SunEdison crashes and burns, declares bankruptcy

Financial implosion likely to hasten exit of wind capital from Maine

Statement by Chris O’Neil, director of public policy, Friends of Maine’s Mountains, April 21, 2016

“Sun Edison’s operating wind projects own very lucrative long-term contracts that are sometimes triple and quadruple wholesale market rates. While we will enjoy relief from SunEdison’s ruthless march on Maine, plenty of scavengers are just waiting to swoop in and pick at the carcass. We’ll be watching. (statement continued, BELOW.)

Sun-Edison filed for bankruptcy protection it was announced today, April 21, 2016

Sun-Edison filed for bankruptcy protection it was announced today, April 21, 2016

“Nevertheless, this financial collapse occurs just as the Tri-State RFP is about to make important decisions on bids from Maine projects. But today’s news shows that at least in Maine, new wind projects can't compete given the current energy market conditions. Their business models are simply unsustainable, and that’s why they’re imploding.”

“As we noted yesterday in a press release about the opt-out petition process, those who are determined to protect Mine’s invaluable wilderness assets are fighting back, and we’re winning key battles. Jeremy Payne has noted that wind capital is now moving out of Maine. He’s right, and now he can expect to see that process to accelerate.”

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EXCERPT, Friends of Maine’s press release, February 25, 2016:

Uncertainty injected into southern New England Clean Energy RFP decisions

Major disadvantage for ME companies in regional RFP process

Growing opposition in Maine, and its confirmed effectiveness at deterring wind development, could have a major impact on a consortium of agencies and electric utilities in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Last fall, the consortium issued a Request for Proposals to deliver at least 5,000 gigawatt hours of clean energy to those states, with proposals due in late January of 2016. The initial results of the RFP made headlines all over New England, when the consortium announced that it had received 51 separate proposals from developers.

On January 29, utilities Emera Maine and Central Maine Power announced that they had submitted a joint transmission proposal in response to the RFP. O’Neil said that particular news defined the next new battleground for wind turbine opponents in Maine. He described wind development in Maine as “the heist,” and costly new transmission systems as “the getaway car.”

“Our strategy is no secret. We want states to our south to know that the regulatory and legal hurdles they face as they try to rob Maine of its famous wilderness areas are enormous, and hopefully insurmountable. They will encounter an especially burdensome process here. In fact, it’s probably in their best interest that they rule out Maine wind right now, and instead pursue viable solutions to the challenges facing the grid and the environment.”

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Press Release, Friends of Maine's Mountains, April 20, 2016

Wind opponents: market uncertainty "exactly what we're trying to achieve"

(Weld, Maine) One of Maine’s largest private land owners has cited the “uncertainty” of wind power development in Maine as one of the primary reasons it has withdrawn its request to challenge Molunkus Township’s petition to remove itself from the state’s “expedited permitting area.”

Attorney Dean Beaupain, representing Lakeville Shores, Inc., notified the Maine Land Use Planning Commission of the change of heart in a letter dated April 19th. Lakeville Shores is owned by H.C. Haynes, Inc.

The defeat comes just weeks after the head of the Maine Renewable Energy Association said that wind opposition in Maine “has caused some companies to push pause on their development plans and…has caused some companies to re-deploy their capital outside of Maine.”

“Look what twenty-five ordinary Maine citizens were able to accomplish by standing up for their rights,” said Chris O’Neil, director of public affairs for Friends of Maine’s Mountains. “Big Wind lobbyists were able to snuff out the rights of Maine citizens in 2008, but the pendulum is now swinging back the other way. The folks in Molunkus have added more uncertainty to the financial prospects of big wind companies in Maine, exactly what we are trying to achieve.”

Twenty-five residents of Molunkus Township were the first to submit an “opt-out” petition to the State of Maine. Land owners like Haynes have the right to contest the petitions, but now that the company has dropped opposition, any future wind development in Molunkus must include citizen input.

For several months, wind opponents have been fanning out across the state, explaining to residents how to gather petition signatures and "opt out" of Maine's Expedited Permitting Area for Wind Energy, also called the Expedited Area (EA). The opportunity ends June 30.

Wind projects proposed in these EA are currently not required to win local zoning approval. The Unorganized Territory (where most wind development is targeted) comprises the majority of the state’s land mass, but is home to just one percent of the population. The EA was shrewdly created in a little-understood maneuver of the Maine Legislature, when it unanimously passed the Wind Energy Act in 2008. Lawmakers, who at the time believed wind energy to be useful and necessary, wanted to make it quicker and easier to build industrial wind turbines in rural Maine. The net result was that a tiny percentage of Maine people were stripped of land use rights and protections that citizens in the rest of the state enjoy. More than 50 Maine towns in other parts of the state have adopted protective wind energy ordinances since 2008, but residents of the “expedited area” in the Unorganized Territory lost the ability to do the same, the moment Governor John Baldacci signed the Wind Energy Act into law.

Since January 1st, dozens of opt-out petitions have been turned in to state officials.

O’Neil said the exodus of wind spending that Payne bemoaned is a major victory for groups like FMM, who argue that erecting wind turbines is a waste of taxpayer and ratepayer money that will hurt Maine’s economy by raising electricity costs while impeding tourism, Maine's biggest industry. The state is a well-known vacation destination for skiers, boaters, hunters, hikers, fishing enthusiasts and people seeking solitude, away from more urban and industrialized areas.

“Our strategy is no secret, as demonstrated by the people of Molunkus. We want the shareholders of the huge wind corporations to know about the enormously expensive regulatory and legal hurdles they face as they try to rob Maine of its famous wild areas. I hope all the wind company CEOs read that letter from Mr. Baupain and get the message.”

To read the uplifting concession letter from Attorney Beaupain, CLICK HERE.

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Large landowner gives up on challenging “opt-out” petition

Wind opponents: market uncertainty "exactly what we're trying to achieve"

(Weld, Maine) One of Maine’s largest private land owners has cited the “uncertainty” of wind power development in Maine as one of the primary reasons it has withdrawn its request to challenge Molunkus Township’s petition to remove itself from the state’s “expedited permitting area.”

