Wind projects having a positive impact

Maine’s wind energy industry is making a positive difference in communities around the state. By supplying clean, renewable energy, wind farms are creating jobs, reducing pollution and improving the economy.

Despite hyperbolic media coverage, the truth of the matter is that Maine has created a thoughtful and thorough approach to hosting wind power.

Through an open and deliberative process — which included six months of public hearings and extensive public documentation of discussion — Maine developed a comprehensive, statewide approach to wind power developments.

The process includes extensive siting requirements, third-party review, and opportunities for public engagement and discussion.

And while opponents resort to name-calling and subjective assessments about the aesthetics of wind turbines, supporters of wind see the benefits of development firsthand in lower taxes, jobs, economic activity, student scholarships and significant investments in Maine.

In Lincoln, a 40-turbine First Wind project has had a tremendously positive benefit on the local economy.

Lincoln Tax Assessor Ruth Birtz, a lifelong resident of the community, described the impact during a recent legislative hearing: “During the construction phase, millions and millions of dollars were poured into the local economy. Contractors hired more workers. Stores and restaurants saw a huge increase in business. Even the local hair salon had to stay open longer hours to meet the demand.”

The good news, however, didn’t end when construction was complete: The Rollins project has provided Lincoln with the funds to make infrastructure improvements that wouldn’t have happened otherwise, and the town was able to lower property taxes.

“Over the last decade, Maine’s thoughtful approach to wind power has resulted in laws and policies that foster responsible project siting and development. Because of these existing regulations, wind power can and does work in Maine,” Birtz said.

The story is similar in Oakfield, where the town took a proactive approach to a proposed wind project that based its review on sound science and balanced the role of the community with the interests of the project developer.

The town held more than 15 public meetings and has worked in partnership with the developer on implementing recommendations to improve the project.

“As a resident of Oakfield whose family has lived there for four generations, it is important to me that the town has economic opportunities to sustain itself and maintain a healthy community,” Taylor Locke, a member of the town’s board of selectmen said.

The Sunrise County Economic Council in Washington County sees investment from wind energy as one way to help create jobs and break the cycle of multi-generational poverty through innovative policies.

One program, in particular, has used Tax Increment Financing in the county’s unorganized territories to invest $666,000 in 22 projects, creating 36 full-time jobs. The investments leveraged more than $3.2 million in additional funds in just one year.

“The wind energy is as essential to Washington County’s economy as logging, fishing, tourism, aquaculture and agriculture,” Harold Clossey, the council’s executive director told lawmakers earlier this month.

And the story is similar from Aroostook County, where the Aroostook Partnership for Progress describes wind energy as a “key component” of a renewable energy strategy for Northern Maine that is creating jobs and supporting economic growth.

There is no question that some folks don’t like the look of wind turbines and others are annoyed by them.

But that is not a good enough reason to take away property owners’ rights to develop their land or to deny Maine the benefits of a growing industry that can reduce our state’s reliance on fossil fuels, cut pollution and reduce overall energy costs over the long-term.

Despite broad public support for wind power, some in Augusta have launched an unprecedented effort to “break wind,” with a consistent barrage of legislation meant to undermine the development of onshore and offshore projects.

As Portland attorney and law professor Orland Delogu testified before the Legislature earlier this month, bills introduced this year in Augusta “unfairly single out one industrial activity, wind energy development, and impose a costly and time consuming level of regulatory measures designed to slow and/or kill commercial wind projects in Maine.”

So far, the Legislature has stepped up its leadership and resisted the overreach and vendetta.

Sound public policy has given wind energy companies the confidence to invest in this state. They see host communities as partners and have made long-term, commitments to share the benefits of wind power.

Maine’s comprehensive policy is working and has created an economic lifeline for communities around the state. Wind power remains a bright spot in this state’s economic and environmental landscape.

Jeremy Payne is executive director of the Maine Renewable Energy Association in Augusta.

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Alice Barnett's picture

Maine renewable energy association is WHO?

the members are in the business. ALL FOR MONEY NOT for the general good.

