Library filed under Energy Policy from Massachusetts
Building more electricity transmission into New England isn't about an "energy crisis." It's about economics, jobs, corporate profit, failure to make the small fixes that add up, failure to do detailed analysis, failure to resist stampede crisis mentality, and lots of other things.
“The states and NESCOE are deliberately working out the details of this plan in secret, consistent with the view of one of NESCOE’s staffers that the plan should be ‘formulated behind closed doors’ because the ‘court of public opinion can be fickle and recalcitrant,’ ” Courchesne wrote, quoting an email from a NESCOE staff member to Executive Director Heather Hunt.
Developers are pitching plans, and are now offering states handsome “benefits packages” in seeking their support. In addition, states could earn millions from new property or infrastructure taxes, the leasing of existing right-of-ways and financial returns on public investment in the lines. But these assurances aren’t enough, according to Kerrick Johnson, vice president of Vermont Electric Power Co., or VELCO.
Hanover is hardly the only Massachusetts community to grapple with the unanticipated costs of wind energy. In Falmouth, residents rebelled against two turbines stating that the noise was too much ...A similar problem plagued a Kingston wind development where noise and flicker from the blades became a cause of concern.
There are 44 wind projects currently operating in Massachusetts. They generate less than 0.6 percent of the state’s electricity needs and just a fifth of the terrestrial wind energy goal set by Patrick. By Irvine’s calculations, there are 49 wind projects that never got off the ground; she calls them dead wind. And 13 projects are in limbo, or still in the permitting process.
The state has spent the last several years pushing renewables, imposing mandates on utilities to create markets for the power and offering incentives to spur the construction of wind and solar projects. Last year, more than 242 megawatts of solar generating capacity were installed in the state ...The state has 103 megawatts of wind generating capacity. Using more alternative energy, however, could raise utility bills for households and businesses. Wind power and solar power tend to be more expensive than traditional sources, while large-scale hydropower is cheaper.
The Berkshire planning board filed comments in November saying, “We are puzzled as to why the DPU is taking the lead in the development of wind energy facility guidelines, as this agency does not have jurisdiction over the siting of energy generating facilities that generate less than 100 MW and thus is very unlikely to oversee the permitting of any land-based wind energy projects in the state.
The move comes on the heels of five consecutive attempts by the Patrick administration to pass the Wind Siting Reform Act, which could have eliminated local control of the permitting process ...In the Berkshires, the act was fiercely opposed because of the perceived lack of local control and the predominance of identified sites. With higher elevations and open space, residents fears industrial wind turbines would be placed in their back yards without their input.
But the situation has prompted some soul-searching as some residents worry more wind turbines will turn the woodsy state into New England's utility closet. Opponents also question wind power's environmental merits and say turbines aren't worth spoiled views or noise. Larry Dunphy, a Republican state representative, recently posited a future when "you won't be able to climb a mountain without seeing blinking red lights and spinning turbines."
A special committee created by the assembly in 2012 supported concerns from residents — many of whom oppose land-based wind energy projects on the Cape — about transparency, finances and governance of the two organizations. "The concerns raised by the citizens of Barnstable County still need to be dealt with," said Lilli-Ann Green of Wellfleet.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Barry Finegold, D-Andover, would streamline the permitting process that now requires the state to certify an area has the wind to power a turbine before the plan goes to a town’s zoning and planning boards for permission. The state then has to sign off on the plan.
The guidelines for best practices that are expected from the DPU process are not regulations but would be offered to towns to use in existing reviews of wind-energy projects, DPU spokeswoman Mary-Leah Assad wrote in an email.
What’s more, while the state has okayed three industrial scale wind-farms, the state committee that approves power development denied a project in Antrim in February. Opposition to wind power has also grown steadily in the legislature. Last week at an industry-organized “energy summit” senate majority leader Jeb Bradley said he would fight “tooth and nail” against wind development on New Hampshire’s ridge-lines.
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.
So Gloucester residents are paying about one third more for the energy generated by the windmills. Plus, they have to look at the hideous structures defacing their historic harbor. Gloucester's frugal 17th century founders would have been shocked both by the eyesore and the waste of resources. ...Gloucester's windmills are part of the new green theology, which holds that renewables always trump fossil fuels. Too bad for Gloucester residents that the facts don't fit the fairy tale.
The rising cost of green energy mandates in Massachusetts is starting to raise concerns, with one utility estimating the state's renewable energy initiatives currently account for 5.4 percent of a typical customer's monthly bill and are expected to take a much larger share in the next few years. ...The National Grid estimate is the first attempt to assess the cost of the state's green energy initiatives, most of which are more than five years old.
Patrick's wind energy goal - 2,000 megawatts by 2020 - is still a long way off and has been greeted with suspicion from opponents of both land-based and offshore wind energy projects. Currently the state has 103 megawatts of wind energy installed, all on land. Projects have been roundly criticized by neighbors and other foes of wind energy who say the technology is unreliable and damaging to public health.
Now that Falmouth voters have overwhelmingly said they will not pay for Gov. Patrick's turbine siting mistake, the Patrick administration is doing what government does best: rearrange the furniture and put a new spin on its troubled plan for 2,000 megawatts of wind power by 2020.
"The legislature has refused for five years now to go along with [Governor Patrick's] plan to strip communities of the right to control the location and operation of wind turbines, so now he's doing an end run by directing his handpicked agencies to come up with a new strategy."
Hydropower could play a larger role in New England's energy mix as five of the region's states, including Massachusetts, move to import more of it - most likely from Canada - and at least one has passed a law that could allow electricity from large-scale hydrolectric dams to be classified as green as wind or solar energy.