Articles from Maine
Selectman Ed Rankin said he wasn’t sure how the town would vote. He said attendees at a town meeting back in June were evenly divided as to whether or not they supported the project. Travis Bullard, of Eolian Renewable Energy, said that if 51 percent of the voters indicated they were not supportive of the plan, they probably would not go forward with it.
"We think that it is likely there will be significant additional transmission investment needed to maintain reliability and improve access to these clean, intermittent power sources," Lee Olivier, executive vice president and chief operating officer, said in an earnings call Friday. "But it is too early to estimate how much that additional investment will be and exactly when it will occur."
As part of the wind project, 59 miles of transmission lines would run from the Oakfield area, through various towns, to a grid hook-up in Chester, in Penobscot County. "And they are crossing numerous water bodies," Williams says. "All those crossings require both temporary and permanent fill." Filling in those waterways, Williams argues, would harm water quality and endanger Atlantic salmon and Bald Eagles.
Opponents of a soon-to-be-started wind farm in the Aroostook County town of Oakfield took legal action Tuesday in a last-minute attempt to stop the project. They filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Bangor, aimed at a 50-turbine wind farm to be erected by First Wind of Boston through its subsidiary, Evergreen Wind II LLC. Initial road construction is set to begin before winter on the 150-megawatt project.
Aroostook County becomes a major hub for wind power development.
One thing utility customers are eager to see is how much they'll have to pay to support the project. That figure likely won't be released until next month. Price was a sticking point for LePage's administration when it came to Statoil's project, which it said would have pushed $200 million in costs onto utility customers over 20 years. LePage, called it a bad deal for the state.
"The environmental effects … will primarily accrue to the citizens of sparsely populated Aroostook County, certain parts of Canada's Maritime Provinces, and the Atlantic Ocean," regulators said in their decision to approve the contracts. On the electricity from Maine: "Because of transmission limitations, it appears that the electricity generated by this project will remain exclusively or largely in Maine and not be delivered to Connecticut or elsewhere outside of Maine," regulators said.
On the electricity from Maine, regulators said, “Because of transmission limitations, it appears that the electricity generated by this project will remain exclusively or largely in Maine and not be delivered to Connecticut or elsewhere outside of Maine.”
Other projects in the same bid were disqualified based on lack of site control, including one that made it all the way to the final stage in the process and was recommended, like the EDP Renewable project. The two companies, which submitted bids that weren't chosen by the state, first raised the concerns about EDP Renewable's apparent lack of site control in filings with state utility regulators in the past two weeks.
“If you get it wrong, bad things happen,” Nicholas Miller, a senior director at General Electric’s energy consulting arm, said about developing the grid in accordance with renewable energy growth. “Germany didn’t see 20 Gigawatts with a ‘G’ (of solar) coming in in 24 months. They got their interconnection rules wrong … and it’s costing them a quarter of a billion dollars to put the genie back into the bottle.”
Adrienne Bennett, LePage’s press secretary, released a news statement Tuesday afternoon that reaffirmed the governor's opposition. “The Administration has been perfectly clear through the regulatory process that the term-sheet offered by Statoil was ironclad in its cost – placing a $200 million burden on Mainers by way of increasing electric costs," according to the statement. "Additionally, the corporation was ambiguous in its commitment to growing Maine’s economy."
First Wind argues that its project complies with existing law. If it’s not successful, First Wind could face penalties stemming from its deal with National Grid. While the deal is complicated with various opportunities for First Wind to extend milestone deadlines toward completion of the project, the bottom line is that if First Wind does not get its DEP permit and does not complete the wind farm by March 2017, it would forfeit nearly $1.5 million it put up in security.
While Ehrhardt acknowledges the fact that National Grid has signed an agreement with Deepwater, he believes there should be some re-negotiating about this agreement. "There are contracts in place, so I'm not suggesting we just walk away from our obligations, as foolish as they may be," said Erhardt, referring to the PPA between National Grid and Deepwater. "Instead, we should consider contractual renegotiating, by trying to come up with a buyout asking Deepwater to reimburse us."
“As a general principle, the more information that’s in the public view, the better, because people may have interesting, important things to say to us,” said PUC Chairman Thomas Welch in an interview after PUC deliberations took place in Hallowell.
The prospect of a new construction boom isn’t being welcomed by Gov. Paul LePage, who has been a vocal critic of the cost of wind energy. For one thing, the negotiated rates aren’t as low as they seem, according to Patrick Woodcock, the governor’s energy director, because of the added cost of upgrading transmission lines. Beyond that, he said, out-of-state power agreements don’t help Mainers with their high energy bills, which could be lower if wind had more competition from Canadian hydro and new biomass plants. “Wind is not the only option for renewable energy generation in New England,” he said.
It has been reported that Massachusetts’ utilities National Grid, Northeast Utilities and Unitil have negotiated power purchase agreements (PPAs) for 565 megawatts of electricity capacity from existing and proposed wind farms in New Hampshire and Maine that would provide electricity at wholesale rates of approximately 8 cents per kilowatt-hour.
The two projects announced Friday will provide 3.5 percent of Connecticut's total energy load and one-fifth of the state's renewable energy goals By law, the state must obtain 20 percent of its electric needs from renewable sources by 2020. The final choices were Esty's, based on recommendations from a procurement team from DEEP's Bureau of Energy and Technology Policy, and the offices of the Consumer Counsel and Attorney General.
In the 17 years since Maine Yankee began dismantling its reactors and shedding its 600 workers, this small, coastal town north of Portland has experienced drastic changes: property taxes have spiked by more than 10 times for the town's 3,700 residents, the number living in poverty has more than doubled as many professionals left, and town services and jobs have been cut.
The UMaine partnership's lawyer, Tony Buxton, said the proposal was filed as a confidential document in keeping with the practices of all other PUC bidders, including Statoil, and would be made public if and when a power contract is awarded by the PUC. Buxton pointed out that the university project is in competition for federal energy funds with six national deep water wind proposals, including Statoil.
When a proposal to get the state's electric ratepayers to pay higher-than-market prices for power from an experimental offshore wind project comes sealed from public view, it's natural to wonder why. That the proposal comes from a partnership involving the University of Maine, a taxpayer-funded institution, makes it even more curious. The public deserves to know what it may be buying, and competitors need to know that the process is fair.