Attorney Dean Beaupain, representing Lakeville Shores, Inc., notified the Maine Land Use Planning Commission of the change of heart in a letter dated April 19th. Lakeville Shores is owned by H.C. Haynes, Inc.

The defeat comes just weeks after the head of the Maine Renewable Energy Association said that wind opposition in Maine “has caused some companies to push pause on their development plans and…has caused some companies to re-deploy their capital outside of Maine.”

“Look what twenty-five ordinary Maine citizens were able to accomplish by standing up for their rights,” said Chris O’Neil, director of public affairs for Friends of Maine’s Mountains. “Big Wind lobbyists were able to snuff out the rights of Maine citizens in 2008, but the pendulum is now swinging back the other way. The folks in Molunkus have added more uncertainty to the financial prospects of big wind companies in Maine, exactly what we are trying to achieve.”

Twenty-five residents of Molunkus Township were the first to submit an “opt-out” petition to the State of Maine. Land owners like Haynes have the right to contest the petitions, but now that the company has dropped opposition, any future wind development in Molunkus must include citizen input.

For several months, wind opponents have been fanning out across the state, explaining to residents how to gather petition signatures and "opt out" of Maine's Expedited Permitting Area for Wind Energy, also called the Expedited Area (EA). The opportunity ends June 30.

Wind projects proposed in these EA are currently not required to win local zoning approval. The Unorganized Territory (where most wind development is targeted) comprises the majority of the state’s land mass, but is home to just one percent of the population. The EA was shrewdly created in a little-understood maneuver of the Maine Legislature, when it unanimously passed the Wind Energy Act in 2008. Lawmakers, who at the time believed wind energy to be useful and necessary, wanted to make it quicker and easier to build industrial wind turbines in rural Maine. The net result was that a tiny percentage of Maine people were stripped of land use rights and protections that citizens in the rest of the state enjoy. More than 50 Maine towns in other parts of the state have adopted protective wind energy ordinances since 2008, but residents of the “expedited area” in the Unorganized Territory lost the ability to do the same, the moment Governor John Baldacci signed the Wind Energy Act into law.

Since January 1st, dozens of opt-out petitions have been turned in to state officials.

O’Neil said the exodus of wind spending that Payne bemoaned is a major victory for groups like FMM, who argue that erecting wind turbines is a waste of taxpayer and ratepayer money that will hurt Maine’s economy by raising electricity costs while impeding tourism, Maine's biggest industry. The state is a well-known vacation destination for skiers, boaters, hunters, hikers, fishing enthusiasts and people seeking solitude, away from more urban and industrialized areas.

“Our strategy is no secret, as demonstrated by the people of Molunkus. We want the shareholders of the huge wind corporations to know about the enormously expensive regulatory and legal hurdles they face as they try to rob Maine of its famous wild areas. I hope all the wind company CEOs read that letter from Mr. Baupain and get the message.”

To read the uplifting concession letter from Attorney Beaupain, CLICK HERE.

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What Not to Do When You Win Powerball

If every man, woman and child in New England split a $1.2 billion Powerball jackpot, we'd each get $77.  

If every worker in New England got a $1.50 per hour pay raise, the total earnings increase in one month would be equal to that Powerball jackpot: $1.2 billion.  

If the customary wild spikes in electricity costs came under control for just the month of February, New England ratepayers would pocket...you guessed it, Powerball: $1.2 billion.  

Well last month in New England, that's exactly what happened. Ratepayers saved $1.2 billion over what we spent in February 2015. 

See the chart here.

Let's write that out, with all the zeroes.  $1,200,000,000.

Right in our pockets, to spend on cars, food, clothes, tuition... Pretty good for the economy, in all likelihood.

How did this happen, and why is it not front page news?  

It happened for a number of reasons. Here are a few:  Natural gas from the nearby Marcellus region has become so plentiful, it has transformed our energy scene.  Fossil fuel prices are extraordinarily low.  The winter was mild. The New England grid did a good job planning for the customary winter peak crisis. 

The lead story in today's Portland Press Herald was about how Maine's lobster industry might lose $10.6 million per year because of a possible international trade flap.  Nobody wants to see the lobster fishery take a hit, and $10.6 million is real money. It's less than 1% of how much we just pocketed in February because of low electricity costs, yet it isn't news!  

In today's same newspaper, the banner headline was about Maine's forest products industry dilemma, and how biomass electricity generators in are in danger of failing because they cannot compete. This -- along with the cascading bad news about mill closures and other forest industry hardships -- is truly sad news.  

Legislators today are considering whether to subsidize our biomass plants, which in recent years have provided about 25% of Maine electricity generation. The "subsidy" could come in the form of government-mandated power purchasing contracts at above market prices.  A tough call, with all those jobs on the line, and with New England preparing in the next few years to close a quarter of our dispatchable base load and peak load generators.  

Yet in Hartford and Providence and Boston it's still considered cool to claim your utility is "buying" Maine wind energy.  

Even as our reliable biomass generators spiral toward their demise, Maine and the New England states continue to grant above-market government-mandated contracts to non-dispatchable generators (wind) that provide barely any jobs, and that cannot replace or even displace a dirty old fossil fuel plant, even as wind sprawls its massive and expensive infrastructure across Maine's magnificent landscape. We are blowing billions building unnecessary but otherwise fashionable energy infrastructure that does us no good, yet we wring our hands as our existing biomass plants are allowed to wither and die.   

Friends of Maine's Mountains has consistently argued against government-mandated contracts, especially when they are at above-market prices (remember Statoil?).  And most especially when they are for low quality, unnecessary, high-impact generation like wind.  Adding insult to injury, the monetary subsidies are increasingly favoring wind over the higher quality renewables. 

