Because it has had a devastating impact on the Roxbury Pond community.”

Sumner resident Lawrence M. O’Rourke, owner of Optimal Energy Group LLC, said it was great that King spoke to Maine’s heating oil consumption. However, he said King should have also mentioned other methods to greatly reduce that dependency.

“What Maine also has, in addition to its dependency on oil for heat, is the oldest housing stock in the United States,” O’Rourke said.

“And what I would submit is that for every dollar that is spent on renewables and other opportunities, perhaps it would be better spent on weatherization – the thermal insulation of the homes – which would dramatically decrease oil consumption in the state as opposed to some of these other projects that are being subsidized.”

Referring to King’s quote from a friend who told him that there isn’t a silver bullet but their is silver buckshot, meaning other solutions, Thurston said, “If you look at the amount of dollars that are being subsidized on wind power compared to things like energy efficiency and conservation, it’s more like a silver cannonball.”

“If that kind of money were directed at energy efficiency and conservation, it’s about $10,000 for every household in the state of Maine,” Thurston said.