A. Michka: Let's discuss energy as adults

I was disappointed to read comments of three legislators in response to Gov. Paul LePage’s effort to reduce electricity rates by tapping clean, Canadian hydropower.

LePage’s initiative, along with his push to move oil-centric home heating to cleaner natural gas and locally sourced wood pellets, is an adult energy discussion that’s long overdue in Maine.

Are these three legislators — each a member of the Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee — so committed to mountaintop wind development that they will not even bring an open mind to the table? They seem determined to keep us frozen in the days of early 2008, when the Legislature threw all of our energy eggs into one basket — wind turbines.

Times change, opportunities appear, and choices that seemed reasonable years ago can lose their bloom. Is it too much to ask these Energy Committee members to broaden their outlook on Maine’s energy future?

We might expect such pessimism from the more ideologically driven mountaintop development advocates at the Natural Resources Council of Maine. Our legislators, though, shouldn’t have such an allegiance to an industry, or pet energy source, that they pass up wiser options.

LePage’s plan would be cheaper for ratepayers, and would ease the pressure on Maine’s people and mountains to surrender to sprawling, low-yield wind turbines.

The plan doesn’t seek to eliminate wind from Maine’s energy mix. It simply, and wisely, recognizes that better choices might arise in an ever changing energy environment. We shouldn’t ignore them just because certain lobbyists want us to.

Alan Michka, Lexington Township

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Jason Theriault's picture

Lets have an adult conversation.

Here is the bottom line: LePage's imitative to buy hydro power from Canada is a completely separate argument from the debates of the pros and cons of wind power. So, by trying to tie the two together shows you have a clear agenda.

I've had the argument with people about wind power many times, but it boils down to that as we force coal and natural gas to become cleaner, Wind power will become a more cost effective supplement to them. Addionally, the time is now to became a center for wind power development. If we halt all work on wind power in the state, the UMO initive to develop new wind power technology will wither on the vine, and when it does become cost effective, we will lose out on what could become a lucrative industry.

I'm not saying it isn't a gamble. It may never be as cost effective as other power generation, but I think it's a risk worth taking.

 's picture


How much risk?
WIND = 75% does NOT blow.
10-30% loss in transmission.
5% sucks from GRID. 24/7

1. Reliability Maine; 8% of $30 billion for Maine would be $2.4 billion in expense for Maine ratepayers. = rate hike = 2.400,000,000 / 560,000 = 4.2857

2.The Renewable Portfolio Standard : Wind Power Marketer's dream. Charging $85 to $100 per megawatt into a grid where commonly the price is $55 per megawatt. Higher prices.
= rate hike
3. The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative penalizes conventional electric generators . That's an increase in costs = rate hike.
4. Efficiency Maine , a program that places a surtax on everyone's electric bill. That's an increase = rate hike.

No Jason. It is too costly of a risk. economically and ecologically

anyone who communes with nature knows WIND is killing ice-age old ecosystems.

Jason Theriault's picture


1. Saying that Wind doesn't blow 75% is a blanket statement. It depends on location. Around Mars Hill, the average is around 10 mph.

2. 10-30%(which I don't know if those numbers are accurate) will happen from ANY power generation. It's not like Wind power is the only generation that suffers from transmission loss.

3. Your figure that %5 sucks from the grid is also questionable. I would like to see a source, if you could(not aying your wrong, just saying I want an outside source).

4. Your point 1-4 benefit wind power, but are separate from wind power. Like Reliability Maine. Wind power benefits from a modern bulk transmission system, but so does everyone. Our bulk transmission system is 40 years old, and needs modernization. So to say that wind power is putting a tax hike is a red herring. All the programs make wind power more attractive, but cancelling all current wind programs wont remove those programs from the books.

5."anyone who communes with nature".... Sorry, I don't commune with nature. But I'm pretty sure that fossil fuel power generation are far worse for "ice age old ecosystems" than wind is.

Frank Heller's picture

Extracting Wind Energy...unreliable at best

I doubt if you are an expert, i.e. P.E. or have verifiable research to cite; making your statements marketing hype. Especially when you wave the tattered flag of coal fired generation----irrelevant to Maine; and ignore hydro---nearly 40% of my CMP electricity is hydro generated, and if the Governor is successful,not only with the cost of power drop, but the percentage coming from Hydro Quebec will increase! Energy policy analysts, like myself, integrate all sources of electricity, including residential wind, into one portfolio and then into the choice renewables...of which Hydro is by far the most significant.