Our energy priorities sometimes amount to fashion statements rather than sound policies.  Today's legislation in Augusta is a band aid approach to a problem of our own making.  The Press Herald article mentions the extraordinarily high costs that policymakers and regulators saddled onto ratepayers a couple decades ago.  In the last decade we've continued to meddle with the same risky favoritism, but we've abandoned biomass in favor of wind, which we are apparently already beginning to regret.  

We do not envy legislators in Augusta who this afternoon are grappling with this dilemma, a dilemma that they helped create, and one that we've seen before.  

Just as quickly as we gained $1.2 billion, we could blow it.  Listen to the Utilities Committee this afternoon:  CLICK HERE.

Big Victory For Maine's Environment and Economy

Planned wind projects in Maine could be cancelled

For Immediate Release

Weld, Maine

An ambitious bill written by the utility and wind power lobby was unanimously killed yesterday in Augusta by a legislative committee. 

LD 1513 would have undone an established law that protects ratepayers from large companies seeking to control the market for electricity generation and transmission. Transmission utilities like Central Maine Power Company and Emera Maine were prohibited from owning generation plants when the Restructuring Act was passed 16 years ago.  

In the last three years utilities and wind generators have brought controversial cases to the Maine Public Utilities Commission and the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, because the companies sought to do enter "affiliated interest" relationships, in which companies held by joint ownership sought to partner on generation projects requiring expensive transmission expenditures for delivery of the power.  Friends of Maine's Mountains (FMM) has opposed all of these attempts because power producing companies have an incentive to build generators in remote areas far from population centers, while utilities that are essentially sister companies have an incentive to build transmission lines hundreds of miles long.  FMM convinced the legislature that this market control is bad for ratepayers, and especially bad for mountains that have been targeted by wind development. 

LD 1513 was written by Central Maine Power, it's parent company Iberdrola, an affiliated company called Iberdrola Renewables, America's second largest wind developer.  Emera Maine assisted.  A consortium of LD 1513 opponents led by FMM included Anthony Buxton of the Independent Energy Consumer Group and Ben Smith of Houlton Water Company.  Opponents provided forceful and compelling testimony both at a February public hearing and a March 8 work session.  See FMM's testimony here.  

Chris O'Neil, FMM's Director of Government Affairs said: "After several language revisions and attempted amendments, the Committee finally said, 'No way.  We don't need or want the sort of market dominance that LD 1513 enables.'  We are pleased that Maine's ratepayers and environment won a big one yesterday."

FMM has welcomed recent reports that wind developers are losing interest in Maine.  O'Neil added that this defeat should send a message to policymakers in southern New England.  "We were astonished a few weeks ago to learn that 51 renewable energy projects are being considered in an RFP process, and that many of those projects would have catastrophic consequences for Maine, all to provide insignificant amounts of expensive electricity to meet arbitrary requirements" in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut.  "Now, with defeat of LD 1513" O'Neil said, "some of those projects are less likely to be completed or even proposed, and we in Maine couldn't be happier if killing this bill also kills those horrible projects under consideration in the RFP." 

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Contact Chris O'Neil   (207) 590-3842           mainemountainfriends@gmail.com

When your roof is caving in, don't spend your paycheck on lawn ornaments!

The New England Grid is changing rapidly.  Large workhorse generation stations are retiring in big numbers. That can be good, as lots of those are dirty old coal and oil plants in Southern New England.  

But it's also bad, because when we have to build new generation facilities, our light bills will increase.  

While Maine has the third cleanest electricity generation fleet in the nation, and while New England as a region is also very clean,  in the last few years we have made a push for lots more wind generation.  

This is a problem.  Why?  

Well for starters it ruins some of Maine's most special places.  And wind turbines are hundreds of miles from electricity customers, so all those new transmission lines will really whack our light bills.  And of course, closing base-load nuke and coal plants reduces our ability to reliably keep the lights on.  A thousand new wind turbines in Maine cannot perform the crucial work performed by one nuke plant like the soon-closing 680 megawatt Pilgrim Nuclear Plant in Massachusetts.  Even after we spend billions on new wind turbines, we will still need to invest in new base-load and peak-load generating plants to run the grid.  This would be very costly. 

Continuing to dump billions of dollars into remote wind and its corresponding transmission lines is like a homeowner blowing her paycheck on patio furniture while there is a growing hole in her roof.  If we want more renewables, lets stick to renewable generation that is dispatchable and scalable… you know... the useful stuff:  hydro, biomass, rooftop solar, tidal, etc.

This infographic from the New England Grid operator clearly illustrates the pickle we are in if we keep wasting our money on "patio furniture"

 http://www.iso-ne.com/static-assets/documents/2016/02/NE_Power_Grid_2015-2016_Regional_Profile.pdf

 

Emergency facing Maine’s energy ratepayers!

Legislators told to “trust” giant overseas corporations

Tomorrow, March 3, 2016, the Legislature’s Committee on Energy & Utilities could be asked to vote for a disaster.  

LD 1513 seeks to undo a very wise Maine law that prohibits cozy business dealings between utilities (like CMP and Emera Maine) and generation companies (like SunEdison and Iberdrola Renewablles). The purpose of the existing law is to prevent generation and distribution companies from conspiring to financially exploit consumers like you.

Do you trust big corporationS to use the honor system?

Do you trust big corporationS to use the honor system?

What does LD 1513 have to do with this? CMP and Iberdrola Renewables are owned by the same parent company. And they are in Augusta right now, telling legislators to trust them: “We won’t even talk about these mutual projects with our colleagues, honest! Oh, and did we mention it’s about jobs?”

If this bill passes, it could result in another Big Wind blitz on rural Maine. Utilities like CMP will be happy to spend billions on unnecessary new transmission lines to accommodate the useless wind projects.  And we'll pick up the tab. CMP says LD 1513 is just meant to clarify the law.  Friends of Maine’s Mountains was recently a party to a lawsuit in which the existing and very necessary legal restraint played a crucial role, and the truth is, the law is very clear: they can’t do it. And for good reasons. 

