More, on the costs of breeze energy

Friends of Maine’s Mountains
January 19, 2011
For Immediate Release
Contact: Chris O’Neil, (207) 590-3842

Conservation Group Announces Opposition to Electricity Mandate Referendum
The state’s leading sustainable energy & conservation group has echoed Governor Paul LePage in voicing opposition to a possible statewide referendum. LePage denounced the measure in his January 7th radio address.

“This would be an environmental and economic disaster for Maine,” said Chris O’Neil, President of Friends of Maine’s Mountains (FMM), which is focused on protecting Maine’s mountains and citizens from the impacts of grid-scale industrial wind turbine developments.

Among other shortcomings in the legislation, FMM sees its passage as a de facto mandate for an unsustainable buildup of wind turbines and costly transmission systems on Maine’s mountains. O’Neil asserted that “markets would not support any wind power at all if not for a complicated brew of incentives, grants, mandates, tax breaks, surcharges, and other government created gimmicks. This is just one more gimmick, and it’s a huge one.”

O’Neil said, that renewable power sounds good to lay people, but lay people should not be deciding such technical and critical matters that are presented as simple and benign. “Requiring more renewable power will probably sound great to most people; but to throw additional unrealistic mandates on companies like Bangor Hydro and CMP will cost real dollars for everyone in Maine. And certainly, it will cause further harm to our wild areas with the construction of unnecessary infrastructure like 45 story wind turbines on our mountain ridges and hundreds of miles of new transmission lines cut through our forests,” O’Neil said.

Maine has the highest RPS mandate in the nation, presently at 35%. Yet Maine law excludes some generators (like Canadian Hydro) and favors others (like wind) such that “for all intents and purposes ‘new renewable’ in Maine means wind,” O’Neil said. The referendum would double the annual rate at which the RPS now escalates, and it will raise the ultimate percentage mandated from 40% to 50%.

“If Maine is an outlier now, this would put us off the charts.” O’Neil said. “We will be urging voters to think about facts like these before they vote for this feel-good legislation.”

Maine’s electricity generation mix is already very clean. More than half of our generation comes from renewable biomass and hydro, while most of the other half comes from clean, modern natural gas generators. Some states get as much as three quarters of their electricity from coal plants. FMM is not a proponent of introducing coal to Maine’s electricity generation mix, but the group insists that any new generation be sustainable, affordable, clean, and necessary. “Wind power has never proven that it meets any of these criteria,” O’Neil said. “We have many layers of environmental regulation in place now. And, we in Maine have a strong environmental ethos. There is no need to handcuff markets and harm ratepayers by choosing winners, losers, and favorites.”

“This referendum is driven by an unfortunate public belief that wind power can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, displace base load generators, and reduce our already high electricity costs, when in fact it can do none of these,” O’Neil said. “The future of Maine’s environment and economy deserves better than mandated policies which are based on a belief in presumed benefits, rather than proven data. We end up with high impact – low benefit infrastructure that we neither want nor need.”

O’Neil said FMM sees red flags with other provisions in the legislation, like how it would take authority from elected officials and give policy making authority to unelected officials.

The following documents have been included for references.

Friends of Maine’s Mountains, P.O. Box 60, Weld, Maine 04285 (207)585-2005

The 20 Facts about Wind Energy Development in Maine

When asked if they think wind generated electricity is good, affordable, green, useful, and necessary most people will say “Yes, of course.” But the fact is, none of the above has ever been proven. Wind generated electricity has been effectively shielded from scrutiny by marketing and lobbying, with no obligation to verify its claims. But despite popular belief, wind generated electricity has high impact and low benefit to Maine’s economy and environment. Following are 20 reasons to take a closer look.

1. Wind generated electricity will not “get us off of oil.” Less than 2 % of the electricity in Maine and in the U.S. comes from oil-fired generators. We use oil for transportation and heating. Switching to electric vehicles and electric heat would certainly reduce oil usage, but it would sharply increase electricity consumption. So ratepayers would more urgently demand and require affordable electricity rather than expensive wind electricity.

2. Maine has 4300 megawatts of electricity generation capacity, though we only use 1500 megawatts on average. There is no shortage of electricity and the grid forecasts less than one percent annual growth in demand for the next decade. No urgent need exists to sacrifice unique resources using ratepayer and taxpayer money to produce a small and unreliable amount of surplus electricity.

3. Even without wind turbines, Maine is already one of the cleanest states in the nation for electricity generation. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Maine ranks first in non-hydro renewable electricity gen­eration per capita, per gross state product and as a percentage of total electricity generation. We also have the highest renewable portfolio standard in the U.S.

4. By necessity, conventional sources of electricity (nuclear, biomass, natural gas, hydropower) will re­main the primary suppliers of electricity to the New England grid well into the future. Wind-generated elec­tricity cannot, by its nature, replace or displace these “baseload” generators. Intermittency and low power density restrict it to a role as a marginal supplier of electricity.

5. Maine’s 2700 megawatt “goal” for land-based wind generating capacity would require the construction of 1200-1700 wind turbines, each around 400 feet tall, spaced about ¼ mile apart, sprawled across 300 miles of rural Maine’s mountains and ridgelines.