There are numerous independent research evaluations of wind farms that measure only a 25-30% output. The output is both unpredictable but causes instability in the grid with fluctuations. This isn't politics but found in that output curve that is issued by manufacturers and used to calculate R.O.I. and in turn subsidies, loans, etc. Reality is very different as the U. of Presque Isle. found with a defunct(?) wind turbine whose output was measured at about 11% of face plate capacity--until it went off line with various malfunctions and was rebranded as an educational tool!

Even Europe's wind farms need backup---large artificial lakes for pumped storage and gas turbines for 'instant on' backup--which becomes primary when the wind falls below or above output velocity.

Wind generation is far from load, and the massive clear cuts running from the Spruce Mtn wind farm are ample evidence of the destructive nature of the infrastructure need to move power from the remote site into the grid.....and the cost is yet to be fully measured.

I have proposed that one of the N/S corridors---a rail line, I 95 or even the old cold war radar line to boston be used for an underground HVDC line to deliver power from Canada to N. New England. Fast, effective, and potentially can be tapped to power electric commuter trains on I 95 or recharge electric cars. No clear cuts; no run off problems, no weather disruptions....just the kind of power transmission many of us prefer.

I welcome debate; but you better have good research from unbiased sources to back up your claims!

Jason Theriault's picture

A few things

First a question:
"or even the old cold war radar line to boston " refers to what? Every cold war Radar line I know of was E-W(Pinetree line, Dew Line) And all in Canada.

Second of all - read my posts. I think if we can get cheap power from Canada, we SHOULD do that. But you can do that, AND develop wind power.

And we shouldn't use it as a primary source. You need something you can spool as demand increases. Wind can supplement that, but cannot replace that.

And as for the environmental impact, I'm sorry, I'm not buying it. Are you honestly going to tell me its worse for the environment than burning fossil fuels?

 's picture

Governor says

"The government has been subsidizing renewable energy development at the cost of Maine ratepayers. As a result, energy prices have skyrocketed over the past decade and we can no longer expect Maine people to foot the rising bill."

I say, Let Maine go back to independance for residential use. Burn wood, not pellets, on site solar can cut your GRID bill in half. Air conditioning????

Private money will buy 1000 watt, GRID ready, on site solar photovoltaic systems. Check out Connecticutt and other states.

You got me on the 5%. In the beginning they ran generators to keep each tower GRID ready. There is a whole list of neccessary machinary to keep warm and running. Computers, hydraulics, brakes, etc. Now I read where elevators are being used because the WIND employees could not hack the stair climbing, once or twice a day.

Figure it out guy, when they pre-test them for months, where do you think the power comes from?

NESCOE Request For Information – Transmission Project
Western Maine Transmission Constraint Relief
Central Maine Power Company
February 25, 2011
Central Maine Power Company (CMP) has identified transmission constraints in western Maine that will severely limit, unless additional transmission facilities are added, the addition of renewable generation already in the ISO-NE Queue or under consideration by developers. Maine, like the other New England states, strongly encourages additional renewable, non-carbon emitting generation in the region. The existing generation within the constrained areas of western Maine (362 MW) is all renewable. All of the 743 MW of proposed additional generation likely to be affected by transmission constraints in the area is wind.

Jason Theriault's picture

First off, there is a reason

First off, there is a reason not everyone has solar photovoltaic systems, they are plagued by the same issues as wind power. Onsite power generation is not as cost effective as being on the grid. Be it solar, wind, natural gas, whatever. Any gains from no transmission loss are eaten up by maintenance and related costs. Just for Solar, your going to need the panels, batteries, inverters and monitoring gear. From What I've read, $15K+ is a good estimate to get a reliable system going. I don't know about you, but that would take a long time of cost free maintenance to recoup.

And as for power to get everything built and running - What plant doesn't face that? And taking a shot at the workers for having an elevator is certainly the adult thing to do. I mean, you show me a 20 story building without one and I'll eat my hat.

And that report, the NESCOE Request For Information – Transmission Project, is a preliminary report talking about congestion that could be faced exporting power out of Maine if the Wind Projects are all built. How it would be paid for is not mentioned anywhere, and would have to go through the PUC.

 's picture

i guess

solar panels are 50 cents a watt right now.
1000 watts = 1 kw

batteries = $500
Contoller and inverter = $1000

add another $1000 for kit prepare...voila!! you are now saving half your GRID bill on most days.
Ah,,the city dweller lives inside....electricity on at all times.

WIND is very expensive...go with the pipeline right down through Maine to Massachusetts.
Do not WIND sprawl to remote Maine. Cost too much.

Jason Theriault's picture

Co generation is never that easy.