Let’s STOP this sneaky attempt to skirt a good law protecting Maine citizens. For an in-depth article about how deeply corrupt Maine wind companies are, click here. Then please contact the Legislative Committee HERE and tell them to protect Maine’s electricity ratepayers, and stop destroying Maine’s environment and economy: LEAVE THE LAW IN PLACE! 

Industry spokesman: wind companies losing interest in Maine

Uncertainty injected into southern "New England Clean Energy" RFP decisions

(Weld, Maine) Opponents of building giant wind turbines in Maine’s remote wilderness are deploying effective tactics that have chased wind capital out of the state, according to Jeremy Payne, executive director of the Maine Renewable Energy Association.

Jeremy Payne, spokesperson for Maine's wind industrialists. Photo by Sun Journal, Lewiston, Maine.

Jeremy Payne, spokesperson for Maine's wind industrialists. Photo by Sun Journal, Lewiston, Maine.

In recent weeks, wind opponents have been fanning out across the state, explaining to residents how to gather petition signatures and "opt out" of Maine's Expedited Permitting Area for Wind Energy, also called the Expedited Area (EA). (See "Wind energy to suffer another blow in Maine," September 20, 2015.)

Wind projects proposed in these extremely rural areas are currently not required to win local zoning approval. These areas comprise the majority of the state’s land mass, but are home to just one percent of the population. The EA was shrewdly created in a little-understood maneuver of the Maine Legislature, when it unanimously passed the Wind Energy Act in 2008. Lawmakers wanted to make it quicker and easier to build industrial wind turbines in rural Maine. The net result was that a tiny percentage of Maine people were stripped of land use rights and protections that citizens in the rest of the state enjoy. More than 50 Maine towns in other parts of the state have adopted protective wind energy ordinances since 2008, but residents of the “expedited area” lost the ability to do the same, the moment Governor John Baldacci signed the Wind Energy Act into law.

Recently, however, dozens of opt-out petitions have been turned in to state officials, and Payne conceded this has made the state far less attractive to wind developers.

“At a minimum I think it has caused some companies to push pause on their development plans, and at a maximum I think it has caused some companies to re-deploy their capital outside of Maine,” Payne told the Maine Today papers a few days ago.

Chris O’Neil, a spokesperson for the anti-wind group Friends of Maine’s Mountains, said the exodus of wind investment capital is a major victory for groups like his, who argue that erecting wind turbines is a wasteful investment of taxpayer and ratepayer money that will hurt Maine’s economy. The state is a well-known vacation destination for skiers, boaters, hunters, hikers, fishing enthusiasts and people seeking solitude, away from more urban and industrialized areas.

“This news has electrified wind opponents like nothing else has,” said O’Neil. “If the money to build them is running away, then the turbines will not be built. This gives us a major shot of adrenaline, so the interests Mr. Payne represents can certainly count on increasingly ferocious and costly battles for many years to come.”

Major disadvantage for ME companies in regional RFP process

Growing opposition in Maine, and its confirmed effectiveness at deterring wind development, could have a major impact on a consortium of agencies and electric utilities in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Last fall, the consortium issued a Request for Proposals to deliver at least 5,000 gigawatt hours of clean energy to those states, with proposals due in late January of 2016. The initial results of the RFP made headlines all over New England, when the consortium announced that it had received 51 separate proposals from developers.

On January 29, utilities Emera Maine and Central Maine Power announced that they had submitted a joint transmission proposal in response to the RFP. O’Neil said that particular news defined the next new battleground for wind turbine opponents in Maine. He described wind development in Maine as “the heist,” and costly new transmission systems as “the getaway car.”

“Our strategy is no secret. We want states to our south to know that the regulatory and legal hurdles they face as they try to rob Maine of its famous wilderness areas are enormous, and hopefully insurmountable. They will encounter an especially burdensome process here. In fact, it’s probably in their best interest that they rule out Maine wind right now, and instead pursue viable solutions to the challenges facing the grid and the environment.”

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FMM Steps Up vs. Industrial Wind Onslaught

FMM Steps Up vs. Industrial Wind Onslaught

For immediate release

(Weld, ME)  Friends of Maine’s Mountains announced today it is increasing its opposition to industrial wind development in Maine. 

“The New England Clean Energy RFP is the biggest threat to Maine since the Great Fires of 1947” said Chris O’Neil, FMM’s Policy Director. 

The RFP is an electricity solicitation from Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Generation and Transmission developers responded this week with 51 project proposals that will undergo review for the next few months.     

Much of the proposed development would be in Maine.

“Maine and New England already have among the cleanest and most expensive electricity in America,” O’Neil said.  “Now southern New England wants to make it even more expensive while turning Maine into their wind plantation.  It is unacceptable and we need to to stop it.”

O’Neil cited the closure of four New England power stations as examples of Maine “getting the short end of the stick.” 

Vermont Yankee (closed) Pilgrim Station (closing), Brayton Point (closing), and Salem Harbor (closed, but facing NIMBY opposition to its plan to re-fuel the oil/coal plant with natural gas) together had almost equal generating capacity as all the Maine power producers combined.  “But now people down there don’t want power plants in their back yards,” O’Neil said.  “They’d rather ruin Maine, and that’s just plain wrong.”

Closing dirty old Massachusetts coal/oil plants like Brayton (1500 MW) and Salem Harbor (750 MW) is certainly good for Maine air.  But the owners' attempts to re-fuel those plants to natural gas has met fierce opposition.  Closing nukes like Vermont Yankee (620 MW) and Pilgrim (690 MW) only increases New England's need for base load / dispatchable power, not stochastic.  Even if we were to build 15,000 MW of wind, three days out of four we would still need the dispatchable generation to keep the lights on.  "Capacity payments to those firm New England plants have grown from $1 Billion to $4 Billion in just five years. Every penny of that comes from our light bills," O'Neil said.

