Congress scrutinizes funding for King's wind power project

PORTLAND — A congressional inquiry is raising questions about a $102 million federal loan guarantee for a wind power project in which U.S. Senate candidate Angus King had a stake, yet King's former company contends it followed federal guidelines and did nothing wrong.

AP File Photo

Angus King

The report by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform this week focused on federal loans and loan guarantees to dozens of green energy projects following the high-profile failure of California-based solar company Solyndra. Among them was Record Hill, a 22-turbine, 50-megawatt wind power project in Roxbury.

Rob Gardiner, president of Independence Wind, one of the partners in Record Hill, said the company followed Department of Energy guidelines and, unlike Solyndra, is repaying the loans.

"Our project met all of the qualifications, despite what the report might say," Gardiner said.

In Tuesday's report, the congressional committee questioned whether the technology employed in the Record Hill project was sufficiently innovative to qualify for loan guarantees, and whether loan guarantees were even necessary given the strong credit rating of Yale University, one of the project partners.

The report was issued two days after King, who's running for U.S. Senate as an independent, completed the sale of his stake in Independence Wind to Gardiner, the company's co-founder.

Lance Dutson of the conservative Maine Heritage Policy Center described the timing as a "miraculous coincidence" but acknowledged he didn't know whether King or Independence Wind was aware of the investigation.

King and Gardiner were co-owners of Independence Wind until Sunday night, when King completed the sale of his share to the former president of Maine Public Broadcasting Network. King said he sold his stake in the company to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest during his Senate campaign.

The King campaign brushed aside any questions of timing, saying he didn't know about the federal report and that he initiated the sale more than a week before the report came out.

"Angus is smart, but he's not clairvoyant," said Crystal Canney, his spokeswoman.

Dutson said the bigger issue is whether King's company received loan guarantees under false pretenses, and how King would handle the issue of loan guarantees for renewable energy if he's elected to the U.S. Senate.

But Gardiner described the attacks as part of a larger political battle.

"What's really going on is a battle between those who want to see renewable energy supported by the federal government, moving to a green energy future, and those who want to stay with fossil fuels," Gardiner said. "It's just a nasty political battle over one ideal versus the other."

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Penny Gray's picture

Seems like what's REALLY

Seems like what's REALLY going on here is the DOE isn't doing their job and the taxpayer is being scammed.

Monique Aniel's picture

questions made to the DOE prior TO ISSUANCE GUARANTEE

THE QUESTIONS ON THE INNOVATVE ASPECT OF KING AND GARDINER 'S PROJECT WERE RAISED IN THE COMMENTS MADE BY STEVE THURSTON TO MR MARHAMATI , CASE MANAGER OF THE DOE LOAN PROGRAM LAST MARCH.
IT FELL ON DEAF EARS
MONIQUE ANIEL ,( FOR MOR INFO GO TO WWW.WINDTASKFORCE.ORG)
PLEASE SCROLL DOWN :

Dear Mr. Marhamati,

I am a 5th generation occupant of my family's property on Roxbury Pond. The proposal to put 22 turbines, all within line of sight to Roxbury Pond, on the ridge overlooking the pond, has been a source of outrage, anxiety, depression, and fear for many members of my family and many of the families who own property on Roxbury Pond. There was a nearly unanimous vote of the property owners' association to oppose this project in the permitting process. The spectre of wind projects destroying the viewshed, polluting the nighttime soundscape, devaluing our property and forever altering the mountain with blasted cuts and massive fills for access roads is a heavy burden for Roxbury Pond property owners to bear. However, if these are insufficient grounds for the DOE to reject the application, there are more important reasons that reach far beyond the concerns of the affected community.

The application of Record Hill Wind LLC for a DOE loan guarantee should be rejected because the applicant has provided evidence to the State of Maine that they do not need the loan guarantee to construct and operate the project since they have $127 million in the bank and the ability to self finance the project. In a filing with Maine Dept of Envioronmental Protection, Robert Gardiner, President of Record Hill Wind LLC provided required evidence that Record Hill Wind LLC had the financial capacity to construct the wind project. In the cover letter to James Cassida, Gardiner said, "Record Hill possesses sufficient funds to complete construction without any additional source of capital." As evidence of these funds Record Hill LLC provided documentation showing $127 million on deposit at Mascoma Bank of Lebanon NH. (See attached copy of DEP submission).