While I don't know enough about solar to really get into it with ya. The numbers I used were from a guy in Greene who the SJ profiled and has a completely off the grid system. However, just doing some goggling for kits show your estimates to be on the low side. I would say your looking at $5k to get up and running with 1kw system. Just the kit is gonna be over $3K, and another$1.5K I think is reasonable to get it installed and working.

Assuming everything goes right, lets say this $5k solar systems knocks $50 off my electric bill. That's 8 years till break even. And that's without any maintenance or repairs.

BTW - 1kw wind kits cost about $2k.

Frank Heller's picture

Let me help you out with the costs

A Southwest Windpower Whisper 100(900 watts), which I believe is their most popular model is currently on sale for $2,495, a Comparable Bergey XL-1(1,000 watts) is excluding of a suitable tower----100' is $3,195. Warranties are five years. Periodic maintenance is approx. $500 a climb.

Towers vary depending on height...60-100' preferred i.e. 30' above tree line; and a guyed tower. A 50' tilt-up monopole is $4,690 while a 100' is $9,520 exclusive of erection costs---you will need to hire a crane and a rigger to put it up, and a contractor to put in the large concrete foundation block. Guyed lattice towers are slightly less--$2,250 for 60', but take a much larger foot print.

My estimate is the avg. tower is about $15k. Monopoles can be lowered, but once again you'll need a rigger or contractor to take them down to service, i.e. change transmission oil, repair weather damage, replace bearings, etc.

Here's one guideline: "Wind turbines under 100 kilowatts cost roughly $3,000 to $5,000 per kilowatt of capacity. That means a 10 kilowatt machine (the size needed to power an average home) might cost $35,000-$50,000."

Let's stay with a 1,000 watt machine. This is max. output at 28 mph...and there are very few places in Maine where you have continuous 28 mph winds; so the avg. output is rated at a fraction of that. S.W. Windpower estimates an average speed of 12 mph, in a certified location----unless you meet the manufacturer's specifications, they may not sell you one or, if they do, they will void the warranty. The do-it-yourself days are almost gone, and prices for installation &^maintenance of residential systems have gone up considerably.

The factory rated monthly output of a Whisper 100 is "100 kWh/month at 12 mph (5.4 m/s)". Assuming you have a grid tie....large 'off grid' battery backups are expensive to install and maintain, you are off setting $15 of electricity( CMP charges 15 cents/KwH for generation and distribution combined) a month or $180/year or $900/five years the warranty is in effect.

At an approximate cost of $10,000 for a 60' tower and 1,000 watt machine and associated erection costs; it would take you nearly 57 years to pay off the system. If you invested the 10,000 at 5%
you might get $500/year.

The costs begin to mount up as the system ages...they are very durable, but MUST be maintained according to the manufacturer's schedule...either you or someone climbs up the tower to inspect it and maintain the turbine..oil change, bolt tightening, vibration reduction, inspect. for wear & tear; a monopole can be dropped, but you need machinery or farm equipment to do this.

At this point, it becomes an expensive hobby with marginal returns, kinda like my friends 67 'VETTE' he's restoring. ....and you still need a grid tie, since the grid tie is a sep. connection with the power company, and btw. another cost....last time I checked it was about $2k. I'm sure it's less, but it's a cost. A few more costs are wire runs--copper is pricey, from the tower to the main; load dumps; and site prep./maintenance, i.e. access road, drainage, etc.

I suggest you take a wind installers certificate course so you know what you are talking about...and I'll be first to admit the prices are constantly changing both ways, and you can buy mail order direct from China...good luck getting tech support!

Solar is even more costly, don't let those 200 watt panel prices fool you; you will be lucky to get 41% of the rated power output on sunny days; the wire ties, inverters, etc. are now getting rather pricey, esp. as systems get larger....5 panels make a theoretical 1 KW system; but you really need more to offset a normal power bill which is about 30 KwH/day.

 's picture

how much power bill?

agreed i will buy 6 # 200 watt panels hoping for a kilowatt at high noon.

Having lived off the GRID for 12 years, I have learned to shut down. But I open windows, look at the mountain tops. I quilt my windows at high noon and re-charge.

Yes, I stay home and tend wood fires.

My husband and daughter watch tv 4-6 hours a day. I ,as you can tell, indulge in internet once a day.

I am taking a class on photovoltaics because I live it. I know GRID folks will feel better knowing half their foot print is quiet...for 20-40 and counting years.

And the independance is awesome....

I do have a whisper, 600 watts, sometimes...it is noisy.

Jason Theriault's picture

Woah, fact overload!

I don't need a Wind installers certificate course to know that, as I said earlier "Onsite power generation is not as cost effective as being on the grid".