Our Members

Producer Members
Algonquin Power - Dwayne Conley - (207) 492-1013
Ampersand Energy Partners LLC - Lutz Loegters - (416) 643-6615
Black Bear Hydro Partners LLC - Scott Hall - (207) 827-5364
Brookfield Renewable Power - Brian Stetson - (207) 723-4341
Casella Waste Systems - Don Meagher - (207) 862-4207
Citizens Energy Corporation - Ben Axelman - (207) 329-1524
Community Energy Partners - Sue Jones - (207) 221-5639
EDP Renewables - Jeff Bishop - (713) 265-0394
Endless Energy Corporation - Harley Lee - (207) 847-9323
Eolian Renewable Energy, LLC - Travis Bullard - (603) 570-4842
Evergreen Wind Power LLC/First Wind - Matt Kearns - (207) 541-1940
EverPower - Harry Benson - (412) 253-9400
FPL Energy Maine Hydro LLC - Chad Clark - (207) 623-8413
Gallop Power Greenville - Paul Anderson - (207) 695-2125
Goose River Hydro, Inc. - Cathy Gleeson - (207) 338-2507
Iberdrola Renewables - Eric Thumma - (484) 654-1887
Independence Wind LLC - Robert Gardiner - (207) 729-1911
Ocean Renewable Power Company - Christopher Sauer - (207) 772-7707
Patriot Renewables - Todd Presson - (857) 403-0115
ReEnergy Holdings LLC - Stephen Hall - (518) 810-0200
Small Hydro East - Jim Sysko - (207) 824-3244
Topsham Hydro Partners - Scott Hall - (207) 827-5364

Non-Producer Members
Bernstein, Shur, Sawyer & Nelson - Gordon Grimes - (207) 774-1200
Biomass Power Association - Bob Cleaves - (703) 722-7043
Cashman Communications - Dan Cashman - (207) 947-9113
Cianbro Corporation - Douglas Moore - (207) 487-3311
Constellation Energy Commodities Group - Daniel Allegretti - (617) 772-7501
Fastco Corporation, Inc. - Alan Smith - (207) 794-3030
The Fitch Company - Mark Bolduc - (207) 947-3932
GZA GeoEnvironmental, Inc. - Gary McAllister - (207) 879-9190
HDR|DTA - Mike Hoover - (207) 239-3871
Kleinschmidt Associates - Paul Williams - (207) 487-3328
Maine Solar Energy Association - Richard Komp - (207) 497-2204
Prime Electric Motors, Inc. - Dan Furrow - (207) 591-7800
Reed & Reed, Inc. - Jack Parker - (207) 443-9747
Resource Systems Engineering - Charles Wallace - (207) 725-7896
Romito, Tomasetti & Associates, P.C. - Rick Humphrey - (781) 938-5600
Sargent Corporation - Herb Sargent - (207) 827-4435
Three-C Electrical Co., Inc. - Kevin McDonald - (207) 782-4709
TRC Solutions - Jim Mayer - (207) 621-7000
Vestas - Susan Innis - (207) 297-2550

Bob Woodbury's picture

Guess none of you folks...

...have never visited a wind farm.

Hart Daley's picture

Prove IT!!

Mr. Payne. All I ask of you and the wind industries attempting to deceive ALL of the people in our great State of Maine is simply to PROVE your declarations. PROVE that wind energy is low cost and creates a reduction in our energy rates / costs...PROVE that wind energy has any substantial impact on our carbon footprint (don't forget all the trucks that haul all the parts, the oil and diesel and fumes emitted for the production and construction of these projects, the thousands and thousands of acres of deforestation, the lenient foreign policies that allow countries other than the U.S. to produce components of wind turbines at lower costs and higher environmental devastation due to lenient regulations), PROVE how many full-time jobs have been created for Maine citizens to work at these industrial wind projects, PROVE that wind projects are efficient (ISO-NE grid stats show just the OPPOSITE), PROVE that wind DOES NOT get preferential treatment both legally and financially with federal subsidies in grants and loans, PROVE that wind energy can STAND ON IT'S OWN and compete with hydro power and natural gas power generation, PROVE that wind industry isn't ignored as they kill thousands of raptors, bats and protected migratory birds. PROVE that property values and location doesn't decrease property owners' property values, PROVE that wind industry does not write contracts with land owners to legally allow the industry to violate sound restrictions, visual restrictions, and safety restrictions. Don't keep spouting on and on about how "clean and green" the industry is until you can offer some solid proof. I won't hold my breath.