The redundancy and its resulting cost-shifting is unsustainable. Moreover, all four of the above generation plants are/were near population centers, not requiring expensive new transmission from the outlying regions that in 20 years is likely to be obsolete.  (Utilities are thrilled to build new transmission and get their guaranteed 12% return on equity.)  "Yes, when you add it all up," O'Neil said, "building wind is essentially an extravagant waste of money, so ruining the hills and mountains isn't worth it."

“Ratepayers and taxpayers will be forced to squander billions of dollars on unnecessary and unreliable energy infrastructure that will still require conventional generation to keep the grid going, and that won’t put a dent in climate change,” O’Neil said. “We need dispatchable base load power if we want to keep closing those older plants. This is like trying to replace jumbo jets with hang gliders.” 

O’Neil pointed out that the plan “is being pitched as only affecting ratepayers in southern New England.  That’s ludicrous,” O’Neil said.  The negative impacts will harm all the system’s ratepayers via costs for energy, transmission and capacity payments for dispatchable plants.  “Anyone who thinks they’ll be insulated from this massive hit is dreaming.”

If the projects are built the industrial assault on rural Maine would be unprecedented, with over 2000 additional installed megawatts of 50 story wind towers in some of the state’s most revered places.  The expected output from the inefficient wind buildup would only supply about 500 of the 16,000 to 26,000 megawatts that the New England grid requires on a daily basis. “Starry-eyed policymakers in southern New England are jumping off a cliff, and they want to take us with them,” said O’Neil.  “Maine needs to defend itself.”

FMM has been helping rural citizens in the Expedited Wind Permitting Area to opt-out of that fast-tracked wind category. About three dozen communities are doing that between now and June 30, when the opportunity ends.  O’Neil sees the clean RFP as a wake up call for dozens more townships and plantations in the unorganized territory. “We are working now on getting lots more opt-out petitions submitted,” he said.   http://www.tinyurl.com/GetOut2016

FMM is also taking its message to both policymakers and the public in southern New England. “40 years ago Maine got rid of 8000 billboards, causing harm to many local businesses,” O’Neil said, “in part to make Maine more attractive to our tourist friends from our south. Now they want to come here and plaster thousands of gyrating skyscrapers all over our mountains because they don’t want to see them in their own states. Mainers need to express our outrage at the lunacy of this plan.”  

Contact Chris O’Neil  (207) 590-3842

 

Maine citizens are irritating wind speculators

WCSH-TV in Portland and WLBZ-TV in Bangor, sister stations that have the largest media audience in Maine, aired a story a few days ago about petitions that have been submitted to the state’s Land Use Planning Commission by the Moosehead Region Futures Committee. Long story short, the petitions are a critical step in restoring land use rights and protections that were stripped from a tiny percentage of Maine people when Governor John Baldacci signed the Wind Energy Act into law in 2008.

Jeremy Paine, the ever-present lobbyist who is paid by the wind industry to ladle out PR mumbo jumbo, was not happy, characterizing those who signed the petitions as “people who are trying to drive off investment.”

That is EXACTLY what we are trying to do, and we hope it works. Because “investment” that depends so heavily on taxpayer and ratepayer subsidies, that produces no real benefits to the people of Maine, that threatens the state’s economy --- is investment that SHOULD be driven off, with a vengeance.

We are particularly pleased by this telling story excerpt on the TV stations’ web sites: “Opponents to the petition, including the Maine Renewable Energy Association, a non-profit trade association supporting renewable energy, says it’s merely a stall tactic that will create uncertainty and drive away developers.”

Clearly, wind opponents are making an impact, and getting under the industry's skin. This petition process might be one of the most effective tactics to date in the long fight to keep giant wind turbines from ruining Maine’s most pristine mountains and wild areas.

Congratulations and sincere thanks to the Moosehead Region Futures Committee, as well as dozens of other individuals all over rural Maine for their hard work gathering signatures.  Of course it would be remiss not to thank the hundreds of citizens who convinced the Maine Legislature to make the petition process possible.

If you’d like to learn more about the petition process and get personally involved, a good place to start is “Wind energy to suffer another blow in Maine,” a blog post Friends of Maine’s Mountains published in late December. Let’s keep the pressure on!

Wind peddlers will never catch us off guard

Watch this video if you’d like a brief summary of the likely goings-on in Augusta during the upcoming legislative session.

What all opponents of industrial wind turbines in Maine wilderness areas come to realize is that idealism is not a very practical tool in this fight. Outrage and indignation about "what’s right” don't really matter --- which is hard to accept. In fact, one of the first lessons we all learn is that if we’re not careful and we don’t pay attention, wind developers have no hesitation at all about using very sneaky maneuvers. The only way for us to counter is to be in Augusta to watch them like a hawk. (NEED AN EXAMPLE of how sneaky the wind industry is? Read this REVEALING INVESTIGATIVE REPORT.)

We all have to be vigilant and share information. Count on FMM to always be investigating what’s going on in the hallways and hearing rooms at the Statehouse, at the regulatory agencies, and in the courts. And of course, we’re always happy to know what YOU are hearing out in the field. If you ever want to pass along information, please feel free to reach us at mainemountainfriends@gmail.com.

 

Wind energy to suffer another blow in Maine

(Weld, Maine) Earlier this month, the Maine Supreme Court handed wind industrialists a landmark defeat.

Now, a Maine environmental group is following that up by mailing instructions this week to 6,000 registered voters in Maine’s unorganized territory, part of an educational campaign to explain how to "opt out" of Maine's Expedited Permitting Area for Wind Energy, also called the Expedited Area (EA).

Funded and distributed by Friends of Maine’s Mountains (FMM), the mailer spells out how residents of the state’s most remote townships and plantations can obtain a petition from the Maine Land Use Planning Commission (LUPC). With very few signatures, petitions can remove all or part of these localities from the Expedited Area, which means that any future wind development would need to win zoning approval from LUPC before it applies for a permit.

