Articles filed under Energy Policy from Maine
There is ample evidence America's future for wind energy is mainly on the plains, not atop its peaks. If so, projects like TransCanada's 132-megawatt windfarm in northern Franklin County is perhaps the last of its kind. Maybe it should be. ... Turbines at high altitude just seem to attract controversy. Contested wind power plans for peaks in Roxbury and Byron, Redington Pond Range and Black Nubble Mountain were all proposed for above 2,000 feet.
Most of the Maine initiatives, he said, are at least months away from producing results, and the speed with which energy costs have risen means most companies can't afford to wait that long. "This is an issue that has percolated for a long time and neither Congress or the Senate has done anything effective," said Van Scotter, whose mill is shut down this week for mandatory maintenance. Recounting a conversation with [U.S. Rep. Michael] Michaud, Van Scotter said, "He didn't really have anything to say. I just didn't get any sense that there was anything he could do to help." And wind power, one of state government's biggest initiatives, isn't likely to produce anything close to the 10,000 gigawatts of electricity the U.S. needs to create annually to keep pace with rising demand, Van Scotter said.
Two utilities on Tuesday proposed $1.9 billion worth of electric infrastructure improvements to ensure reliability of the existing power grid as well as to connect northern Maine to the New England power grid for the first time. ...A study has indicated that the existing power grid serving CMP customers will no longer operate reliably beyond 2012 without the improvements, Burns said. Meanwhile, residents of northern Maine have not enjoyed the potential fruits of electric deregulation because Maine Public Service Co. is not connected to the rest of the New England power grid.
State regulators are soliciting public comments on new rules that will speed up the approval process for siting large wind farms throughout much of Maine. The new rules, which are based on legislation approved earlier this year by both the Legislature and Gov. John Baldacci, streamline the regulatory process by identifying areas as appropriate for wind-energy projects.
The millions of people who live south of Maine in the region from Boston to New York create huge demands for electricity. But because supplies are so limited, they have the highest power costs in America. ...Existing power lines running from central Maine to the south can't carry any greater peak load, either from within Maine or from our Canadian neighbors. As one economist put it, Maine is sandwiched between 6-cent power to our north and a 10-cent market to our south. That price gap is creating pressure to build a new $1 billion transmission line to move electricity from northern generators to southern customers.
The [New England] region's power system has had a long history of dependability, but electricity costs have been an issue for businesses and residents for decades. As the region plans ahead, New England's policymakers face a series of decisions that will have an abiding impact on our energy future. ...Economic, reliability and environmental goals are not always perfectly aligned when it comes to electricity generation and transmission. Whatever path policymakers choose to take will require trade-offs. How New England officials balance these sometimes conflicting goals will demonstrate our priorities, impact the regional economy and determine which objectives we can realistically achieve.
But, as Angus King knows too well, proclaiming Maine's potential for energy production through wind is easy to say, and near-impossible to achieve. Unless a project is sited in an out-of-the-way, unvisited, unremarkable corner of the state, potential for wind power has gone unrealized. Environmentalists bitterly disagree on projects, as do neighboring towns. King's own firm, Independence Wind, only earned a split decision for its turbine projects in Byron and Roxbury. Yet the state has designated Maine's rural towns as for expedited reviews of future wind power plans, in the interest of meeting lofty energy benchmarks. These forces are on an inevitable collision course. An offshore project would be a supernova.
Maine Governor John Baldacci is expected to sign this week a bill that creates fast-track review of wind farms and sets a goal to develop 3,000 MW of wind energy by 2020. The legislation requires that the state limit project review in the fast-track zone to no more than 185 days, unless a public hearing is necessary, which extends the cut off to 270 days. In contrast, state regulatory review for some Maine wind projects has taken years.
Harley Lee stood before lawmakers on the Utilities and Energy Committee at the State House on Monday, once again making the case for a Redington Township wind farm permit. ..."We've put over a decade in this and over $5 million so it's been a huge effort to try to save the planet here in Maine," said Lee, president of Endless Energy Corp. of Yarmouth. The debate over developing wind power in Maine was renewed during a public hearing before the legislative committee. The hearing focused on legislation to streamline and expedite the regulation process for wind power developers. The bill is based on the recommendations of Gov. John Baldacci's wind power task force, which released its official report in mid-February. ...Several people stood in opposition of the bill, including Dain Trafton of Phillips. Trafton said the bill's emphasis on streamlining the permitting process would weaken environmental protections already in place.
As Maine weighs its future electricity needs, a debate has emerged over which sources will truly generate significant amounts of power and fulfill their promise of being environmentally friendly. ..."The intermittency of wind creates problems for the electric system. Wind is here today and gone tomorrow," Chasse said. "In order to supplement that, you need complementary types of generation like hydro. You can store water to generate energy when there's no wind." Richard Hill, retired professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Maine, believes that wind power represents just a drop in the bucket of the needs of New England - and he worries about the long-term viability of natural gas."The major focus of energy concern must be on the 10,000 megawatts of New England generation capacity that is locked into natural gas," Hill said in a recent interview.
