Even on the calmest of days, the wind is blowing. It’s a fact those in the wind energy industry say people have a difficult time understanding.
Thousands of wind turbines around the country, including here in Maine, work to catch that wind and turn it into electricity that powers our homes, businesses and even some of our cars.
The brightest minds in the wind industry – among them, Sen. Angus King – are in town for a two-day American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) summit, discussing how to do wind better.
“This industry should take pride in the fact that you’re contributing to the resolution of a worldwide problem,” King told the group. ”Every now and then, I just want you to stop and think about the fact that you’re in a business that is very important for the future of this country.”
Senator King, sharing a YouTube video of the Greenland Ice Melt produced by NOAA, told the group that once the ice melts completely, “the oceans will rise 25 feet.”
“Phoenix, which has been averaging 110 degrees will grow hotter, and thousands upon thousands of refugees will be forced to move to North America Europe,” King said.
The senator called alternative energy critical pieces to saving the earth. “Fortunately, the technology in your industry, in solar, in electrical vehicles, in batteries and storage seems to be coming together at the right moment.”
And according to Peter Kelley, Vice President of Public Affairs for AWEA, it’s also coming in at a better price. “The cost has gone down so much that we’re now 66 percent cheaper than 6 years ago,” explained Kelley, “so people are just now catching up with the fact that this is not just good for the environment, it’s good for the economy.”
Wind has quickly become a mainstream source of power, bringing jobs to towns and creating careers that didn’t exist a quarter century ago. “The fastest growing job in the country is wind turbine technician and that means the young people can get a job back home rather than leave home for employment,” Kelley added.
And, according to experts, Maine plays a critical role in meeting clean energy goals of the region.
Due to the state’s geography and sheer land mass, Executive Director of Renewable Energy New England (RENEW) Francis Pullaro says it’s also superior to other New England states in generating both wind and solar energy. “Particularly Connecticut and Rhode Island have limited opportunities to build wind and solar on land because of their small size and big populations, so they’re really dependent on Maine as a resource for clean energy.”
One hurdle, they say, is convincing the public that though there are days without wind, the wind is always blowing at higher levels where the enormous turbine blades reach. The average turbine reaches 150 feet in height and the largest stretch over 400 feet, towering over treelines and dwarfing telephone polls below.
Sen. King has a deep background in the wind industry. In 2007, he formed Independence Wind, a 22-turbine, 50-megawatt wind farm in Oxford County. He sold his share of the company when he ran for US Senate.
On Capitol Hill, King says he’s had to deal with an array of wind naysayers creatively. He developed a double-sided, laminated card he calls ‘Climate Change in a Nut Shell’. The card provides historical facts and graphs on CO2 in our atmosphere and temperatures through time. “What it is is just two pieces of data that convinced me and it’s a good way to convince people who are sort of saying, ‘well, the science is sort of unclear’ – his is just data.”
King says he has posted the card and information on his US Senate website. Before heading out of the summit, he told the energy leaders from the six New England states, “this industry should take pride in the fact that you’re contributing to the resolution of a worldwide problem.”
The American Wind Energy Association conference runs through Wednesday afternoon in South Portland.
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