Wind projects proposed in these areas are currently not required to do so. The unorganized territory comprises the majority of the state’s land mass, but it is home to just one percent of the population. The EA was shrewdly created in a little-understood maneuver of the Maine Legislature, when it unanimously passed the Wind Energy Act in 2008. Lawmakers wanted to make it quicker and easier to build industrial wind turbines in rural Maine. The net result was that a tiny percentage of Maine people were stripped of land use rights and protections that citizens in the rest of the state enjoy. More than 50 Maine towns in other parts of the state have adopted protective wind energy ordinances since 2008, but residents of the unorganized territory lost the ability to do the same, the moment Governor John Baldacci signed the Wind Energy Act into law.

“As was revealed by the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting, the entire process was capricious and secretive,” said Chris O’Neil, a policy consultant to FMM. “The devious manner in which these folks were stripped of their rights was, at the time, grasped by very few.” (Click for additional VIDEO COMMENTARY by Chris O’Neil.)

O’Neil said opposition to wind projects has escalated significantly since the Wind Energy Act passed, but because the Act remains law, applications filed for projects in the Expedited Area are effectively rubber-stamped as they navigate the process to secure a permit. He said that by getting enough signatures on a petition, wind opponents in that part of the state will be able to regain their rights.

“The required number of valid signatures is low, just ten percent of voter turnout total in the last gubernatorial election. So a township in which twenty people voted in 2014 would only need two signatures to secure an effective remedy and opt out,” O’Neil said.

O’Neil warned that there is one catch --- there’s a very short window of time in which LUPC will accept petitions, from January 1 through June 30. He said residents can start gathering signatures now, however, and that at least 25 petitions are already circulating. FMM mailed the instructions Friday, so residents will begin receiving them in the next few days.

To get your petition click here:   http://www.tinyurl.com/GetOut2016

Friends of Maine’s Mountains (FMM) is a nonprofit organization that opposes the environmental and economic destruction from industrial wind energy. For more information: http://www.FriendsofMainesMountains.org.

ON THE WEB

WABI: environmental damage by wind industrialists

Don't be surprised by this TV news report by WABI-TV in Bangor, in which residents of these small Maine towns express their indignation that an out-of-state wind mogul is damaging their lives and not affording them simple respect.

Then, below, click on the gallery and take a look at these stunning photographs taken in Vermont by Roger Irwin and Steve Wright. SHOCKING. They illustrate very plainly what it really requires to erect an industrial complex of giant wind turbines on the top of any mountain. In Vermont and in our state, it requires the destruction of scenic mountains, FOREVER.

Maine’s economy depends on the tourism dollar. Hikers, skier, campers, hunters and leaf-peepers are tourists who value Maine's natural resources very highly.

But unknown to most Mainers, as industrialists are destroying the state's most precious natural resources, turbine electricity generated on Maine mountains is going out of state to Massachusetts and Connecticut. In Maine, turbines do nothing to get us off oil, because our electricity already comes from overwhelmingly clean sources. And imagine the damage that clearing forest land for transmission lines, which will cost Maine people billions, will inflict on taxpayers and ratepayers here. Just so our neighbors to the south can sanctimoniously claim they're using "clean" energy.

Should you be alarmed? Yes. Many thanks to Peak Keepers of Vermont’s Mountains for publishing their fine online brochure, and for bringing this grave threat to our attention. CLICK on gallery below.

Finally, some justice for Maine wind opponents

CLICK for video   : A decision welcomed by Maine's wind turbine opponents, and a couple lessons learned.

CLICK for video: A decision welcomed by Maine's wind turbine opponents, and a couple lessons learned.

Ever since Maine legislators rammed through the expedited wind law in 2008, it’s been a tough haul for those of us who know that the poor economics of building wind turbines on Maine’s beautiful ridge lines make the mountain’s destruction even more regrettable. It’s seemed like the system is stacked against us, which it is.

Well, chalk one up for us, and especially for Dave Corrigan, Gary Campbell and the Partnership for the Preservation of Downeast Lakes Watershed (PPDLW). The Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruled recently that the 16- turbine Bowers Mountain wind farm cannot be built because of its unacceptably negative impact on Maine’s scenic resources. Here are the details, as reported by the Bangor Daily News.

This affirms that visual impact is indeed an important criterion for deciding whether or not wind industrialists should be permitted to mar some of Maine’s most scenic natural resources. There are a couple more lessons to be learned as well, as this video explains. Congratulations to PPDLW for this hard-earned victory!

“There are lies, damned lies and statistics” (Mark Twain)

The wind industry's limitless financial resources (bloated by taxpayer & ratepayer subsidies) and their relentless influence-buying was on display Tuesday in Bangor. Their surrogates held yet another dog and pony show for the press to tout the "necessity" of erecting more wind turbines, and clearing thousands of acres of Maine forest to build the costly transmission lines to get this electricity down to southern New England. Among the bogus claims: wind power in Maine is "helping to reduce the climate crisis."

Friends of Maine's Fountains thanks the Bangor Daily News and other media outlets for being in touch and giving us the opportunity to bring some sobriety to the discussion. The fact is, wind energy cannot move the needle on climate change or CO2 reduction, and these wind supporters should stop claiming that it can. For those who are unfamiliar with this issue, reading "Here are 20 Facts Every Mainer Should Know" is an excellent way to get up to speed. Here's the full text of the Bangor Daily News article:

Wind power ‘critical’ to combating climate change, advocacy group says

By Christopher Burns, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — Proponents of wind power in Maine unveiled a reportTuesday at Bangor City Hall touting the growth of wind power over the last decade and its potential to further reduce the harm of climate change.

“Our message today is clear: Wind power here in Maine is already growing steadily, reducing pollution and helping to reduce the climate crisis,” said Laura Dorle, a campaign organizer for Environment Maine, a Portland-based environmental advocacy group. “But we need policies to provide steady support for this clean energy resource to maintain our momentum in the fight against global warming.”

