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  • Maine’s wind investment— great investment even if wind doesn’t always blow

    Kibby Wind Farm in Maine's Western Mts. Photo by Ramona du Houx

    By Jeremy Payne—executive director of the Maine Renewable Energy Association.

    In just eight years, Maine’s burgeoning wind energy industry will have grown from an idea to more than 700 megawatts by the end of 2015. These wind farms will be equal to about 10 percent of the state’s energy generation.

    This is a major success story for our economy, environment and energy security. For example, a study earlier this year by former state economist and professor Charlie Colgan found that wind development will create 4,200 jobs in 2015 alone and lead to employee earnings of more than $250 million. Also, the environmental benefits continue to accrue to Maine. A study completed by Sustainable Energy Advantage found that by 2020 our wind energy will reduce harmful carbon pollution by 2.5 million tons, which is equal to the pollution of 400,000 passenger vehicles.

    While wind energy continues to make good on its promises, there are others who attempt to mislead the general public with their own creative storytelling. A recent opinion piece ran in which the writer expressed his misguided belief that because of one hot day last month when it was not as sunny or windy as he would have liked he believes we have invested poorly in our clean energy future with wind and solar farms. In essence, the claims seem based on that single day’s energy output, and we are supposed to then project out for the other 364 days of the year and conclude wind and solar are not viable?

    Imagine if we applied that same logic to other parts our lives. If it doesn’t rain tomorrow, should we throw away our umbrellas? If there are no fires in town, should we close down the fire station? More directly, if natural gas supplies are insufficient to meet our demand — as they were during the 2014 polar vortex — should we remove the pipeline infrastructure?

    Certainly the answer to all those questions is “of course not!” And that also applies to the question of whether we made a mistake by investing in Maine-made, emission-free energy. One can quickly see how foolish it is to extrapolate one day’s data to reach a desired conclusion about the viability of a particular technology or industry.

    The truth is we have invested wisely and carefully in our energy future by harvesting our natural resources: the wind, the water, the wood and the sun. Just recently, we learned that the Oakfield wind farm soon will become fully operational and will become the largest wind farm in New England — Kibby Mountain at 132 megawatts had been its largest. This project will deliver nearly $27 million in economic benefits to the community over its 20-year lifespan. These dollars will be spent on community-approved projects — new fire trucks, road reconstruction and a donation to a veterans memorial, for example.

    In addition to the economic and environmental advantages of investing in wind energy, we also know that the cost of wind is at an all-time low. In fact, two recent term sheets initially approved by the Maine Public Utilities Commission included costs below the standard offer, or default service, rate paid by ratepayers. The savings were projected to total $32 million to $73 million over the proposed 20-year contracts. Wind is able to offer these competitive prices because it has no fuel costs. Wind offers the equivalent of a 30-year fixed mortgage. Our “monthly payment” will always be the same because there are no fuel price swings. On the other hand, relying heavily on fossil fuels is like signing an adjustable rate mortgage. The prices can and do change without warning.

    But it is also important to acknowledge that no one resource — not wind, not solar and not natural gas — is the answer to Maine’s energy challenges. Instead, there is enough room at the table for all resources to help us achieve our goals of a growing economy, a clean and breathable environment and a more secure energy future.

    Overall, Maine’s energy future is very complex, and there are no easy answers; however, when we do consider heeding the advice of others, I would suggest we make sure those who are offering it are knowledgeable and credible.

     This editorial first appeared in the Bangor Daily News.

     

  • Skowhegan State Fair a 100 percent wind powered and will host a family Build-a-Blade Competition

    Kirby Wind Farm, photo by Ramona du Houx

     For the second year, the Skowhegan State Fair is a 100 percent wind powered event. The power was purchased from renewable energy facilities to offset the electricity used to power the fair, representing approximately 89,000 kilowatt hours. 

    In addition to providing Maine Renewable Energy Credits, the Skowhegan State Fair Skowhegan, Maine Wind for ME, and the Maine Ocean and Wind Industry Initiative, will host a family Builda-Blade Challenge at the Skowhegan State Fair on Friday afternoon, August 21, 1-4pm.

    The Build-a-Blade Challenge will be to design and build a mini wind turbine to pull a toy car along a track.

    “We’re proud of our partnership with the Skowhegan State Fair and its commitment to clean, renewable energy,” said David Farmer, a spokesperson for Wind for ME. “The Build-a-Blade Challenge is a family-focused activity that helps people learn about the science of wind and how it can be harnessed to produce emission free power. Plus, it’s a lot of fun.”

    Over 1,000MW of new onshore wind power development will be occurring in Maine over the next three years, representing a $2.1 billion investment in wind energy in our state from 2015-2018. The Build-a-Blade events help to raise awareness and educate people on this growing piece of Maine’s rural economy while providing another source of fun for fair goers and their children.

  • Maine Wind farms overwhelming provide environmental and health benefits and jobs

    Kibby wind farms in Western Maine. State government cleared the path for wind farms in Maine with Governor John Baldacci. Thousands of high paying skilled jobs are created with every wind farm. Wind power. A new study also proves wind power adds to Maine's quality of life with health and environmental benefits.         Photo by Ramona du Houx

    By Ramona du Houx

    Investing in wind farms moves Maine's economy forward creating great jobs while adding to Maine's quality of life with health and environmental benefits.

