afdd3599b10b9e24-offshoreVolturnUS 1:8, the University of Maine’s patented offshore floating wind turbine, off Machias, Maine. This prototype will provide valuable information for the future construction of a full scale VoturnUS, which will be taller than the Washington Monument.

By Ramona du Houx

November 20, 2013
Wind energy is on the rise in Maine and is providing large environmental benefits for the state, according to a new report released today by Environment Maine. Maine’s wind energy avoided 534,700 metric tons of climate-altering carbon pollution in 2012, which is equivalent to eliminating the pollution from more than 111,000 cars. The report also finds that wind energy reduces smog and soot pollution and saves the nation vast amounts of water.

“Wind energy isn’t just good for the environment and our health, it’s Maine’s economic future,” said Paul Williamson of the Maine Wind Industry. “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.”

Thanks to its current and future benefits, wind power is a key component of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan to reduce the carbon pollution fueling global warming by 17 percent by 2020. The plan calls for an expansion of renewable energy, investment in energy efficiency, and the first-ever federal limits on carbon pollution from power plants.

Wind Power for a Cleaner America II: Wind Energy’s Growing Benefits for Our Environment and Our Health report analyzes 2012 data from the U.S. Department of Energy and the wind industry to quantify environmental benefits from current wind generation in Maine, as well as the additional benefits five years from now, in 2018, if wind development continues at a pace comparable to that of recent years.

The key findings for Maine include the following:

• Wind generated 884,000 megawatt-hours (MWh) of electricity in Maine in 2012—more than any other state in New England. By displacing electricity from fossil fuel-fired power plants, Maine’s wind generation avoided 534,700 metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2012. It also avoided more than 500 tons of smog-forming nitrogen oxide emissions in 2012 and 620 tons of sulfur dioxide emissions, which form acid rain and soot.

• Nationally, wind power capacity quadrupled in the last five years, and it was the largest source of new electricity generating capacity in the United States last year—ahead of even natural gas. In 2012, wind energy displaced 84.7 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions nationwide—equivalent to eliminating the emissions from 17.7 million cars—and saved enough water to supply the annual domestic water needs of more than one million people.

• If the recent pace of wind development continues, in 2018 the new wind generation in Maine would avoid an additional 365,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide (equivalent to eliminating the pollution from 76,000 of today’s vehicles), 200 tons of nitrogen oxides, and 480 tons of sulfur dioxide.

“As someone who deals with asthma on a daily basis, I know all too well that air pollution can literally take my breath away. For the 150,000 Mainers who suffer from asthma just like me, wind energy is helping us breathe easier,” said Cathy Chapman of South Portland.

Maine’s recent progress on wind is the direct result of state policies and federal incentives for wind power, but the main federal incentives for wind—the investment tax credit (ITC) and the production tax credit (PTC)—are currently set to expire at the end of 2013. Maine’s Congressional delegation has consistently supported these tax credits.

“Pollution-free wind energy is providing cleaner and healthier air for Maine,” said Environment Maine Director Emily Figdor. “We commend Maine’s Congressional delegation for backing pollution-free wind energy. Continuing to shift away from fossil fuels by increasing wind power will reduce air pollution, slow global warming, and protect our children’s health.”