Unsustainable costs of useless wind power in Maine

The wind in Maine’s mountains blows enough only to keep a wind turbine operating about 25% of the time. And yet as this article by Tux Turkel makes clear, it will take hundreds of millions, probably billions, to raze enough of Maine’s wild places and build the snarl of transmission lines that this totally unreliable power source demands. That's IN ADDITION TO the $1 billion plus we've already spent here in Maine to upgrade transmission lines for wind developers!

Maine people will pay for the redundant generation and the unnecessary transmission build-up, but the electricity will be shipped to the south.

While paying for wasteful infrastructure is bad enough, we will pay extra for the irreversible impact on Maine’s tourism industry. We have been investing heavily to attract visitors to the state, but our policy makers have greased the skids for developers who propose to ruin the very natural beauty that attracts visitors here in the first place. All to accommodate a power source that does no good here in Maine.

Do you remember the last time your electricity bill went down? By subsidizing wind developers, you rest assured it will only go up. Read the article in the Press Herald, and ask yourself if this makes any sense.

PAY UP, SUCKER --- electricity increases next June

Get ready to pay A LOT MORE for your electricity.

Get ready to pay A LOT MORE for your electricity.

If you have deep pockets, you probably applaud the Maine Legislature for artificially propping up the wind industry in this state. If you don’t have deep pockets, be afraid. Be VERY afraid.

Take a look at your most recent electric bill. Next year you’ll pay an increased per-kilowatt rate, according to Tux Turkel, the well-informed utilities writer for the MaineToday newspapers. In fact, Turkel wrote on Saturday, July 30 that you can also expect “your electric bill to go up for the next few years.” (Emphasis added.

As we said a few months ago, the wholesale cost of generating electricity is falling through the floor.  Yet our electric rates continue to climb, because your light bill includes a LOT more than the simple cost of “generating electricity.”  Don’t worry if you’re totally confused by Turkel’s explanation. The convoluted  process for setting electric rates is incomprehensible to the average Maine ratepayer. If you have a headache after reading the article, you’re not alone. However, one thing is clear, according to Turkel. “Clean energy also is benefiting from the spike in capacity payments.”

Capacity Payments to necessary New England power plants in March 2017 will triple from the average $1 billion per year historically over the last decade to $3 billion for 2017. That is a penalty on Maine ratepayers of about $160 million. And it's about the equivalent of raising the Maine sales tax by a penny. Our Capacity Payments will increase even more the following year (2018) to $4 billion. $4 billion amounts to more than one half of the entire New England energy market value! A few years ago, capacity payments were just one tenth of the energy market value. That’s our money, and it’s being extracted from our economy, and it’s going up in smoke as we continue to build redundant, unnecessary, and useless electricity generation.

But we pay for more than just generation.  For reasons that we have explained repeatedly, building wind turbines in our state’s most scenic areas does absolutely nothing to reduce Maine’s use of fossil fuels. However, building the transmission lines that enable wind speculators to erect turbines on Maine mountains, and thus to generate electricity that actually goes to consumers in Connecticut and Massachusetts, gives license to developers to cash in on lavish ratepayer and taxpayer subsidies. (That’s your pocketbook.) The Maine Legislature has specifically encouraged this scheme. And now, it’s all about to have another very real and very direct impact on the size of your light bill. As we have predicted for a very long time, Maine people are REALLY going to pay --- through the nose --- for the privilege of providing the states to our south with insignificant amounts of “clean” energy. Those folks will feel good about themselves, falsely believing they’re saving the planet, while Maine people will pay the very steep price --- literally.

Get ready for next June, and start saving your pennies. Your discretionary income is going down, thanks to bad policies.

Dear Maine: Don’t depend on Maine reporters for Maine news

If you think the following sentence qualifies as news, well then how dare you expect to get it from some of Maine’s most prominent media outlets.

Allowing the Bowers wind farm, the (Board of Environmental Protection) determined, would adversely affect the views around nine scenic lakes considered of ‘state or national significance,’ said Cynthia S. Bertocci, executive analyst for the board.”

That’s right, in early June, Maine’s natural beauty and the Board of Environmental Protection killed a major industrial wind project proposed for Bowers Mountain by First Wind, the second major defeat here for First Wind in the last few months. You can read "Hawaii wind player gets comeuppance in Maine" in the Hawaii Free Press, or you can read “First Wind sees setbacks in Maine” in the Boston Globe.

But do you know who didn't tell Mainers about the decision, made two and a half weeks ago? The Portland Press Herald, the Maine Sunday Telegram, the Kennebec Journal, the Coastal Journal, the Central Maine Morning Sentinel, WMTW, the Associated Press, Maine Public Radio, the Lewiston Sun Journal, the Times-Record, the Journal Tribune, WMTW, WGME, WABI, WVII and WAGM.