Karen  Pease's picture

A little bit of 'the rest of the story'...

There is much more to this ‘story’ than Mr. Payne says publicly. Few in authority have an in-depth knowledge of the history of ‘wind’ in Maine, or even factual knowledge about the science, economics or negative impacts of industrial-scale wind development. They are lobbied hard by people such as Mr. Payne. People who are paid well by ‘industry’ to sell their product have far more sway –and say—in the decision-making process than do mere citizens – those who have to live with and are directly and indirectly impacted by industrial-scale wind energy projects.

Mr. Payne states: “Through an open and deliberative process — which included six months of public hearings and extensive public documentation of discussion — Maine developed a comprehensive, statewide approach to wind power developments.”

What Mr. Payne DOESN’T say is that the ‘process’ of creating the Expedited Permitting Area was done behind closed doors, with only Baldacci’s Task Force members and the wind industry included. No mere citizen living in the EPA was included in the discussion. And strangely…NO MINUTES WERE TAKEN of the meetings. An “OPEN” process? That doesn’t pass the straight face test. He knows it—but he doesn’t share that tidbit of information.

In fact, in a January 17, 2008 letter (obtained through a FOIA request) from Alec Giffen (Chair of the Wind Task Force) to Karin Tilberg of former Governor Baldacci’s staff, Mr. Giffen writes this, regarding the formation of the Expedited Permitting Area:

“Here is my proposal for how we get from where we are now to a completed report from the Wind Power Task Force and proposed legislation to implement it…. Hold individual meetings with the ENGOs and developers (FPL, Rob Gardiner, UPC, TransCanada, Chip Ahrens, Harley Lee) to go over draft report and, if possible, develop a map of the area where expedited review would take place… Agreement would be that what is said in these meetings is confidential among the parties (ENGOs, us, and the developers)….

“Parties would sign an agreement to support the map publicly and privately and resist efforts to change it in the legislature.”

Yes, the Chairman of the Wind Task Force advocated including wind developers in meetings to design the EPA and he advocated that all who were a party to these meetings be required to sign what were, essentially, ‘gag’ orders!

Clearly, this process was ANYTHING but “open”.

Mr. Payne states: “The process includes extensive siting requirements, third-party review, and opportunities for public engagement and discussion.”

What about the public’s ability to say ‘no’? The formation of the EPA took away the rights of people in the Unorganized Territories to have any input in the rezoning of their communities. That was not only an ‘opportunity’ lost, it was a summary REMOVAL OF A RIGHT which is still enjoyed by more than 99% of Maine citizens. And the ‘third parties’ Mr. Payne speaks of are consultants hired by the wind industry, as well as siting authorities which are bound by the Wind Energy Law, a law which was reviewed (by mandate of the 125th Legislature) by INDEPENDENT consultants in 2011 and found to be deficient or defective in many areas.

Mr. Payne states: “There is no question that some folks don’t like the look of wind turbines and others are annoyed by them.”

This is Mr. Payne’s fall-back position & a remarkable understatement of the true facts.

The truth is, many people are sick. Very sick from being subjected to low & ultra low (infrasound) frequency noise. They aren’t ‘annoyed’. Annoyed people don’t get prescribed sleeping pills or anti-depressants by their doctors. They don’t suffer vertigo or tinnitus or have heart palpitations or panic attacks. They don’t build bedrooms in their basements in an attempt to escape the constant modulating noise & sound pressure. Annoyed people don’t abandon their dream homes…walking out—unable to sell, but unable to stay. Annoyed?

