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.