    The Wind for ME Coalition today released the first-of-its-kind study showing the overwhelming environmental and health benefits from Maine’s existing wind farms.

    “This study confirms what we have long known, but have never seen quantified in this level of detail,” said Jeremy Payne, executive director of the Maine Renewable Energy Association. “Maine wind farms are providing critical environmental benefits and this helps make clear why so many Mainers strongly support the continued development of clean, emission-free wind energy.”

    The March 2015 report, “Analysis of Estimated Emission Benefits of Maine Wind Farm Generation” completed by Sustainable Energy Advantage (SEA), analyzed Maine’s wind farm fleet output and then determined the environmental impact. Wind energy producers in Maine are replacing fossil fuels and are helping to substantially reduce harmful fossil fuel pollutants.

    SEA found that Maine wind farms: In 2013, reduced CO2 emissions by 490,000 tons – the equivalent of eliminating CO2 pollution from 94,000 Maine automobiles; By 2020 the wind farms will reduce CO2 emissions by an additional 2 million tons – the equivalent of removing pollution from more than 400,000 automobiles; and In 2013, eliminated sulfur oxide (SOx) emissions by 201 tons; and nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions by 123 tons – notably, pollution from SOX and NOX emissions are known to cause acid rain, smog, acidification in lakes, rivers and oceans, and respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses.[1]

    “It is clear to us that Maine’s wind farms are really helping to protect public health, particularly our vulnerable populations of the elderly, the young, and those with respiratory issues, like asthma,” said Ed Miller, senior vice president for public policy of the American Lung Association of the Northeast. “We know that Maine has to make decisions now in order to protect itself from short and long-term harmful fossil fuel pollutants, and reduce our alarmingly high asthma rates.”

    “Clean, renewable energy sources like wind are a key solution to climate disruption which is already harming Maine’s environment, health and economy," said Glen Brand, Sierra Club Maine Chapter director. “By detailing the carbon and air pollution reductions from Maine’s wind power resources, this report provides further evidence of the strong environmental and health benefits of clean wind energy for Maine families.”

    Maine’s 2013 wind fleet generated 431 megawatts of capacity, which is enough to power approximately 61,000 Maine homes for one year. By 2020 when our wind farm output is expected to reach 1,700 megawatts of capacity it could power 276,000 Maine homes for an entire year – this is approximately 38 percent of Maine’s total households.

    By 2020 Maine’s wind farms offset the pollution of more than 400,000 automobiles – or nearly half of all the registered passenger vehicles in Maine.[2] About Wind for Maine: Wind for Maine is a growing coalition of Maine people, businesses and communities that support the responsible development and growth of wind energy in Maine as a way to strengthen the state’s economy, reduce our dependence of fossil fuel and protect the environment.

    More wind farms in Maine, or offshore floating on platforms designed by UMaine, mean more jobs with high wages. It takes large construction crews to build these turbines. Reed & Reed have started a special branch of their company just for errecting wind towers.

     [1] http://www.epa.gov/captrade/documents/power.pdf [2] http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/23000.html

  • Maine's clear energy choice

    Kibby Wind Farm in Western Maine, photo by Ramona du Houx

    Editorial by Jeremy N. Payne

    Maine has a tremendous opportunity to reduce the cost of energy and protect the environment by investing in and supporting the development of clean, renewable energy such as wind power.

    Despite low-by-comparison prices for oil, electricity rates in Maine are going up, right as winter starts to really bear down on the state.

    Those price hikes are due in part to the fact that Maine — and all of New England — rely heavily upon natural gas for the majority of electricity production and, like all fossil fuels, the price of natural gas is volatile.

    It fluctuates with changes in supply and demand in other parts of the world, which is why it’s impossible to predict with certainty what will happen with natural gas prices in the future.

    Maine needs is to protect itself against price spikes and changes in the world energy market.

    The best way to do that is by investing and supporting clean, renewable energy — such as wind power.

    Unlike natural gas, wind power can protect energy consumers because it can guarantee prices as part of long-term contracts.

    With no fuel costs, wind power allows the people who operate Maine’s electrical grid to lock in low prices for 20 years. No matter what happens with the price of oil or gas, no matter how cold it gets or how long winter lasts, that electricity at that lower rate is guaranteed.

    And the benefits go beyond lower prices.

    Renewable energy, such as wind power, can reduce pollution by displacing higher cost and dirtier forms of energy. That’s good for the climate, and it’s good for people’s health.

    According to the American Lung Association, the burning of fossil fuel is a major source of air pollution and a cause of lung cancer. This is especially true in Maine, where we end up being the tail pipe for many other Midwest states’ burning of coal.

    Supporting the continued development of wind farms also is good for our economy and job creation.

    A recent Maine Technology Institute (“MTI”) report, “Charting Maine’s Technology Potential,” found that alternative energy and turbines are one of our fastest growing sectors.

    MTI determined that this sector increased jobs by nearly 12 percent from 2007-2012.

