Articles filed under Energy Policy from Maine
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.
On Capitol Hill, the Audubon Society is leading the fight to increase production of climate-friendly power. So why are Audubon enthusiasts battling a wind farm that could help meet that goal? For one thing, there are trout in nearby streams, which activists say are at risk from chemical and sediment runoff from construction of 30 turbines, each soaring about 400 feet -- taller than the Statue of Liberty. Then there are the bats and hawks, which might be puréed by the giant blades that would catch the wind gusting along the Allegheny Mountains of Western Pennsylvania. "They're enormous," says Tom Dick, a retired veterinarian who founded the local Audubon chapter. "When you start looking at this, it's like, 'hell, this is not right.'"
Among the options under consideration to keep a lid on the runaway cost of electricity in Maine is a cross-border alliance with New Brunswick and other provinces of Atlantic Canada, where affordable and renewable energy is abundant. One vocal critic of the status quo says that approach won't be enough to undo the damage done by "restructuring" through deregulation. ...While Canada may be a source of renewable energy that would reduce reliance on fossil fuels, Lee said affordability could remain an issue. "The fact is that many renewables require massive subsidies to entice investment," he said. "These subsidies ultimately must be paid either in electric rates or in taxes. Large investments in transmission are needed, and these costs must also be paid.
Land Use Regulation Commission unanimously approved the zoning request for a 57-megawatt project on Stetson Mountain, a ridge line that stretches between Danforth and Springfield in northern Washington County. The applicant, Evergreen Wind Power, has already built the region's largest operating wind farm -- a 42-megawatt, 28-turbine project in Mars Hill, Maine, that started generating power earlier this year. Evergreen is a subsidiary of UPC Wind Management of Newton, Mass.
While paper mills close and Cabletron spins off its remnants out of state, power plants from the Seacoast to Whitefield enjoy the perks of a poorly understood, $100-million subsidy program just for energy producers. It has a bureaucratic name: the forward capacity market. ...An unidentified 600-megawatt, gas-fired power plant project somewhere in Rockingham County is blocked behind half a dozen North Country renewable energy projects in the ISO-New England regulatory queue. The waiting list policy is first-come, first-served. A plant like that would typically pay its host community $4 million or more in property taxes, with few smokestack emissions. But those wind- and wood-fired projects at the front of the line are all in limbo. The Public Service power lines in the region are too small. Most of the players can't even bid into the upcoming ISO auction, because yet-to-be-built plants have to ante millions of dollars as a sort of performance bond. And the ISO doesn't make forward capacity payments for transmission line upgrades.
A National Park Service official who oversees the Appalachian Trail is scheduled to testify this morning that a proposed wind farm near Sugarloaf Mountain would have a dramatic effect on one of the most remote and scenic sections of the 2,175-mile hiking path. Pamela Underhill's testimony is certain to frustrate some observers, including some as far away as Washington, D.C. After Underhill delivered a similar message last summer about a larger version of the wind-farm proposal, a California congressman called her in for questioning and, in a letter to the secretary of the interior, questioned why someone at Underhill's level was allowed to take a stand against renewable energy.
FARMINGTON - The debate over wind power continued Friday as people wrangled over the need to develop sustainable renewable energy sources, conserve energy, preserve mountaintops, and where towering wind turbines would fit on Maine mountains, if they do.
If we really need "green power" so badly then we might as well rebuild the Edwards Dam across the Kennebec River in Augusta. Sound absurd? Well it is no more absurd than promoting industrial wind-power development in the protected mountain areas of Maine. The Land Use Regulation Commission created mountain protection areas above 2,700 feet in 1972 for the simple reason that industrial development was not environmentally acceptable in the fragile alpine and subalpine areas of the Maine mountains.
"Maine is prepared to host thousands of megawatts of generation capacity from wind and biomass" to serve southern New England's "insatiable appetite for energy," Gov. John Baldacci wrote in a letter to the state's congressional delegation. "However, the development of these resources for New England must not harm Maine consumers or adversely impact our environment, which is the cornerstone of our economy," he wrote. Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins are working with Sen. Thune to ensure the intent of the amendment - to ensure wind power projects have access to transmission lines - is met without overruling the interests of host states and maybe even assuring that such states' ratepayers benefit as well.