My point to Alice was that you can't just spend $3k and be generating power. There is a ton of other stuff, as you illustrate by laying out the numbers.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Finally,, a breath of sanity!

Finally,, a breath of sanity!

 's picture

just the facts

It is taking so long to uncover "just the facts"
I hope the Governor ferrets out the answers.
I hope this years discussion at the legislative level is based on facts.
But, with paid signature collectors for a bill that insists renewables are the answer, I believe the truth seekers will have a hard time showing the unsuspicious public what is fact.

Please, EUT committee, let us have an adult discussion this year and lay the facts on the table, for the public to see.

 's picture

Thank you for a rational

Thank you for a rational letter, Mr. Michka. Governor LePage is on the right track for helping both businesses and residents reduce their energy costs. Competition is a wonderful thing and we need more of it in the energy arena. Hydro and natural gas are the heavy hitters and we SHOULD be inviting them into the game. As far as the wind industry goes, in my opinion we should show them the door. Our mountains are a huge economic asset and tourism is this state's most powerful economic engine. Maine can't afford to lose its viewsheds to industrial wind.

Frank Heller's picture

Conflict of interest in Maine's energy Politics...who's at fault

As an advocate for small hydro as both sustainable & green; I would prefer to restore the enormous hydro potential in Maine rivers, lakes, and tidal estuaries. It once powered thousands of small enterprises and created the coastal villages that grace the covers of Downeast and Yankee magazine. It is these sorts of villages that are now being restored all over Europe, from Georgia to Norway(98% hydro powered).

There are three local municipal electric companies left in Maine. Kennebunk Power's residential rate is slightly over a penny a kilowatt, for contrast one large upstate New York wind farm's 'price' is 52 cents a KwH!

That said and appreciating a really good deal, we shouldn't turn our back on the gigawatts being offered us by Hydro Quebec at amazingly low rates. Vermont opened the door with a 20 year, 6 cent/KwH deal this past spring and now everyone in New England wants in on the deal, including thrifty Cape Cod'ers weary of wind propaganda.

du Houx is my rep. in Brunswick, and he little understanding of the benefits or costs, and is more in touch with green marketing hype of the kind propagated by the now-disgraced GREEN ENERGY ALLIANCE. His participation in Energy Committee hearings is shallow and programmed. I apologize along with other residents for electing him to the Legislature. We can do so much better.

Quebec has the least expensive rates in NORTH AMERICA; and has so much abundant electricity, companies flock there and people actually heat their houses with electricity.

To be sure there is controversy over the massive dams now being put on line; but they are nothing compared to damage wind farms have done to Maine's 'FOREVER WILD' ethos and the corruption of once stellar organizations like the Natural Resources Defense Council of Maine.

What I do know is when the last wind turbine catches fire or is felled by a wind storm or runs out of oil, or whose manufacturer goes out of business; there will be 24/7 hydro generated electric energy available.

In the words of Richard Silkman, 'Hydro power is the closest man has come to a perpetual motion machine'.

 's picture

Merry Christmas to all and

Merry Christmas to all and may our goodwill guide us through troubled times

Gary Steinberg's picture

Maine Stays Poor because of Self-Serving at High Levels

Jon Hinck, Alex Cornell du Houx and Stacey Fitts - three of the 12 members (25%) of the Joint Standing Committee on Energy, Utilities and Technology.

The following is the definition of Conflict of Interest from the Maine Government website:

"The Legislative Ethics Law lists several situations involving a conflict of interest. These include situations in which a Legislator or a member of the Legislator’s immediate family has a unique and distinct interest in legislation, or accepts or engages in employment that could impair the Legislator’s judgment. In some cases, a conflict can exist if the employer or client of a Legislator — or another person or organization in close economic association with the Legislator — has a direct financial interest in legislation."

Jon Hinck is married to Juliet Browne who is a lawyer and partner at Verill Dana whose main practice deals with the defense of wind power companies .She has been extremely busy in the past few years representing wind developers on the local level, before Maine DEP ,and LURC and defending the companies in numerous appeals and lawsuits . She has represented First Wind, TransCanada and Independence Wind and is quite possibly the wind industry’s leading attorney in Maine.

Alex Cornell du Houx, an avid supporter of wind power, is the outreach coordinator of the Truman National Security Project. This organization states a deep philosophical belief that climate change is a national security threat. On that subject one of their position papers includes the following statement concerning the threat of climate change to our country’s national security, "Even if you do not have complete information, you still need to take action! Waiting for 100% certainty during a crisis can be disastrous." That sounds awfully like, “Shoot first then ask questions “. A sister organization of the Truman National Security Project is Operation Free, where Mr. Du Houx serves as Campaign Director. Operation Free lists as its first core motivational principal “get America running on clean energy”. In fact, the organization’s logo prominently features industrial wind turbines.

