Windpower right for Maine

J Dwight’s latest attack on wind power in Maine (Sun Journal, March 21) repeats many of the myths now circulating and even adds a few new ones. Space doesn't allow an answer to every one, but here is a start:

Myth 1. “Incentives given to industrial wind developers mean there will be scant additions to state tax revenues.” The fact is there are no (as in zip, zilch, nada) state incentives to wind projects and they will produce income taxes to the state like any other business. In addition, wind projects are required by law to provide “tangible benefits” to the host community (like the free power we are providing to the citizens of Roxbury) over and above significant local taxes. We'll pay about two thirds of the taxes in Roxbury, for example; if our project was in Lewiston, we'd be the biggest taxpayer in the city.

Myth 2. “Permitting is fast. The appeal process is shortened, stifled and silenced.” I wish someone would tell this to the DEP; we are just entering our fourth year of work on our Roxbury project and the DEP permit we applied for in December of 2008 was just confirmed by the Board of Environmental Protection last week. Along the way, there have been some 29 public meetings in and around Roxbury and two full town meetings where the citizens voted in favor of the project not once but twice. Opponents of the project could (and did) appeal the DEP decision to the board and can go to court if they choose. I’ve heard of glaciers that move faster than this.

Myth 3. “Spot prices for electricity from traditional sources average about $46 per megawatt hour ... Wind energy, which is being sold at long-term contract prices not spot prices, would cost about $80 per mwh hour, or almost twice as much.” Well, yes, spot prices average about $46 a megawatt hour right now; but in 2007, they averaged $65 and in 2008 — guess what — they averaged $78 per megawatt hour. Secondly, there is no set price for wind energy (I don’t know where he got the $80 figure); no one is forced to buy wind power, at whatever price — we have to compete for customers like any other electricity generator.

And additionally, long-term contracts can make a lot more sense for consumers than always taking our chances on the spot market; that’s why most of us lock-in our oil contracts before the winter begins. In fact, long-term fixed price contracts are an advantage to consumers that only wind (and hydro) can offer. Try getting a fixed price oil or gas contract for 15 or 20 years.

Myth 4. “Contracts at almost double the current wholesale cost of electricity have been granted to First Wind’s Rollins Project.” Again, flat wrong. The Rollins contract is set to ride up and down with spot prices and, in fact, has features very favorable to Maine consumers. The PUC and a group of outside consultants made sure that there is very little if any risk to ratepayers. If anything, this contract will save ratepayers a lot of money over its term.

Myth 5. My son and I both work in the wind power business. Well, he got this one right. And Jimmy Simones’ son works with him in the restaurant business. So what’s the point?

The stark reality is that 87 percent of Maine’s total energy needs come from oil or natural gas, not an ounce of which comes from within Maine. This leaves us completely vulnerable to risks of both supply and price (remember 2008?) which is downright dangerous. Wind is not the whole answer by any means, but it can be part of the answer — and most importantly, it’s a resource we have here at home, and once the cost of construction is paid, the fuel is free.

As we move toward electric cars (three new plug-ins are due on the market in the next year) and various forms of electric heat, electricity demand will go up significantly and that electricity will be directly offsetting oil. The only question then is where it will come from, and that’s where we have to make choices. Among the likely in-state options (in addition to conservation) are nuclear, coal, oil, more natural gas (already 55 percent of our electrical system), or renewables like wind and tidal. Each has impacts, but compared to the others (which is the only fair way to look at it), wind looks pretty good.

Mr. Dwight’s preferred option is to drill in the ocean off our coast. There may be oil and gas out there — although the scientific estimates are that it’s pretty sparse compared with other areas of the US coastline — but even if there is, it would take a decade or more to bring any meaningful supplies on-line. And there is no free lunch here, either; ask our fishermen how they feel about drilling in Georges Bank.

The point is that there’s no silver bullet — neither wind, drilling, or new nukes — but there can be silver buckshot: lots of smaller pieces which add up to greater energy security for all of us. And it just makes sense that part of that solution should be the infinitely renewable power of the great winds that sweep across Maine every day.

Angus King is a former governor of Maine and owned Northeast Energy Management Inc. before taking office. He co-owns Independence Wind LLC, a Maine company formed to develop large-scale wind power projects in New England.

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PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Asking Angus King if Maine

Asking Angus King if Maine ought to have wind turbines is like asking your barber if he thinks you need a haircut.

 's picture

More King Spin

Oh, God, here we go again!  The Maine media giving King yet another opportunity to spew his self serving blather.  How can Maine media continue to be complicit in this shyster's relentless misinformation campaign?

Angus King is the consummate liar-politician.  He is the biggest hypocrite in the state.  When he was Governor, he never missed a charming photo op or sound bite to extoll the virtues of Maine's natural resources and special places.  Now, he has become a pig at the taxpayer subsidy trough.  His two industrial wind projects are not needed nor wanted. They will blast away miles of the mountains of Highland Plantation, on the doorstep of the majestic Bigelow Preserve and the mountains of Roxbury above pristine Ellis Pond and ruining the viewshed of Tumbledown Preserve.  He states publicly that we need to make the trade off of destruction of our mountains to serve the greater good---that greater good being the hundreds of millions of taxpayer's and ratepayer's dollars he wants to grab with the wind scam.

King's rebuttal to J. Dwight is completely desperate spin.  King is afraid that the citizens of the state are astute enough to catch on to the wind scam and he is being caught with his hand in the taxpayers' cookie jar.

JOANNE MOORE's picture

Nuts to you Angus

And nuts to your subsidy sucking schemes to enrich yourself by destroying beautiful places in Maine. Places that can never be cleaned up and put back the way they were. Places where the mountain top or ridge is blasted and leveled and clearcut of trees that take CO2s out of our atmosphere and give back oxygen. Places where huge amounts of herbicides are applied to eventually find their way into our lakes, streams, ponds and other waterways, poisoning fish and fowl alike. Places where once the wildlife were abundant and migrating birds depended on for survival. And don't give me that crap about, well, they are going to die anyway in a changing climate. What heartlessness you show us. What craven greed. Animals and other species will adapt or not in a changing climate. Killing them off to line your pockets with filthy lucre shows Maine people you are certainly not thinking of any life except your own. What a selfish man you are, Mr. King.

 's picture

Glory

Governor King, may I offer the folowing statements of wisdom to you:

Glory is like a circle in the water,
Which never ceaseth to enlarge itself,
Till by broad spreading it disperses to naught. ????William Shakespeare

The glory of great men should always be measured by the means they have used to acquire it. ????Francois de La Rochefoucauld (1613 - 1680)

You certainly have some fantastic visions, Governor, and the stage is a hard place to step away from.
While you continue your performance amongst the spotlights, seeking to amass your wealth on the backs of the hard working people of this state, reflect upon the words of Shakespeare and La Rochefoucauld, for the dignity in their thoughts will  always prove to be truer and stronger than corruption of man overcome by enticement of greed. 

 's picture

Just please tell me, Angus,

where in Maine I can go where I will not be face to face with these 40 story buildings so I can move. Screw tourism and screw quality of place. Stop the low flying military flights because they are too loud and ruin the beauty of Maine. But blast all of our mountains, clear trees for new roads, and drive us out of the place we once loved so that some (little) extremely expensive and unreliable electricity can be sent out of state. We were living our dream. Now we are scrambling to find a new place to live.

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