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'Gold rush' on to harness, deliver wind power

Politicians, scientists and policymakers seek to put Maine at the forefront of an energy revolution powered by world-class wind power blowing against the state's entire coast. The Ocean Energy Task Force, convened by Gov. John Baldacci, held its first meeting last week to begin the work of determining how the Atlantic Ocean might power homes, businesses and transportation in Maine and beyond.

Politicians, scientists and policymakers seek to put Maine at the forefront of an energy revolution powered by world-class wind power blowing against the state's entire coast.

The Ocean Energy Task Force, convened by Gov. John Baldacci, held its first meeting last week to begin the work of determining how the Atlantic Ocean might power homes, businesses and transportation in Maine and beyond.

Stacked with experts in a variety of areas, the task force is the latest in a string of initiatives that aim to ease the energy burden on Maine families and position the state to cash in on a budding global industry.

The recommendations of this task force - which hopes to reach consensus on some issues before the end of the legislative session in June - will supplement the work of other past and future initiatives.

The Pre-Emergency Energy Task Force, appointed by Baldacci, generated a report in July calling for a variety of measures to reduce energy consumption.

The 2007 Task Force on Wind Power Development, also formed by Baldacci, suggested Maine exploit its wind resource with offshore turbines that could generate 300 megawatts of peak-season electricity by 2020.

That's enough power for about... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Politicians, scientists and policymakers seek to put Maine at the forefront of an energy revolution powered by world-class wind power blowing against the state's entire coast.

The Ocean Energy Task Force, convened by Gov. John Baldacci, held its first meeting last week to begin the work of determining how the Atlantic Ocean might power homes, businesses and transportation in Maine and beyond.

Stacked with experts in a variety of areas, the task force is the latest in a string of initiatives that aim to ease the energy burden on Maine families and position the state to cash in on a budding global industry.

The recommendations of this task force - which hopes to reach consensus on some issues before the end of the legislative session in June - will supplement the work of other past and future initiatives.

The Pre-Emergency Energy Task Force, appointed by Baldacci, generated a report in July calling for a variety of measures to reduce energy consumption.

The 2007 Task Force on Wind Power Development, also formed by Baldacci, suggested Maine exploit its wind resource with offshore turbines that could generate 300 megawatts of peak-season electricity by 2020.

That's enough power for about 300,000 average homes, according to general guidelines on several Web sites.

And in January, legislative leaders will appoint a joint select committee on energy for the purpose of developing legislation.

This initiative was announced by Senate President Libby Mitchell, D-Vassalboro, and House Speaker Hannah Pingree, D-North Haven, when they assumed their leadership roles Dec. 3.

In addition to wind power, the Ocean Energy Task Force will explore the viability of other oceanic forces, including waves, tides and to a smaller extent, the oil and natural gas that exist beneath the Outer Continental Shelf. A small portion of that area is within Maine territory.

According to experts who testified last week to the task force, generating electricity from wind has the greatest potential among those options for economic and technological reasons.

"This is where the gold rush of renewable energy is going," said Habib Dagher, a University of Maine professor and member of the task force.

Dagher and others described a lag in the technology to harness wave and tidal power and a limited supply of fossil fuels as the reasons wind is the most attractive option.

After the infrastructure is built, wind is a free resource, they said, though it's not without its problems. Because winter winds blow stronger, less electricity would be generated in warmer months.

That means another source of energy would have to fill the gaps.

And regardless of what method of power generation is pursued, the challenge of delivering it quickly comes to the forefront.

Maine's existing electrical transmission lines would need a significant upgrade to accommodate more power - an upgrade Central Maine Power Company says is already needed.

There are two proposals pending before the Maine Public Utilities Commission to upgrade the state's power lines. One, submitted by CMP, would bolster transmission lines in the southern half of the state.

The other, backed by CMP and Maine Public Service, would connect Northern Maine with the larger New England power grid through a new 200-mile, high-capacity transmission line.

Adding electricity to the New England grid requires approval from all New England states, and there is only a certain amount of power needed - even in the event of a wide-scale move to renewable energy.

"System integration is not an easy task," Sharon Reishus, chairwoman of the Maine Public Utilities Commission, told the task force last week. "I certainly hope Maine is a major player in this quest, but there's only so much wind resources that can be supported."

Other New England states are also pursuing renewable energy projects, so Maine will have to move quickly if its wind power is to be exploited.

Former Gov. Angus King, a member of the task force, urged expediency and producing something in time for the current Legislature to act on, such as streamlining the permitting process.

"Let's establish what the rules are going to be but not bog ourselves down with endless interveners," he said. "We're in a crisis. I think we're wasting our time if we don't come out of this with something that readies the process."

Beth Nagusky, director of the Maine Office of Energy Independence and Security, who co-chairs the Ocean Energy Task Force, agreed that streamlining the approval process, and perhaps pre-permitting some sites for wind turbine facilities, should be priorities.

"The task force would be most helpful in the long term if we look at existing policies and permitting processes," she said. "We need to look at the remaining obstacles and create incentives so we can use our resources to benefit Maine families."

The task force is still developing its schedule, but it plans to meet at least once a month.


Source: http://knox.villagesoup.com...

DEC 18 2008
https://www.windaction.org/posts/18309-gold-rush-on-to-harness-deliver-wind-power
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