The report, “Turning to the Wind,” was unveiled as states look to implement and comply with the federal Clean Power Plan, which mandates a 32 percent reduction in carbon emissions from power plants by 2030. It also comes as world leaders have gathered in Paris to hash out a global strategy to reduce carbon emissions.

Wind power, the report argues, will be critical to reducing human-made carbon pollution that scientists say fuels global climate change, leading to more extreme weather, a rise in the ocean level and rising temperatures.

Since the first wind farm went online in Mars Hill, wind power’s contribution to Maine’s energy production has grown from 1 percent in 2007 to 8 percent last year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. That’s enough energy to offset the carbon emissions from nearly 114,000 cars and to power 100,000 homes, Dorle said.

As a coastal state, Maine has an opportunity to develop offshore wind power to meet the mandates of the Clean Power Plan to reduce emissions.

According to Habib Dagher, director of the University of Maine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center, which is developing offshore wind technology, within 50 miles of Maine’s coast there is a potential capacity for 156 gigawatts in wind capacity, which could significantly reduce carbon emissions.

Dorle said that to ensure that wind power capacity continues to grow in Maine, consistent government policies are “critically important.”

Congress, in December 2014, let expire a production tax credit for renewable energy used for the development of wind power. This credit has been critical to the growth of wind power over the last two decades, Dorle said, and any measure to reinstate the renewable energy tax credit must be approved by Congress before its adjournment on Dec. 18.

The production tax credit, if renewed, would lead to future wind development that would reduce carbon emissions equivalent to an additional 30,000 cars and provide enough energy to power another 50,000 homes, according to Dorle.

But Chris O’Neil, director of public affairs for Friends of Maine’s Mountains, a group that opposes wind turbine development in Maine, questioned whether the industry still needs “training wheels” such as the production tax credit.

“If the wind industry once did need the subsidy to get off the ground, that need is gone because America now has a mature industry,” O’Neil said in an emailed statement Tuesday afternoon.

O’Neil also said that reductions in carbon emissions in the U.S. have been largely the result of phasing out the use of oil and coal for natural gas. Any reductions in carbon emissions from wind power to generate electricity wouldn’t come close to offsetting the emissions from cars and trucks on Maine roads, he said.

Laurie Osher, president of Maine Interfaith Power and Light, a nonprofit group that promotes renewable energy, said Tuesday it is a “moral imperative to address the issue of a changing climate.”

“Each person, each congregation, each community needs to figure out how they can reduce their concentration of carbon that they put in the atmosphere. Each person and each community needs to assess how they can reduce their impact on the planet,” she said.

Climate change, however, has not just environmental consequences, but also consequences for public health, according to Dr. Bill Wood of Bangor.

Wood said warmer temperatures caused by climate change have fueled an increase in Lyme disease, which rose from 247 cases in 2005 to 1,169 cases last year, Wood said citing data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“As the weather warms up going north,” Wood said, “these insect-borne diseases can spread north.”

Congress thinks taxpayers have money to burn

On November 11, the chairman of Friend’s of Maine’s Mountains had an important opinion piece published in the Portland Press Herald and other MaineToday newspapers. In his column, Rand Stowell discussed subsidies to the wind industry, and provided a damning quote from Paul Gaynor, CEO of what used to be known as First Wind, and a damning quote from Ahmad Chatila, the current CEO of SunEdison.

Both men have been pretty explicit that the “wind production tax credit” is unnecessary.

Of course, if state legislatures and the United States Congress continue to insist that taxpayers keep doling out out subsidies that are unnecessary, Chatilla and Gaynor will be happy to pocket the extra cash that the largesse of your senators and representatives produces. To read Stowell’s entire column, go to “It’s time for Congress to end the wind production tax credit (again).”

2 Things You Can Do to Stop the Wind Welfare

2 Things You Can Do to Stop the Wind Welfare

(Which could also stop the senseless assault on Maine’s environment & economy.)

It’ll take you five minutes!  Here’s what to do: 

1.  Cut and paste the below narrative, and send it to Maine’s four elected officials in Washington (their contact info is here).

2.  Then call each one and ask if they know that Maine’s leading wind developer is on record as saying “We don’t need the dough, but it’s so nice of you to throw it at us every year!”

                                                                                -------------

Congress will soon be voting on the Wind Production Tax Credit (PTC).  This subsidy has died many times since it was enacted in 1992 to spur a new industry. Now that the industry is mature, it is time to stop the PTC. 
We don’t need the money, but as long as you’re spending it, we’re taking it!
Maine’s dominant wind developer is on record as saying that the PTC is pennies from heaven: 
Maine’s wind energy buildup in the last decade has been mostly by one developer:  First Wind (now SunEdison).  In 2012 First Wind CEO Paul Gaynor discussed the PTC in a Recharge News article:
First Wind Chief Executive Says Life Without PTC is Possible
"I know the industry has needed it. I think the question for all of us is, ‘Do we need it any more or forever?’ I believe the answer is no."
Just a few weeks ago, SunEdison (now in financial difficulty) CEO Ahmad Chatila discussed the PTC in an October 2015 Bloomberg article:
US Tax Breaks That Clean Power Doesn’t Seem to Mind Losing
“If the PTC expires we will be fine, we can get by.” 
 

Isn't it time that CONGRESS stop funding the PTC?

 

 

We Need You In The Game

Friends:

FMM got many pats on the back recently when we salvaged quite a bit out of a lost cause, winning significant concessions from Maine's largest wind developer.  (In case you missed that, CLICK HERE.)  As usual there are armchair quarterbacks, and the news didn't please everyone.  

But that battle is over and FMM carries on in earnest.  With at least three new wind projects to oppose, and with so much public educating to do...

…we don't need armchair quarterbacks -- we need you!

A Maine Sunday Telegram article this week quoted someone who claimed to be "sold out" by FMM's action. A reader of that article might be led to wonder if the wind resistance forces in Maine have been weakened.  

No way.  That person who felt disappointed was unfamiliar with the case, and expressed understandable frustration that another Maine wind project had survived the opposition.   