Mr. Payne’s comments are callous & he plays down & minimalizes the very real & serious impacts of wind turbines’ noise emissions. Why shouldn’t he? No one questions his statements. His cursory & dismissive statements are never put to the test by those who have the power to take substantive action to address this very serious health threat. Infrasound is used as a torture technique in some countries. Here in Maine, we’re allowing an industry to knowingly victimize citizens. They aren’t relegated to the class of ‘collateral damage’ for any ‘greater good’. They’ve been sacrificed for profit.

Mr. Payne states: “As Portland attorney and law professor Orland Delogu testified before the Legislature earlier this month, bills introduced this year in Augusta “unfairly single out one industrial activity, wind energy development, and impose a costly and time consuming level of regulatory measures designed to slow and/or kill commercial wind projects in Maine.”

The wind industry has PREFERENTIAL treatment in Maine. Mr. Payne & Mr. Delogu know that. The Wind Energy Act is the proof, as is the EPA. One can’t complain about being ‘singled out’ when that is exactly what the wind industry fought for in 2007 and 2008. They didn’t want to have to go through the same permitting process as all other industry would have to do. They didn’t want to have to apply for zoning changes in rural areas, like a WalMart, a pig farm, a nuclear plant or a commercial saw mill would have to do. No. They insisted that they be FAIRLY ‘singled out’. They made sure that the areas they coveted for development were rezoned ‘industrial’ –but for their industry, only.

Mr. Payne has a job to do. He does it well. But he is a master at telling just part of the story. He talks about how wind will ‘reduce pollution’ & dependence on fossil fuels but he doesn’t prove how it will do so. He assumes people will believe him because wind itself is a non-polluting fuel. He doesn’t mention how much pollution is caused by manufacturing, transportation & construction of wind turbines & their installation.

His standard tag lines have been thrown out by the wind industry since Day One. In fact, less than 2% (two percent) of our electricity is produced by oil. Maine uses oil to heat many of our homes & we use gasoline to run our vehicles. Electricity does not meet those demands. To tie wind in with Maine’s use of fossil fuels is imprudent & misleading.

There are significant problems in the assertion that wind energy will reduce carbon emissions. Many scientists have come out with studies stating just the opposite. Since wind is erratic, intermittent & undependable, back-up generators –often powered by coal or natural gas or another dense, reliable fuel--must be employed for those times when the wind doesn’t blow or it blows too strongly. Back-up generators are placed in ‘spinning reserve’-- a less efficient and higher-polluting state-- while waiting to be ramped back up during those times when wind generators aren’t producing. In addition, in many places where industrial wind has gotten a stronger foothold, NEW fossil-fuel-based electrical plants are being built specifically to take up the slack. Wind is not as ‘green’ as the wind industry like to tout it as being.

Unfortunately for citizens, most won’t ever hear anything but the sales pitches given by the industry. They will believe what they are told because it sounds believable… and it’s easier to accept what they read than it is to ask hard questions or get involved in a controversial topic. Mr. Payne is doing his job—seeing to it that Maine’s regulatory climate stays as it is…giving the wind industry preferential treatment. He marginalizes ‘opponents’ but he does that for a reason. We worry him because we are successfully exposing the truth. And the truth, when exposed, will quickly topple the house of cards the industry rests on.

Hart Daley's picture

Thank You

Karen Pease......thank you for taking the time to write such a complete and accurate response to an article laden with information designed specifically to continue the ideological mistruth about wind energy. If Mr. Payne was providing facts, he should have commented on how inefficient, unpredictable and extremely costly wind energy is to produce...even with all the preferential legal and financial assistance they receive over other renewable energy industry. Thank you again.

Alan Michka's picture

Payne knows a thing or two about hyperbole

It's ironic that Mr. Payne decries the "hyperbolic media coverage" of Maine's controversial wind laws in a media piece inflated by his own hyperbole. It seems obvious that Payne is becoming desperate to preserve the extreme preferential treatment enjoyed by his wind industry clients in an atmosphere of increasing criticism of Maine's existing wind laws and policy - even from hearty supporters of wind power.

Yesterday's weekend legislative work session revealed a growing awareness of the weaknesses of our present approach to wind power among most everyone, not just those who've been publicly critical of it, but those who have hearty support for wind power in general.

