Wind power can be a recurring success story

I am a licensed professional engineer with 40 years of experience in heavy construction. I care deeply for the state’s environment and for the health of the people and economy. Two years ago, my position was eliminated after working for the same employer for 38 years. There I was, 57 years old and looking for work for the first time since I was a teenager.

At a job fair organized by TransCanada, the developer of the Kibby wind power facility, I landed a position supporting the construction. I am still working at the site. Being employed and contributing to the economy feels a whole lot better than being a burden to the system. Every one of the more than 300 people this project employed in 2009 during peak construction would surely say the same thing.

Hundreds of people were kept off the unemployment lines by this two-year construction project, and many more were affected positively by the nearly $110 million it contributed directly to the Maine economy. The 13 ongoing, full-time positions at the site that are currently filled by Maine people continue to help the local economy during this extended rough period.

The huge economic contribution wind power can make has only just begun. Major contractors have geared up for the work. Northern Maine Community College just graduated the first class from its wind technician program, which was developed in anticipation of the job creation that will keep our children in Maine. The University of Maine in Orono is developing offshore wind and blade manufacturing.

Wind projects contribute to Maine’s highly troubled tax base. Close-by municipalities always thrive from these projects, both during construction and operation. Well-paying permanent jobs are created. New sources of income allow home upgrades, helping local builders and supply companies.

My success and the revitalization of rural communities due to wind power can and should be a recurring story across the state because Maine has some of the strongest winds in the East. This resource will not deplete and does not release any of the carbon dioxide that is changing our climate — even while it powers our homes and businesses.

Those of us involved in the industry are proud to be part of the solution to our country’s energy crisis. We scratch our heads at the misinformation that opponents to energy progress casually throw around. The irony is thick because this is jobs and the environment versus the environmental fringe.

The care taken in the planning and construction of the Kibby site is unsurpassed. The owner, designers and constructors all put excellent effort into building an environmentally clean project. Any experienced regulator who visits would likely agree.

During and after construction, animals have roamed freely in the area. I personally have witnessed moose, deer and bear with young very close to the wind turbines. Tracks of many other animals indicate that wildlife accepts its new neighbors.

Instead of spending time tilting at windmills, Maine has a few recent embarrassing distinctions we all need to be concerned about. Forbes Magazine recently ranked us dead last among states in regard to business climate. Maine had the highest percent increase in unemployment during March of this year, when most states showed a decrease. Ironically, the counties with the highest unemployment are the counties most likely to have wind power projects.

Wind power has very likely been the largest growing industry in Maine for the past few years. But it is a relatively new business in Maine and what it really needs to allow continued growth is consistency in regulations.

Maine must say “yes” to new endeavors and investments in the state, especially when the environmental and energy benefits are so critically important to the future. Opposing wind power is supporting Maine’s highest growing unemployment rate and supporting Maine being ranked 50th as a state to have a business or career.

There are only two positions here. You can be part of the problem or part of the solution.

I choose to be part of the solution.

Allan Haggan is a resident of Phillips.

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Comments

 's picture

Recurring Success Story

Mr. Haggan,

Your letter was thoughtful and well-written. I certainly empathize with your plight, and I don't know of anyone who begrudges a hard-working Mainer his or her job.

You state: "Opposing wind power is supporting Maine’s highest growing unemployment rate and supporting Maine being ranked 50th as a state to have a business or career.

"There are only two positions here. You can be part of the problem or part of the solution."

The question must be asked: Are jobs worth ANY COST?

I don't believe there are only "two positions". I believe that it is dangerous, in the long term, to create a false economic upswing when the only reason that upswing exists is due to massive subsidization. "Wind" is a house of cards. IF a wind facility produces a product of value, then it will stand on its own merit. If Mainers wish to buy renewable energy, they will. But they should not be forced to by a government mandate.

America is in big trouble. We are borrowing money from countries such as China to support industries like wind. Not only that, but those subsidies (a huge portion of which is "American Recovery and Reinvestment" funds) are being sent--in large part--BACK to countries like China, where turbine components are manufatured. A look at non-biased scientific and economic data will show you that the paltry benefits of wind energy are far outwieghed by the negative impacts--whether economic, environmental, or health-related.

I do not minimize the significance of your employment. And I understand your desire to do what you can to protect it. I only request that you ask yourself if such jobs are worth it, at any cost? I know of Mainers who are losing income (as well as losses in their real estate investments) BECAUSE of industrial wind. I'm sure you agree that your tax-payer supported job has no more significance than their livelihoods which were created (and exist)based purely on their hard work and ingenuity, and the value of our natural environment.

Citizens who oppose Maine's Wind Energy Plan are not selfish elitists or a part of any 'environmental fringe'. That is demeaning to those of us who are standing up for what we believe is right, after researching the facts concerning industrial wind. I will not put you down for working in this industry, and I hope you will attempt to understand that just because many Mainers oppose mountaintop industrial wind, we aren't the 'bad guys'

We're just brave enough to stand up to oppose a plan which we feel is wrong on many levels, despite opposition from a powerful and well-connected corporate lobby.

I wish you all the best.

Respectfully,
Karen Pease
Lexington Twp., Maine

 's picture

Wind is a bad investment

Allann, your personal story is a compelling one. Its tough to be a lifelong Mainer who loses his job after a long career. I know. Been there, done that, now earning about a third of what I once did at a job I keep because at age 61 I need the paid health insurance. So, on a personal level, I'm glad you got employment.

On the value od wind power development in the state, we diverge in our opinions. We do not need wind power in this state. Blowing apart and leveling our mountains to accomodate a financial scam of huge proportions for the benefit of a handful of developers is just wrong. Wind has a huge and destructive footprint and an extraordinarily high cost for a fickle trickle of electricity to flow to southern New England. We see wind development only because the companies get subsidies that are way out of proportion to any other generators of electricity when compared on a per megawatt hour basis. These thieves get to sell Enron-inspired RECs (a hidden carbon tax passed on to consumers)based on nameplate capacity and not actual output. They get to depreciate everything with 5 year double declining balance depreciation. They get guarantees in the electricity marketplace in spite of being an unpredictable, unreliable, non-baseload source.

Wind power is a scam. The only good that comes out of it are the temprorary jobs, like the one you got. But ultimately, mandating wind power will drive up our already costly overhead for business. There are businesses that are huge users of electricity in Maine. National Semiconductor employs 700 people and that company has made it clear that the overhead costs of being in Maine are a real challenge. So if we keep mandating ever higher costs of wind electricity, at what point does a company like National ship all that high tech manufacturing to another region or overseas? It will happen. That's why I am glad to see Gov. LePage introduce LD 1570 which freezes the mandate for renewables at the current amount and stops the 1% annual increase towards some arbitrarily set goal for the future.

By the way, the wind power potential in Maine sucks big time. It do not believe less than 30% of capacity is efficient enough to warrent the costly investment in wind power and no investor would do it without all the subsidy and preferential treatment. In fact, NREL data show Maine to be 89% below the national average in wind energy potential per square mile. The only thing the wind industry has going for it in Maine is access to wide open spaces and desperate, hard up communities willing to be suckered in for a pittance. Its not about wind potential (which is poor). Its not about production of electricity (shich is miniscule). Its about perpetrating a scam that is costly to both taxpayers and ratepayers, most of whom are one and the same.

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