    In addition, companies involved in renewable energy have invested more than $1.5 billion in Maine in the last eight years, which has directly benefited more than 750 Maine businesses, and has provided important local dollars in our rural communities.

    A great example of this local benefit is happening in the town of Roxbury, which hosts the Record Hill wind farm. Roxbury residents receive checks for $111 every three months, and their tax rate in 2012 dropped by 59 percent thanks to the investment in wind power.

    Soon, Orland may be able to benefit from locally produced wind energy as well.

    In 2013, the town overwhelmingly voted in favor of a three-turbine wind power project that would follow the strictest state, local and federal regulations.

    In total, the project would generate enough clean electricity to power 2,700 average Maine homes and it would provide at least $150,000 a year in property tax revenue that can be used to improve local schools, fix local roads and invest in the community.

    At a time when state and local budgets are increasingly under pressure to cut costs, commercial investments such as the one in Roxbury and the proposed project in Orland create new clean energy jobs and help towns hold down property taxes for everyone.

    We have a choice in Maine: Are we going to allow ourselves to be overly reliant on one source of energy? Or, will we make enough room at the energy table for Maine-made, clean, renewable energy that provides jobs, opportunity, local tax revenues and protects our environment?

    The benefits are clear — as clear as the air and water we all want to protect. Renewable energy, including wind power, is the kind of investment our state should welcome.

    Jeremy N. Payne is executive director of the Maine Renewable Energy Association 

  • New Maine Report: Wind energy, tax credits needed to combat global warming

    Article and photo of Kibby Mt. by Ramona du Houx

     Wind energy is on the rise in Maine and is providing large environmental benefits for the state, according to a new report released December 4, 2014 by Environment Maine. Maine’s wind energy avoided 1 million metric tons of climate-altering carbon pollution in 2013, which is equivalent to eliminating the pollution from more than 110,000 cars. The report also finds that Maine has the potential to obtain 30 percent of its energy from wind power, enough to avoid pollution from over 2 million cars.

    “Wind power can replace the dirty energy sources of the past and the pollution that comes with them,” said Laura Dorle, Campaign Organizer for Environment Maine. “This analysis comes at the same time as lawmakers jockey over the fate of important federal wind energy tax credits that were unfortunately were allowed to expire last year. We need Senators Susan Collins and Angus King to act now to get these tax credits extended through next year, an important step to ensuring a clean energy future." 

    Continued, rapid development of wind energy would allow the renewable resource to supply 30 percent of the nation’s electricity by 2030, providing more than enough carbon reductions to meet the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Clean Power Plan.

     “Wind energy isn’t just good for the environment and our health, it is Maine’s economic future,” said Paul Williamson of the Maine Ocean and Wind Industry Initiative. “The wind industry has invested more than $1 billion in Maine over the last 10 years, putting more than 700 local Maine businesses to work across all 16 counties. That represents thousands of real jobs for local people. And the industry is poised to invest almost $2 billion new dollars in Maine during the next three years alone. Wind is Maine’s future.”

    Wind power projects such as the Mars Hill Project near the town of Mars Hill in Aroostook County already produced enough energy in 2013 to power over 96,000 homes.  Moreover, the analysis predicts offshore wind will expand significantly in Maine over the next 15 years, with the capacity to produce enough power for over 1 million homes.

    “Maine needs a secure and diverse supply of homegrown energy resources to power our state. We also need to put more people back to work. Wind energy delivers in both of these areas.” said Don Berry of the Maine IBEW Union.

    America has the potential to power itself 10 times over with wind that blows both over land and off the East Coast.

    Under the John Baldacci administration clean energy initiatives helped grow the wind, wood, wave and solar power in the state. The Governor was and continues to be a strong supporter of the University of Maine's wind energy programs that have created the first offshore floating wind turbine and platform in North America. Over 40 nuclear power plants of energy can be captured from Maine's offshore wind sources, making the state an ideal location for wind farms at sea. And UMaine can help Maine companies build offshore wind farms. In addition the Baldacci administration worked with the legislature and Public Utilities Commission to establish strong goals for clean energy increasing the state’s renewable energy portfolio.

    The report, More Wind, Less Warming, comes as days after the comment period closed for the Clean Power Plan, which would reduce pollution from power plants in the U.S. by 30 percent by 2030. Over 8 million Americans including 50,000 Mainers voiced their support for the plan and are ready to act on climate.

     “This report shows that wind power is an important tool to combat global warming and protect marine resources like shellfish,” said State Senator Chris Johnson who serves on the Joint Standing Committee on Marine Resources as well as the Ocean Acidification Commission in the Maine Legislature. “That’s why we should affirm the Clean Power Plan, and reinstate the tax credits that can spur more wind development here in Maine.”

    Additionally State Senator Rebecca Millett voiced her support for expanded wind power in Maine stating, “The acidification of our ocean waters and resulting impact on Maine's important fishing livelihoods speaks volumes to the need for us to get serious about carbon free emission energy sources. Maine is perfectly poised to be a central player in this effort with offshore wind production and is a win-win by helping to protect its important fishing industry and creating new jobs.”