Will Maine legislators ever wise up to the fact that our feel-good state energy policy is draining hundreds of millions of dollars from Maine’s economy and billions from the New England economy? As giant turbines continue to proliferate on more and more of our mountains and smiling wind developers pocket vast amounts of taxpayer and ratepayer money that should have been invested instead in more dependable forms of clean energy, one has to wonder.
In a recent Bangor Daily News column, Chris O’Neil, vice president for public affairs at Friends of Maine’s Mountains, described in stark terms the negative impact our preferential treatment of wind development has had on the ability of the New England electricity grid system to respond at times of peak demand. O’Neil cited one day earlier this month when high regional demand, coupled with the minimal contribution provided by wind and solar generation (not even half of one percent of the load), caused spot prices for electricity to fluctuate from under $30 to more than $1,000 per megawatt-hour (MWH) over the course of the day. Idle coal and oil plants were forced to fire up, factories were asked to close up shop and send workers home and the region’s entire available natural gas supply was being used by homes and businesses, with none left to run the dozens of new clean electric plants that have replaced coal and oil plants in recent years.
“The billions [of dollars] wasted in the last decade on unsustainable feel-good generation assets were the same billions that should have been invested in critical, dependable clean energy infrastructure,” wrote O’Neil. “Specifically, our natural gas transmission constraints and our lack of access to large-scale Canadian hydro now stand as tragic examples of our grossly negligent misappropriation of resources.”
Maine’s unsustainable energy policy, which enables scarce dollars to be funneled to wealthy wind developers, is resulting in higher electricity rates, taxes and pollution, said O’Neil. And that’s happening in a state that, without wind turbines, already was generating almost all of its electricity from clean sources other than oil and coal.
Maybe, just maybe, some Mainers are becoming less inclined to fall in line and accept the state’s excessively generous standards for wind development. The Fort Fairfield Town Council recently approved a wind ordinance requiring turbine siting of one mile from property lines of non-participating property owners, rather than acceding to the state model — written by the wind industry — requiring setback of only 150 percent of the height of the turbine. That’s less than 800 feet. Industry representatives and their supporters say the ordinance is too restrictive and amounts to a de factor ban on wind development. To that, we say so what? Why shouldn’t a community be able to decide for itself whether an intrusive and destructive industry should be allowed to run roughshod over the wishes of residents?
Thanks to compliant legislators and their leadership, who have given the industry almost carte blanche to establish its own rules, Mainers have had too little say in the siting and development of often massive wind farms.
It’s time for that to change.