Stacey Fitts, co-chair of the Joint Standing Committee on
Energy, Utilities and Technology, works for Kleinschmidt Associates, an engineering, licensing, environmental service firm offering specialized technical services to the renewable industry. Attached to this email is some information regarding that firm. Kleinschmidt’s wind focus is primarily off -shore wind power, but the Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee makes decisions on offshore wind and decisions made for offshore wind will benefit onshore, such as anything that helps along large transmission projects. Co-Chair Fitts was quoted in the February 7, 2011 Sun-Journal as saying "Everyone wants to find the conflict, the snake in the grass. But every legislator in the building is conflicted if you were to take that same standard and apply it to everyone else. It’s the nature of being part-time legislators."

But what happens when the legislator’s employer actively approves of its employee’s work as a legislator and perhaps encourages such legislative endeavors to exceed simple part-time work? As can be seen above, Kleinschmidt’s website brazenly boasts, “we have been very active in the development of state regulations in Maine where one of Kleinschmidt’s engineers is a member of the Governor’s Ocean Energy Task Force.

Gary Steinberg's picture

Fitts, DuHoux, Hinck..all self-serving WIND SHILLS!


This is absurd, and this should be investigated.
LaPage should force all the above to RECUSE on this issue.

SEE THIS from Kleinscmidt's Web site(2009), with Fitts being the engineer in question.
"and we have been very active in the
development of state regulations in Maine, where one of Kleinschmidt’s engineers is a member of the Governor’s Ocean Energy Task Force."
and this:

"Kleinschmidt is one of the United States' leading hydropower
engineering and licensing firms and has designed and licensed
numerous hydroelectric projects throughout the country. In
addition to hydroelectric power, Kleinschmidt is involved in
other aspects of the energy industry and has performed a
number of investigations related to the development of other
renewable energy sources, including wind, solar, and

EUT Co-chair Fitts, once again undermining the Governor, talks about how letting Canadian hydro qualify for renewables goals would hurt Maine's budding wind industry.

Would this be a conflict, i.e., the co-chair of EUT fighting foreign hydro because it may compete with the domestic hydro (as well as wind) that is his employer's specialty?

Governor LaPage, this wreaks.
Don't let this self-serving "Kleinschmidt Shill" hurt all the citizens and businesses of Maine by increasing our electric costs more!!

 's picture


Wouldn't that be nice if we could find a cheaper way to get power and heating to homes cheaper or so people can afford to heat them at all but with the crazy government that we have to live under and not just statewide they would find a way to make you pay through the nose to whatever you did switch to. A few years ago some people converted to wood from oil and then all of sudden a cord of wood went out of sight. Coincidence? I think not. For every pie we have there are alot of sticky fingers in it and how THEY can benefit by the change. The more government has to do with things the worst they are. When you hear the Gov. mention a way to save money the ones that are filling their pockets with the way it is now scream and those that want to see it changed so they can line their pockets and that leaves the rest of us to pay the same if not more whatever they do. Kinda like damned if you do and damned if you don't. Wouldn't it be nice to come up with a way that is best for all but greed will raise its ugly head and win out. Its a do whatever you want to as long as it don't effect "ME" attitude.

 's picture

Where? and how?

I'm curious about LePage's "plan" to import Canadaian electric power to our state.
It's not been printed in any real form as far as I can see, and even though he made an extended trip there within the last several months he has come out with nothing firm to prove there's actually a possibility of it happening.
After looking into electric rates in eastern Canada, you will learn 2 things.
First is that some people there do pay lower rates for electricity that here in Maine, some areas though in eastern Canada do not have lower rates than we already have.
Second you will learn that facilities that produce electricity in Canada are highly government subsidized. The areas that are getting power substantially cheaper than rates in Maine are being boosted by tax payer subsidies.
With that being said, why would anyone think that Canada would allow Maine to draw electricity from their grid at those same cheap prices. Wouldn't the people of Canada be a little upset that their tax dollars would be going to pay to electrify Maine homes and businesses?

 's picture

Fortunately, this committee

Fortunately, this committee also has elected legislatures who have given effort to listen to their constituents throughout rural Maine and will deliver a strong voice of " common sense " to meetings this session. We, the people, who have researched and discovered the problems with mountaintop wind development will be there supporting those lawmakers who have shown us their willingness to listen and bring a roaring view of sensibility to the proceedings.

 's picture

Are you sure?

"...this committee also has elected legislatures..."

 's picture


LePage? Adult? Surely you jest.


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