Whether you’re a supporter or an opponent of blowing up Maine’s mountain tops for industrial wind turbines that operate just 25% of the time, please remember that if you live in Maine, there’s a very good chance you’re never getting the whole story from the media here.

More voices on our side

Today's Bangor Daily News reports on a new group that is joining the fight.  Although the group is focused on other issues, they are also concerned about the proliferation of wind turbines in Maine.  The group, formed by Michael Bond and Richard McDonald, is called Saving Maine. It islaunching a print and radio advertising campaign soon. Considering all the great work that many people in the “Citizens’ Task Force on Wind Power – Maine” have done, we hope Saving Maine is another effective voice in the growing coalition against useless and costly industrial wind turbines where they don’t belong. 

MOMENTUM IS INCREASING, thanks to all those willing to look behind the headlines. We wish Saving Maine the best of luck.

25% reliability is terrible standard for “renewable” energy

It is true that we are against blowing up the tops of Maine’s scenic mountains to build industrial wind turbines that do nothing to reduce the state’s dependence on fossil fuels.

It is false that we are against TRUE renewable energy sources. Check out this dairy farm in Exeter, Maine. It takes food waste, combines it with cow manure, and generates electricity. The fuel supply is constant (those cows never stop!), which means the power is dependable and reliable 100% of the time. Unlike the wind turbines in Maine, which extract heavy subsidies from YOU, the ratepayer and taxpayer, but which operate only 25% of the time, when the wind is blowing. Thus when the wind isn't blowing, wind turbines in Maine require burning fossil fuels in conventional power plants as back-up, thus they do nothing to reduce our use of fossil fuels. And we're spending a BILLION DOLLARS on this non-solution.

Wind turbines on Maine’s mountains are a terrible idea, but we think many renewable ideas have great potential.

We’ve been told, for instance, that this country needs to replace tens of thousands of bridges. The EPA made a $15,000 grant available a couple of years ago for students to study the possibility of capturing wind power on highway bridges. The expected results were “an inventory of potential energy by bridge underpass type and location, and design guidelines for new underpass bridges and retrofit of existing underpass bridges to maximize wind generated power. The results on existing underpasses, model testing in a wind tunnel, turbine designs and estimated electrical energy production for several cases will help demonstrate the feasibility of harvesting and converting wind energy in support of bridge underpass infrastructure.”

Loading up the country’s bridges with wind turbines may work, it may not. One thing it has going for it is that it doesn’t try to capture one resource by destroying another, as the turbines on Maine’s mountains do.

This news was released in Hawaii today

Hawaii wind player gets comeuppance in Maine

(Augusta, Maine) First Wind, the industrial wind developer whose projects in Hawaii have sparked controversy, has suffered two major setbacks recently in Maine.

Last week the Maine Board of Environmental Protection voted 4-1 to deny First Wind’s appeal of a decision by the state’s Department of Environmental Protection to reject the company’s proposal for a 16-turbine, 48 megawatt industrial wind project in a remote area of the state. That effectively kills the project, a major loss for First Wind, with the company’s last and only recourse now being to sue one or both agencies in the state’s supreme court.

Earlier this year Maine’s supreme court struck a major blow to First Wind when it overturned regulators’ approval of a financing arrangement between the company and Emera, an electric utility company based in Nova Scotia. The decision threatens another First Wind project in the state, and possibly the company’s overall financial stability.

In Hawaii, First Wind operates four industrial wind projects, Kahuku Wind, Kawailoa Wind, Kaheawa Wind I and Kaheawa Wind II. The company also has an office on Maui. First Wind’s projects in Hawaii have been controversial, highlighted by fires at the Kahuku facility on Oahu’s North Shore in 2011 and 2012, causing safety and pollution concerns. The National Wind Watch, an anti-wind group, lists two anti-wind groups in the state of Hawaii, I Aloha Molokai and Makani Lanai.

Chris O’Neil, a spokesperson for the anti-wind group Friends of Maine’s Mountains, said the two losses for First Wind are significant, because the company can no longer count on the “blind faith” of the state’s legislature and regulatory agencies, as they had previously been able to.

“Folks here are catching on to the way First Wind does business, and they don’t like it,” O’Neil said. “They play inside baseball, fertilizing the landscape with a lot of sponsorships and political contributions. It could be that this heavy-handed business model is starting to backfire.”

O’Neil said Maine has a virulent and growing anti-wind community, and he pointed to a 2010 news article about Kurt Adams, First Wind’s executive vice president and chief development officer, as one of the reasons for the growing backlash.