Legislators in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic passed a number of bills applying to the electric power industry, with several states committing to emissions reductions through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and other states making broad organizational changes to their regulatory processes.
AUGUSTA — A new study of the legalities and logistics of an electrical utility partnership involving Maine and New Brunswick shows no significant barriers to such a cross-border collaboration. It also shows “significant economic and environmental benefits” are possible on both sides of the border through closer coordination in the production and transmission of electricity.
If we focus on just the United States, with 300 million people and 100 quadrillion Btu of energy, the consumption per person jumps by a factor of five: 100 100-watt light bulbs. To be sure, this energy is not consumed in the form of electricity, but in the form of gasoline, coal, hydro power, etc. Yet many people project that this magnitude of energy consumption can be sustained by energy sources such as solar collectors on roofs, biofuel from switchgrass, and wind farms. These people simply can't do arithmetic.
The executive order creating the task force notes that "wind resources occur in various areas of the State that may have important ecological, natural resource, remote resource, and other values that are important to Maine people that can lead to conflict regarding the siting of wind power facilities." The group is to recommend ways to resolve such conflicts, to improve and streamline regulation and siting, and to encourage wind power in Maine. The order does not say that an important value is being able to turn on lights, televisions, computers, coffee makers, computers, and on and on.
Gov. John Baldacci signed an executive order Tuesday that creates the Governor's Task Force on Wind Power Development in Maine. "Maine must be aggressive in pursuing alternative sources of energy," Gov. Baldacci said. "We know that climate change is real. We know that people are contributing to the problem. And we know that wind power is a good source of clean, renewable energy." The Task Force will review regulations that affect the development of wind power projects in the state and recommend any changes that would assure that Maine has a balanced, efficient and appropriate regulatory framework for evaluating proposed developments.
"Our analysis finds that there are no insurmountable legal, economic or technical barriers to withdrawing from ISO-NE," he said. "Viable alternatives to ISO-NE now exist, such as the formation of a Maine independent transmission company or the creation of a Maine-Canadian Maritimes market." Adams said the MPUC continues to study both options and will make its recommendations in a final report to the Legislature in January 2008. The preliminary report indicates that the final report will focus on "opportunities" with Canada's Maritime provinces.
Despite last week’s ruling by state officials that could lead to final rejection of the proposed Redington wind power project in western Maine, Gov. John Baldacci said he remains committed to that form of renewable energy. The governor did not question last Wednesday’s 6-1 vote by the Land Use Regulation Commission, saying that LURC “is an independent, citizen board” that must scrutinize each project in a balanced and measured way. “They are responsible for evaluating projects like this one. Just because I support an expansion of wind energy does not exempt the project from the review process. These things have to be done in a reasonable way,” the governor told The Associated Press.
A federal law designed to ease electricity transmission bottlenecks and improve power reliability could hit Maine ratepayers in the pocketbooks, twice. The measure could force the construction of transmission lines to move Maine’s surplus power south. Not only could the loss of the surplus increase the price of electricity in the state, but Maine consumers would also have to pay part of the cost of building the lines.
Although the approach is too late for projects that have already begun a federal review process, a dozen New England congressmen and senators have asked for help from the Department of Energy in coordinating a regional approach to siting liquefied natural gas facilities. Reps. Tom Allen and Mike Michaud have both signed on to this request, which makes sense for future energy projects.
New England will need to add power plants capable of generating 4,300 megawatts, and $3.4 billion of additional transmission investment, by 2015 to avoid blackouts, the region’s grid operator says. The area will need 170 megawatts of new power before the summer of 2009 to assure adequate supplies, according to ISO New England Inc., the power grid and wholesale market operator that serves the region’s 14 million people........ If a 1,000 megawatt coal or nuclear power plant had been installed in 2005, buyers in the wholesale market would have saved $600 million in power costs, the report said.
Chandler Woodcock, Republican candidate for governor, has done Maine citizens a great service by calling attention to the fact that wind power is an inefficient and expensive way to generate electricity (”Blaine House hopefuls square off,” BDN, Sept. 15).