A well informed and vocal group of citizens have made their feelings known about the new Dixfield wind ordinance, expressing their views to the Dixfield Select Board for the past five to six board meetings and it is all about a possible wind plant development along the ridgeline facing the Common Road. I will not mention the name of the possible developer because it doesn’t matter. Any ordinance writer knows regulations are fact-based documents, not political mandates written to accommodate a possible, chosen one.
These citizens know the facts. Dixfield will receive tax revenue, corporate donations and a much needed business entity.
All constructed items add value to the tax base. Wind plants are expensive structures at $2 to $3 million dollars each and because they are machines, like your car, they depreciate in value with time. Once, wear and tear drops their value to an excessive amount, they can be replaced, but, political influences play the most important part in the life of a wind plant as well as it’s potential demise.
Why didn’t wind development take hold back in the 1970s when oil supply and prices shocked the U.S. government into declaring an energy crisis ? Answer: Too expensive for investors to take the risk on them.
Not so today, the risk to investors has all but disappeared because the taxpayers and ratepayers cover the risks with huge subsidies enacted by government policy. The state may also enhance profits for wind by making companies like CMP and Emera buy their electricity at above market costs as well as subsidizing their production at twice their value for being renewable.
They are still prone to equipment failure. They still produce higher cost electricity. They will never replace the need for fossil fuels. Just as long as the subsidies continue, none of these issues matter, the wind plants make money and Dixfield must get in line to receive some of this money. If we don’t, someone else will. That, my friends, is a plan headed for utter failure. For those you believe money falls from heaven or appears out of thin air, skip the rest of this letter to the editor.
The trouble with the government appropriating huge sums of taxpayer and ratepayer money to select groups is that some groups get more and some groups get less and, generally, the ones getting less are not happy about it, especially, when the less is a payment. In time, the realization of getting the short end of the stick becomes unpopular and demands for a stoppage is called out.
An example of this is taking place between Vermont and Connecticut. Vermont has wind plants and Connecticut does not. Vermont declares it produces a certain percentage of renewable energy and these renewable energy plants sell a renewable claim to Connecticut ratepayers which is almost double the regular supply cost of electricity. Reduced electric rates in Vermont. Doubling of rates for Connecticut. Too bad, Connecticut, put up your own wind plants and find some sucker to buy the green claims.
Maine has wind plants, too, and Maine wind plants sell renewable claims to Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island, which also is almost double the regular rates.
Maine has similar laws as those Southern New England States where renewable energy at a certain amount must make up part of electricity consumed. Differences in the Maine law means ratepayers in Maine pay about a tenth to a twelfth of the costs as the other states for renewable energy. Again, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island are free to put up their own wind plants and that money flowing to Maine wind plants can stay there. That’s good if it ends there, but Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island have a much greater population and can push this extra weight around to change laws instead of putting up wind plants to their benefit and Maine’s loss.
Right here in our small part of Maine, a state government program with unforeseen consequences is causing unbalanced proportional tax costs and benefits. As part of a RSU school district, each town pays a portion of its tax revenue to fund the RSU. Most of this portion is based on the town’s valuation which, with industrial wind plants, increases considerably.
The state program of TIFs (tax incremental financing) allows a town that is about to experience a large increase in valuation and a corresponding increase in school funding obligation to “shield” a part or all of this increase in valuation, keeping its obligation from going up and, thus, not reducing the other town’s obligations. The fair share formula is corrupted by TIFs.
Whether wind plants in Dixfield is a good idea or not requires a much broader look at policies established to support them. Somebody’s good fortune is always somebody else’s misfortune. You just hope the unfortunate ones are not bigger than you.
Dan McKay, Dixfield
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