I suspect this piece was written in advance of the work session to sway lawmakers if published prior to the session, or as damage control if published after. As public skepticism of the wisdom of our current wind policy and process grows, especially among our lawmakers, I'm betting that Mr. Payne is going to very busy writing more "hyperbolic" media pieces to obscure the facts of this important issue.

Mike DiCenso's picture

wrong again

Jeremy, how much are you paid to repeat that same old tired pro wind drivel? Readers all know it is not true. The wind law was crafted by pro wind zealots looking for financial gain aided and abetted by what used to pass as environmental groups into promoting their windsprawl. It is proving bad for Maine. Mainers' property rights are negatively impacted when their property suddenly becomes devalued or even unsellable as industrial turbinescapes dominate the ridges for miles. Maine is not reducing fossil fuel use either since hydro is reduced to make room for the intermittent wind blasts on the grid as FERC states. Just because pro winders make claims and continue repeating them does not make them true. Ruth Birtz had an obligation to Friends of Lincoln Lakes to inform us if our paperwork was somehow improper but chose to deny us our rights. We also wanted to do the proper procedure for an appeal but were again denied our rights as citizens by collusion of the town with the wind lawyers. Ruth is out of place testifying in Augusta after the questionable way we were dealt with here in town. The TIF program is abused when only 1 or 2 new jobs are created. The intent of the TIFs was not to shovel money back into industry's pockets for projects with marginal return or projects whose existence depends on eternal tax subsidies. With 1 out of 9 bridges in the U.S. needing major repairs or replacement, jobs and money should be diverted there instead of frittered away on industrial wind turbines which harm Maine's quality of place. Everyone knows wind power is more expensive also. We had an option to pay more for it if we want in our BH bills. The windsprawllers need some new arguments because the old ones are not working, especially when the wild claims are investigated.

Penny Gray's picture

Industrial wind projects have

Industrial wind projects have definitely had an impact on this state but is it positive? Depends on who you ask. The wind developers are delighted. Even when the projects don't produce any power they reap all sorts of financial gains. The residents who have to live with these giant machines are not so happy. Ask our avian friends how they like having their air space filled with spinning blades and you might get another answer. Ask the mountains how they like being dynamited and bull dozed and you might hear something else. Ask all the Mainers who've been hired full time to work at these existing wind installations and you might hear nothing but silence, since the jobs created are all temporary construction jobs. Given the fact that Maine's wind quality is poor to fair, as evidenced by the 11% to 28% efficiency of the existing machines now operating in Maine, one has to wonder where this is all going? The turbine fire at Kibby is an interesting example of the lack of transparency in the industry. Let's just see if that turbine is repaired or replaced. If it isn't, there's the answer to the worth of every turbine that has been and will be built on Maine's mountains and ridgelines.

Dan McKay's picture

No one would argue against

No one would argue against the point that construction projects that take place away from traffic and business provide a local influx of purchases at minimal disturbance. No one argues the point that these projects contribute to the local tax base. The problem is this type of power generation is at the bottom of the list for options based on economics, reliability and grid operation compatibility. The taxpayers must cough up billions of dollars to entice private investment, and all the favors given by the state increases the costs to the ratepayers. This means wind is a pig in the poke, buying into something that gives narrow and immediate pleasure, but sabotages all that is good about the current grid scale electrical setup. It's intermittent nature strains transmission and ratepayers pay extra for this. It's output decreases over time due to wear and tear accelerated by exposure to unkind weather conditions. As output decreases, the project owner will argue for reductions in equipment value and ask to abate local taxes. This depreciation of value also extends to properties near the project due to adverse effects of sound and scenery. Housing development suffers in areas near these projects , thereby creating a loss of property values that nearly always increases in value and continually adds to a town's tax base. I am very concerned that our local government officials are grasping at short term economic solutions and ignoring long term adverse consequences. As this form of energy conversion loses out to better options and the wind turbines are left to rust, they will be remembered as somebody else's folly.

Gerry Thompson's picture

Negative!

They are not having a positive impact with those of us who hate them!

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