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State energy head touts wind power to LURC

BREWER - As wind power begins to blow into Maine, state regulators on Wednesday considered its potential to squeeze increasingly expensive - and less environmentally friendly - fossil fuels out of the region's energy mix.

"Introducing ... wind will help with fuel diversity, price stability and energy independence," Beth Nagusky, Maine's director of energy independence and security, told members of the Land Use Regulation Commission at its Wednesday morning meeting.
Since 2000, Maine has become increasingly dependent on natural gas to generate electricity, Nagusky said. In 2000, roughly 25 percent of the electricity generated in Maine came from natural gas. In 2002, that number was 73 percent, she said.
As the price of natural gas has risen, so have the state's electricity costs, according to Nagusky, who told commissioners that alternative sources of power - including wind - could help lower those costs.
Maine and the rest of northern New England have seen a surge in wind power proposals in recent years as developers seek to tap into the Northeast energy market, where demand is particularly high.
At least four wind power projects have been proposed in Maine, mainly in the state's rural, unorganized areas.
In Franklin County, a Canadian company wants to erect 200 turbines on the western mountains.
In Aroostook County, a Bangor-based group hopes to erect 30 turbines on Mars Hill Mountain by early next year. A Freeport... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  
"Introducing ... wind will help with fuel diversity, price stability and energy independence," Beth Nagusky, Maine's director of energy independence and security, told members of the Land Use Regulation Commission at its Wednesday morning meeting.
Since 2000, Maine has become increasingly dependent on natural gas to generate electricity, Nagusky said. In 2000, roughly 25 percent of the electricity generated in Maine came from natural gas. In 2002, that number was 73 percent, she said.
As the price of natural gas has risen, so have the state's electricity costs, according to Nagusky, who told commissioners that alternative sources of power - including wind - could help lower those costs.
Maine and the rest of northern New England have seen a surge in wind power proposals in recent years as developers seek to tap into the Northeast energy market, where demand is particularly high.
At least four wind power projects have been proposed in Maine, mainly in the state's rural, unorganized areas.
In Franklin County, a Canadian company wants to erect 200 turbines on the western mountains.
In Aroostook County, a Bangor-based group hopes to erect 30 turbines on Mars Hill Mountain by early next year. A Freeport company is installing six test towers in the St. John Valley to collect wind data before deciding whether to proceed with its own plans for a wind farm on potato fields there.
The Passamaquoddy Tribe received permits in October to erect two meteorological towers on its tribal trust lands in Washington and Somerset counties in anticipation of a wind power project.
Wind power currently generates roughly 1 percent of the nation's electricity. But Tom Gray of the American Wind Energy Association told commissioners it could generate 6 percent by 2020.
Mainers would benefit, he said, from the addition of wind power. Unlike the burning of oil, coal and natural gas, wind technology uses no fuel, creates neither air nor water pollution and does not contribute to global warming.
"If we could just make it invisible, we'd have something everybody could get behind," said Gray, a reference to the opposition to some projects based on the prominence of the large turbines, which are often more than 300 feet tall.
Indeed, as several people noted at Wednesday's meeting, no energy source is without its flaws. In the case of wind power, besides the constant visibility of the towers, there lie concerns about its impact on wildlife - mainly birds and bats.
During her presentation Jody Jones of the Maine Audubon Society, referenced cases in which the whirling wind turbines killed birds and bats by the hundreds.
She expressed particular concern about the migratory songbirds in the East and proposed that developers be required to assess the project's impact on wildlife before the turbines are constructed and after they are operational.
Pete Didisheim of the Natural Resources Council of Maine told the commission that certain sensitive sites - such as Mount Katahdin and Cadillac Mountain - should be off-limits to such development.
But he did say his group strongly supported wind technology in appropriate areas because of its potential environmental benefits.
"We believe the status quo ... is creating unacceptable harm in terms of public health, environmental damage and our pocketbooks," Didisheim said. "Wind power holds the potential ... to reduce some of that harm."

Source: http://www.bangornews.com/n...

DEC 8 2005
http://www.windaction.org/posts/649-state-energy-head-touts-wind-power-to-lurc
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