According to the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting, Adams once worked for Maine’s governor, in charge of making sure companies like First Wind followed the state’s rules and regulations. “While he was Maine’s chief utilities regulator,” reporter Naomi Schalit wrote, “Kurt Adams accepted an ownership interest in a leading wind energy company. One month later, in May 2008, he went to work for that company, First Wind, as a senior vice president. The move from a state job to the private sector richly rewarded Adams: A ‘summary compensation table’ in a recent SEC filing shows that Adams's 2009 compensation of $1.3 million included $315,000 in salary, $658,000 in stock awards, $29,000 of "other" compensation and $315,000 in "non-equity incentives."

In the past several months, Adams has been on the “host committee” of several fundraisers for U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, a Democratic candidate for Maine governor and supporter of industrial wind. Maine’s current governor, Paul LePage, is not as chummy with the industry, which relies heavily on ratepayer and taxpayer subsidies.

O’Neil said educating Maine people about the political muscle of wind industrialists has been a slow process, but organizations like Friends of Maine’s Mountains are now having much more success winning converts to the anti-wind cause in that state.

“It’s ironic, but First Wind’s approach has made it easier for us to reach people. Their strong-arm tactics and manipulation of the political process attract attention. That makes it easier for us to point out that wind turbines do not make economic sense in Maine.”

Friends of Maine’s Mountains (FMM) is an non-profit educational organization that raises awareness of the destructive toll that industrial wind turbines inflict on Maine’s precious and finite mountain areas. For more information, www.FriendsOfMainesMountains.org.

On The Web:

  1.   "PUC chairman took equity stake in wind company"
  2.  First Wind
  3. Friends of Maine's Mountains
  4. Emera
  5. "Citizen board upholds Maine DEP's rejection of Bowers Mountain wind farm permit"


Get silent treatment, turn up volume

Kudos to WCSH/WLBZ and to the Bangor Daily News. They are the only Maine media to report on First Wind’s stinging 4-1 defeat last week in front of the Board of Environmental Protection.

No other media in the state thought it was important to tell Maine people that the Bowers Wind project is dead. Among THE SILENT were the Portland Press Herald, the Maine Sunday Telegram, the Kennebec Journal, the Coastal Journal, the Central Maine Morning Sentinel, WMTW, the Associated Press, Maine Public Radio, the Lewiston Sun Journal, the Times-Record, the Journal Tribune, WMTW, WGME, WABI, WVII and WAGM.

So here’s what we’re doing. We’re taking the news to every state in the nation in which First Wind does business. From Maine to Hawaii, yessiree. Click on the image below to see the press release we just sent out to reporters and editors in Massachusetts. If the Maine media won’t get news of First Wind’s troubles to those who would be interested, we will.

ATTENTION, FIRST WIND: People around the country are starting to compare notes. The free ride's over.

“Largest media company” omits reporting news to Maine

You would think state regulators killing First Wind’s proposed industrial wind factory on Bowers Mountain would be news to Maine people. Not in the opinion of the Portland Press Herald, the Maine Sunday Telegram, the Kennebec Journal, The Coastal Journal or the Central Maine Morning Sentinel, all owned by MaineToday Media.

None of the papers have reported the news from Thursday’s BEP meeting. MaineToday Media calls itself the largest media company in Maine, and that “with the largest audience in Maine, the combined reach of our print and online products influence over 1000,000 households and over 1.2 million unique visitors every month.”

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      First Wind’s latest big defeat was not widely reported in Maine, for reasons unknown

First Wind’s latest big defeat was not widely reported in Maine, for reasons unknown

Opposition to industrial wind factories is growing very fast here in Maine, because they don’t reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and they INCREASE our electricity rates. But at least for now, most of Maine won’t understand that opposition, because only WCSH, WLBZ and the Bangor Daily News thought the state might be curious about a major defeat for First Wind. Of course this defeat follows another recent and major defeat for First Wind, when Maine’s Supreme Court struck down the PUC’s approval of the company’s financing deal with Emera. (You would think First Wind’s losing streak would also be news.)

Rather than rely on the media, sometimes you have to educate yourself on topics like wind energy. And keep in mind that those inclined to be un-critical cheerleaders for this subsidy-chasing industry are likely to be getting their information from the media, whose reporting is often incomplete or non-existent. We’re not singling out MaineToday Media --- also not reporting on the most recent defeat for First Wind were the Associated Press, Maine Public Radio, the dailies Lewiston Sun Journal, Brunswick Times-Record and Journal Tribune, and TV stations WMTW, WGME, WABI, WVII and WAGM. But if any of those silent outlets are where you primarily get your news, then until you read this blog entry you were in the dark about the death of the Bowers Mountain wind project. And you had lots of company.