As a taxpayer I am appalled that the DOE would consider using my money to provide collateral for this project. Not only does RHW LLC have the money it needs to construct the project, by admission eliminating the need for the loan guarantee, it has partnered with the Yale Endowment Fund. US taxpayers should under no circumstances be asked to assume the investment risk for the Yale Endowment Fund, which reportedly has assets of more than $8 billion.

I also question the "load control" technology that forms the basis for RHW LLC to qualify for a loan guarantee in the first place. What evidence has been provided that allows DOE to conclude that there is anything groundbreaking about the turbine controller in these Siemens turbines? GE also boasts "load control" technology for its turbines. What is the difference between the two? Is it fair to ask the US taxpayer to subsidize the research and development efforts of either of these companies? Shouldn't their shareholders take the risk for the success of their products?

There are other technoloogies which are far more deserving of government support. Projects which involve electric storage technologies, reduce the cost of solar power, develop more efficient heating and cooling processes, improve the environental impacts of hydrofracking for natural gas, make coal more environmentally friendly, etc should have a higher priority than wind power. Wind projects, without a storage solution, are of little use to the electric grid. The Record Hill Wind project with an installed capacity of 50 MW, will only generate about 12.5 MW on average at a 25% capacity factor. This small amount of electricity may easily be absorbed by the grid without any effect whatsoever on grid operation, since the ISO-NE grid operates with a 125 MW tolerance for supply and demand imbalance. It is well understood that wind generation, because of its unpredictability and intermittent production, must be "followed" with sufficient spinning reserves to regulate the constantly changing output.

The ISO-NE wind integration study is clear that accurate wind forecasts, grid scale storage, and massive and very expensive transmission construction are all necessary to allow wind generation to be effectively utilized. Since none of these necessary components of wind generation are in place, and likely won't be during the lifetime of any turbines now being constructed, it is premature at best to encourage wind power, especially in Maine and other places with high value landscapes. The cost to the taxpayer, to the residents of rural communties subjected to the impacts of wind turbines, and to future generations who will never have to opportunity to appreciate the unspoiled natural beauty of Maine's mountain landscapes far outweigh the perceived benefits of Maine's rush to wind power.

For these reasons the Record Hill Wind LLC application for a US taxpayer backed federal loan guarantee should be denied.

Sincerely,

Steve Thurston
PO Box 345
Oquossoc, ME 04964

Alice Barnett's picture

i heard

that King will issue his free 500kw electricity money to Roxbury residents in quarterly or yearly amounts.
The amount can not be accepted by any one receiving food stamps as the check will disqualify them.

Do you think King knew this?

MARK GRAVE's picture

Way to export your

Way to export your high-spending politician to now damage the nation. Too bad these people will not just go the way of the dinosaur – extinct.

JOANNE MOORE's picture

Agreed.

Well, there's a first time for everything, isn't there? :)

MARK GRAVE's picture

Too bad we cannot put “none

Too bad we cannot put “none of the above” as a ballot choice.

 's picture

It doesn't matter to you, YOU

It doesn't matter to you, YOU DON'T LIVE HERE. BUTT OUT OF OUR ELECTION!

JOANNE MOORE's picture

Agreed

You're on a roll Mark.

Edward Leahy's picture

Nervous?

Are some people inside the beltway getting a little nervous? An “Independent” running for congress? The last thing congress needs is independent thinking. They’re doing fine with the procedures and policies republican and democratic parties have on government. Any independent needs to be…umm, “scrutinized”, yeah, that’s a good word for it. God forbid we change the way Washington does business.

JOANNE MOORE's picture

Mr. Leahy,

I gave you a disagree, not because we do not need to change the way Washington does business - we do. But if you think old Angus is "independent" in the true sense, he is not.

In this case, old Angus is only independent in the sense that he only looks out for himself. He is a millionaire, not that there is anything wrong with that, but he soaks the taxpayers for a scam and has been on the government tit for as long as I have known him.

He feathers his own nest just like the rest of the politicians in D.C. How "independent" is that?

 's picture

Talk about a bias headline,

Talk about a bias headline, you make it seem as if the Feds are targeting Gov. King. It is a shameless display of bias, just because you're going to support (fill in the name of the republican nominee) doesn't give you the right to mislead your readers!

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