6. The expansive conversion of rural Maine to industrial wind development could provide no more than 5% of New England’s electricity needs under even the most optimistic of scenarios. It would have no meaningful impact on New England’s fossil fuel consumption. The intermittency of Maine’s 2700 megawatt (MW) wind power goal gives it, at most, an effective output that is around 30% of its listed capacity, or about 800 MW. On New Eng­land’s 32,000 MW grid, this is a drop in the bucket – especially, when considering the high-impact infrastructure needed to achieve this “goal.”

7. Wind generated electricity is high impact and low benefit. The entirety of Maine’s 2700 MW goal could be provided by the construction and operation of a SINGLE, moderately sized, conventionally fueled (e.g. natu­ral gas) generation plant, at 10-15% of the cost.

8. Placing wind turbines on Maine’s mountains will not enhance our energy security. Almost all of the fuels used to produce our electricity are sourced from North America. ALL are readily available in North America.

9. Placing wind turbines on Maine’s mountains will not reduce coal consumption or stop mountaintop re­moval mining. Coal is used in other parts of the country as a reliable (albeit dirty) base load fuel, with some states deriving 75% or more of their electricity from coal. Comparatively speaking, New England is a minor user of coal. Maine has only one small coal-fired generator, powering a Rumford paper mill. It accounts for about ½ percent of all of Maine’s electricity generation.

10. Erecting wind turbines on Maine’s mountains will not improve Maine’s air quality. EPA figures indicate that the burning of fossil fuels in Maine is a minor source of the state’s particulate pollution. Most fossil fuel pollutants blow into Maine from population centers many miles away.

11. If CO2 is a problem, wind power is not a solution. Placing wind turbines on Maine’s mountains will have no impact on climate change. Using the wind lobby’s optimistic claims, 2700 MW of installed wind capacity in Maine could only reduce total U.S. CO2 emissions by less than five one-hundredths of one percent (0.05%.) Glob­ally, there would be no measurable benefit since 98% of atmospheric C02 is from sources other than electricity generators.

12. Wind turbines require sources of NEW conventional generating capacity. The 2010 New England Wind In­tegration Study stated that “Wind’s intermittent nature would require increased reserves, ensuring that there are other generation options when the wind isn’t blowing.” Even when wind does blow, baseload generators continue to operate, while balancing generators operate inefficiently as they ramp up and down, which increases emissions.

13. New wind power integration will require an unprecedented expansion of transmission capacity. The president and chief executive of ISO-New England, said in 2010 that large scale integration of wind power into the New England grid “would require spending $19 billion to $25 billion for new transmission lines.” This cost would be passed along to our electric bills.

14. Wind generated electricity will not guarantee lower electricity rates. Wind power lobbyists often state that they cannot compete with low natural gas prices, which are forecast to remain low and stable for decades. The wind lobby’s insistence on a federal Renewable Energy Standard and other government subsidies are proof that wind-gener­ated electricity cannot compete with other sources.

15. It is said that wind should be a “part of the mix” but its part would be insignificant. Demand for wind generated electricity is created not by the market, but by state and federal government policy. Without favoritism from government policies, wind power could not survive.

16. Wind projects are heavily subsidized at an exorbitant rate. Not accounting for state incentives, ratepayer mandates, and various policies, wind generated electricity is generously subsidized by federal taxpayers. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, wind generators take federal subsidies at a rate of $56.29 per megawatt hour (MWh). Compare this to the subsidy totals for reliable generators like natural gas and coal, which receive 64 cents/MWh, Hydro: 82 cents, Nuclear: $3.14, and Geothermal: $12.85/MWh.

17. Wind developments create notoriously few jobs. Despite boasts of creating Maine jobs, wind projects produce mostly construction jobs lasting less than 6 months. Wind projects are NOT long-term investments in jobs. Construction jobs are always welcome, but publicly-funded construction jobs should pro­duce necessary and useful projects, like roads, bridges, and critical infrastructure. Moreover, state mandates to purchase higher priced wind-generated electricity could lead to lost jobs or fewer available jobs in Maine.

18. Most of a wind project’s expenditures leave Maine – primarily overseas., Property valu­ations of most new wind developments in Maine are sheltered by tax increment financing and accelerated depreciation. Under the terms of these deals, Mainers’ tax savings are diverted to developers to help finance wind projects.

19. EVERY operating, multi-turbine, grid scale wind facility in Maine that has been sited near people has sig­nificant unresolved disputes over noise emissions and shadow flicker. Continuing to site wind turbines using the same standards that have caused this conflict assures that the problems will grow in number and that more Mainers will be involved in disputes with wind developers in the future.

20. “Charting Maine’s Future,” the 2006 Brookings Institute report, warned Maine to avoid sprawl in order to protect its “quality of place” and its “brand.” Maine’s wind development policy actually encourages rural sprawl, threatening Maine’s unique character as well as our future prosperity. Fairly weighing the massive impacts to Maine’s economy and environment versus the minimal benefits from wind power, the facts lead us to conclude that the impacts far exceed the benefits. Maine must pursue more sensible and sustainable energy policy.

Friends of Maine’s Mountains
PO Box 60 Weld, Maine 04285


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