Bowers Wind LOSS foreshadowed by poll media ignored

(Portland, Maine) The anti-wind group Friends of Maine’s Mountains (FMM) said today that the decision by the Maine Board of Environmental Protection (BEP) to deny First Wind’s Bowers Wind industrial wind project came as no surprise.

“The answer was blowing in the wind, but I don’t think reporters have zeroed in yet,” said Chris O’Neil, an FMM spokesperson. “The more people learn, the less they like industrial wind.”

The BEP voted 4-1 today to affirm its rejection of the Bowers Wind project, a 16-turbine, 48 megawatt industrial wind factory proposed for Carroll Plantation and Kossuth, Maine. O’Neil said an anti-wind activist who attended the meeting reported that, “It was clear that the BEP was having none of the last minute attempt by First Wind attorney Juliet Brown to have the decision to deny remanded, thus enabling First Wind to go forward with a scaled back project. After dealing with that, the Board wasted little time in approving the draft order that upholds the DEP’s denial of project.”

The activist reported to O’Neil that he did not notice any reporters in the room.

O’Neil said FMM released poll results to the media just over two weeks ago, but no Maine newspaper, radio station or television station reported on the poll results.

In its semi-annual tracking poll, Critical Insights of Portland asked Maine people three questions about wind energy. The company completed 601 telephone interviews (including cell phones) with randomly selected voters across the state between April 16th and April 24th, 2014. Poll results (at this link) indicate that support for building industrial wind turbines declines appreciably when respondents learn that:

  • Building industrial wind turbines does not significantly reduce Maine’s reliance on nuclear energy, coal or oil;
  • Building industrial wind turbines in Maine yields only a negligible reduction in carbon dioxide emissions;
  • Maine may not experience positive benefits from the proliferation of industrial wind turbines on the state’s mountains.

“I know the media have limited resources, and I certainly sympathize. But as Mainers do their homework the state is turning into a hotbed of opposition. A movement is afoot,” O’Neil said.

Maine poll exposes softness in wind energy support

(Portland, Maine) Answers to questions asked recently by an independent, nonpartisan polling firm indicate that support for building industrial wind turbines in Maine is not as strong as wind power cheerleaders have led policy makers and the public to believe.

Friends of Maine’s Mountains (FMM), a group that opposes industrial wind turbine projects, commissioned Critical Insights of Portland, Maine to ask three questions about wind energy in its semi-annual Tracking Poll. The company completed 601 telephone interviews (including cell phones) with randomly selected voters across the state between April 16th and April 24th, 2014. CLICK HERE for a PDF of the results, which indicate that support for building industrial wind turbines declines appreciably when respondents learn that:

  • Building industrial wind turbines does not significantly reduce Maine’s reliance on nuclear energy, coal or oil;
  • Building industrial wind turbines in Maine yields only a negligible reduction in carbon dioxide emissions;
  • Maine may not experience positive benefits from the proliferation of industrial wind turbines on the state’s mountains.

(Click HERE for PDF of supporting information, and click HERE for PDF of Maine generation sources.)

Chris O’Neil, spokesperson for Friends of Maine’s Mountains, said the results raise questions about the extremely positive approval numbers that wind developers routinely cite when they attempt to justify steep taxpayer and ratepayer subsidies.

“For years wind developers have peddled the general benefits of wind energy, and they have a lot of financial resources behind them that we’ll never match,” O’Neil said. “People certainly want to believe it’s all good. But impacts to Maine exceed the benefits, and these poll results point out weak support for industrial wind when that shortfall is understood. Mainers expect tangible benefits for the enormous investment the government is forcing taxpayers and ratepayers to make in wind energy.”

O’Neil noted that almost 80% of respondents reported that they’re less likely to support building industrial wind turbines “if the development will not positively impact Maine.”

O’Neil said skepticism about wind energy is increasing, and as a result Maine policy makers are starting to ask much tougher questions about the benefits of industrial wind turbines in sensitive mountain areas. He pointed to several anti-wind bills in the last Legislative session that fared well, including legislation that would have eliminated the state’s “megawatt goals” and replaced them with a policy objective of demonstrated and “tangible” benefits.

“Now that policy makers have driven a new car off the lot, they’re finally kicking the tires and looking underneath the hood. Expect to see much tougher scrutiny of proposed wind projects in the future,” O’Neil said.

For more information about Friends of Maine’s Mountains, visit www.FriendsOfMainesMountains.org. For more information about Critical Insights, visit www.CriticalInsights.com.