WGME News: At Record Hill, “Wind power … zero jobs”

SPECIAL REPORT: The Cost Of Wind Turbines In Maine
ROXBURY (WGME) — In a previous report, we showed you how some people in western Maine aren’t happy with a new wind farm in their backyards. Now, we’re turning our focus to who paid for the turbines.

Remember the economic stimulus we heard so much about back in 2009? Now News 13 Waste Watch is digging through government records to get some answers about that spending.

The goal of the stimulus was to keep the economy from spiraling into a depression. The government spent about a trillion dollars of your taxpayer money on various projects, including unemployment benefits, health care, and roads. $1.5 billion of that was spent here in Maine. At the top of that list more than a $100 million to build a wind farm in Oxford County.

Philip Paquette, homeowner: “There’s people in this town that can’t put food on the table but they can spend 100 million to put that up there.”

One full year into operation, the record hill wind project is generating power, enough for 20,000 Maine homes.

Gordon Gamble, Record Hill Wind: “We’re really pleased with how things are progressing but it is also generating anger.”

The stimulus was supposed to create jobs in Maine. While hundreds worked to build the site, recovery.gov reports the project created 0 jobs.

This project was built using a stimulus loan from the department of energy.

Brad Blake, Task Force on Wind Power: “The economics of wind simply don’t work – the wind industry would not exist without unduly favorable subsidies.”

The same federal loan program paid to build a solar panel factory in California. Solyndra later filed for bankruptcy, leaving taxpayers on the hook for close to $400 million. Brad Blake with the citizens’ task force on wind power fears the same thing will happen here in Maine.

Brad Blake: “It’s a scam to make money at taxpayers and ratepayers expense, it’s as simple as that.”

In fact, a government report last spring concluded, “DOE loan commitments exposed taxpayer funds to excessive risk.” But record hill insists the loan wasn’t a mistake, but a smart investment.

Gordon Gamble: “What we can say is we’re using proceeds from the electricity sale to pay for that – we are ahead of schedule.”

The department of energy wouldn’t talk about the loan at all. They claim that is quote “business sensitive” information

Brad Blake: “One of the problems with the wind companies is lack of transparency. I say if you take taxpayer dollars you need to be more transparent.”

Blake says the company is effectively double dipping using taxpayer money again, this time a $30 million federal grant to pay off the loan.

Brad Blake: “That helped them pay down some short term loans at very high rates that were coming due.”

So the question that still remains. Will taxpayers ever get their money back? For now, that answer is up in the air blowing around in the wind.

Wind energy has been a controversial and political issue for years here in Maine. We even saw accusations swirl during the U.S. senate campaign centered around the Record Hill project, and now Senator Angus King’s former wind energy company.

Senator Angus King left the wind project and divested his stake in the company last march before running for U.S. senate. Because he’s no longer involved in the project, his communications director told us they didn’t want to comment on the loan for this story.

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