By giving organized Maine expedited status for wind developments, the state's task force has invited developers to consider these areas for projects. It's an incentive, plain and simple, to know where planning reviews will have priority, and where they will not. Reaction in Byron indicates towns and cities won't take to this designation, even if they think alternative energies are necessary. The belief somewhere else, or some other energy technology, is more appropriate is just too strong. It was in Byron, and if a reputed repeal effort in Roxbury gains strength, there, too. And these are emblematic of the towns wind companies should target - rural, mountainous and with low populations, and therefore low impact. But it's a choice to accept wind power, as communities and commissions have myriad reasons to reject proposals.
State and regional regulators acknowledge the hurdles - especially in northern New Hampshire - but don't have ready solutions. A bill before the New Hampshire Senate would have the state be ready to act if no regional solution is forthcoming. ISO New England, which manages power for the region, is considering changing rules so more of the costs of transmission upgrades could be shared regionally. But as things stand now, backers of projects generally must pay for upgrades needed to connect them to the system. "None of this is a real speedy process," acknowledges Michael Harrington, senior regional policy adviser for the state Public Utilities Commission.
A goal to make Maine a regional leader in wind power by developing 2,000 megawatts of capacity by 2015 may require more than just regulatory changes. Gov. John E. Baldacci's task force on wind power submitted a final report this week, calling for more than half the state to be identified as expedited permitting areas where a streamlined regulatory process would be used for wind power projects. If the goals of the report are met, between 1,000 and 2,000 wind turbines, each 400 feet tall, could be placed on Maine's landscape by 2020, enough to generate 3,000 megawatts of clean energy. ...Mitch Tannenbaum, deputy general counsel for the Maine Public Utilities Commission, said transmission capacity is something that will have to be addressed as 2,000 to 3,000 megawatts of generation capacity is added.
A high-level state task force that has drafted a plan to make Maine a leader in wind power is presenting its report to Gov. John Baldacci at the State House today. ...The task force also is recommending that most of the state be included in a new zone in which wind turbines proposals would receive expedited regulatory review.
Governor John E. Baldacci today received the final report of the Wind Power Task Force. The Governor created the task force by Executive Order last May and charged the group with reviewing the regulations that affect the development of wind power projects and recommend any changes that would assure that Maine has a balanced, efficient and appropriate regulatory framework for evaluating proposed projects. ..."Maine's natural resources are second to none," said the Governor. "There is tremendous potential for Maine to become a leader in clean, renewable energy - wind, wood and new technologies like tidal power are just a few."
A state task force has drafted a road map that it says will make Maine a major generator of wind power. The group's draft report calls for streamlined regulatory review of wind power projects in most regions of the state so 1,000 or more turbines could be set up by 2020. It also identifies important scenic areas -- places like Baxter State Park, Acadia National Park and the Appalachian Trail -- that would be protected from the visual impacts of wind farms. "This is a major step forward," said Alec Giffen, director of the Maine Forest Service and chairman of the Governor's Task Force on Wind Power. "It's going to put Maine in a position to be a leader in wind power and it's going to preserve Maine's quality of place." ...The final task force report will include a map of the regions where proposed wind farms would get speedier review by state agencies. Studies of wildlife impacts would still be required, but visual impacts would be considered only under special circumstances.
What is an appropriate wind-power site? It is understandable that a disappointed wind-power developer would sing the song of sour grapes regarding the rejection of its proposed wind- power project on Black Nubble and the previous rejection of the larger Redington Mountain proposal. The suggestion that the citizen commissioners of LURC do not understand wind power and that they are basically incompetent to judge such projects is, of course, ludicrous.
In separate decisions Monday, the Land Use Regulation Commission rejected one wind-power proposal but approved another that will be New England's largest wind installation. By a 4-2 vote Monday morning, the commission rejected Maine Mountain Power's 54-megawatt Black Nubble Wind Farm, which proposed 18 turbines on that Franklin County mountain. In the afternoon, the citizen board approved TransCanada's 132-megawatt Kibby Wind Power project, which calls for placing 44 turbines on Kibby Mountain and Kibby Range, both in Franklin County. When constructed, that project will be the largest of its kind in New England, according to TransCanada. Together, the two decisions amount to a mixed bag for the state's fledgling wind industry.
With Maine's spot as New England's largest generator of wind power already well-established, state regulators on Monday will consider two more projects that would produce enough clean power to keep the lights glowing and toasters cooking in more than 70,000 homes. ...Because the record was closed following last fall's hearings on the projects, no public testimony or comment will be accepted Monday, when the commissioners will essentially debate and discuss proposals. While Carroll said no vote is expected at Monday's public session, but a date could be set for a final decision.
The wind in New England blows mainly against big green-energy projects. At least that's the assessment of Matt Kearns, an audibly frazzled project manager for Newton, MA-based UPC Wind. Despite winning final approval last week for the creation of New England's largest wind-energy installation, now under construction on a ridge in northern Maine, Kearns says the regulatory and political barriers to placing major cleantech facilities in the region are high enough to scare off all but the most persistent and well-funded entrepreneurs. "The uncertainty and the costs associated with that uncertainty are pretty overwhelming, frankly, in many cases," says Kearns, who has spent the last several years shepherding UPC's Stetson Mountain wind farm project past the cautious scrutiny of state, county, and federal agencies, not to mention local residents and environmental groups.