We were disappointed too.  Which is why FMM held out for so much from the wind developer:

  •  $2.5 million in grants to some of the most urgent and worthy Maine conservation projects
  •  A quarter million dollars for wind turbine bat mortality research
  •  A 50% increase in decommissioning funds for the project, plus regular guaranteed increases
  •  A contractual "Wind Exclusion Zone" covering some of the state's finest natural resources
  •  A 300 X 30 mile "No Wind Zone" that more than doubles Appalachian Trail scenic setbacks
  •  A much broader audience of Mainers who are now looking at wind more skeptically 

Would FMM rather that we could stop the project?  Of course.  But reckless spending of your precious dollars is irresponsible non-profit stewardship. Having opposed that wind project vigorously for two years, both before and after the permits were granted, having seen our appeal go up in smoke when all seven of our objections were refuted, and preparing to spend another $50,000 or more to litigate further, FMM's Board made a responsible business decision: It agreed to cease a hopeless law suit in exchange for a lot of value to Maine.

So FMM perseveres.  But with all the value that FMM won for Maine, it all went to the public good, and to other fine conservation organizations.  FMM still needs your financial support!  You can rest assured that every penny of your FMM donation is dedicated to the mission.

Looking forward, the public and policymakers need to be educated about the high impacts and low benefit from wind energy. The state's rubber stamp permitting process needs to be strengthened. Municipalities and opposition groups need our assistance protecting their communities and homes. FMM continues to watch important cases before Public Utilities Commissions in Maine and New England.  Both Maine's environment and economy are in peril because of wind energy development, and FMM is out there on the field every day, in the game, working on this mission, preventing that peril.

FMM can't win the game if you're on the sideline.  Please click the donate button on this page and make your contribution now. 

Thank you for your continued support.

Rand Stowell

Founder & Chairman 

Beware! Mainers Went to Denmark to Learn

Mainers recently went to Denmark to learn how to get off oil.  

http://climatetours.org/why-denmark/  

You might have seen the news about the Grow Smart Maine trip in search of climate solutions. They will talk about it at their October 20 Annual Meeting in Biddeford. 

https://growsmartmaine.org/events/annualmeeting2015/?utm_source=mainebiz&utm_medium=banner

They said their inquiries would focus on fossil fuel reduction and energy, but the itinerary and the "What We've Learned" article they published upon return show that the curriculum was almost exclusively about electricity. 

http://climatetours.org/what-we-learned/

Electricity is a shambles in Denmark, so hopefully our Maine pilgrims (including some legislators) were taking notes on what NOT to do, such as: 

1.  See the Danish equivalent of ISO Express (real time dashboard). As of 60 seconds ago electricity consumption was almost 50% imports from Norway, Sweden and Germany.  

http://www.energinet.dk/EN/El/Sider/Elsystemet-lige-nu.aspx

2.  Imports are critical to Denmark’s attempted use of renewables. It's feast or famine with wind energy, which results in Net Imports.  

http://energinet.dk/EN/KLIMA-OG-MILJOE/Miljoerapportering/Sider/Import-og-eksport.aspx

 3.  Denmark now has the highest electricity rates in all of the EU. 

 http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/Energy_price_statistics

See Energinet’s (the national grid operator) 2014 Annual Report. 

http://www.energinet.dk/SiteCollectionDocuments/Engelske%20dokumenter/Om%20os/annual-report-2014.pdf

One only need to peruse the first 25-30 pages to get a feel for all of their problems. Denmark’s present power market is in a state of dysfunction and instability. Power disruptions are commonplace. If they can’t import enough power during high peak periods they don’t have enough domestic conventional capacity to keep the lights on. Demand Response//curtailment is their only remaining option. They claim that wind provides 40% of the country’s power yet 29% of total generation is exported while 37.5% of total consumption is imported (document page 15). 

Entering this century Denmark claimed their objective was to become energy independent and self-sufficient. They are now pushing as hard as they can for far more cooperation in power markets amongst the EU. They need buyers for their wind power when they can’t use it, and they need imported power sources when they can’t produce enough of their own power. Norway routinely cuts them off when their hydro pumped storage falls below thresholds the Norwegians consider safe to sustain their own grid. 

Energinet no longer reports their actual performance with meeting their Kyoto CO2 quota for power generation. The last time they reported was for 2012, when they missed their target then by 17.6%. The only way Denmark meets hypothetical compliance now is by generating excess emissions credits from increased capacity in renewables which is primarily off-shore wind. 

Denmark has always claimed that they were on the leading edge of going green since the early 1990’s. Based on their experience going green means skyrocketing prices, grid instability and unreliability and curtailment of consumption in order to keep from increasing their emissions.  

There is a positive note about the Grow Smart trip.  Maine CO2 emissions from Transportation are more than QUADRUPLE our CO2 emissions from Electricity.  The folks from Maine report that they did some bicycle riding while in Denmark.  Now THERE's a "solution" for Maine! 

####

 


 

Get Ready. Process Starts for Maine's Biggest Wind Project Yet

The largest wind complex in New England has been proposed for Aroostook County.

119 towers standing 492 feet tall would be visible from the Crown of Maine to Katahdin.

It is called the Number Nine Wind Project, and it would be the first development in Maine for a Texas company whose shenanigans FMM exposed 13 months ago in this article.  

Their application is complete, and the agency that will either approve or deny the permit will host a public meeting where you can enter your objections into the record.

The Public Meeting will be at Central Aroostook High School in Mars Hill at 6:00 PM on Thursday, October 22.  

A public meeting is your chance to speak against the project.  Comments must be specific to the proposal ("I don't like subsidies" is not an accepted objection) and they will be considered by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) in its review of the application.  You can speak at the meeting or submit written comments by email to this address:

Number9WindProject.DEP@maine.gov  

 

Here is a link to the DEP's project file, where you can view the entire application:  

http://www.maine.gov/dep/ftp/WindPowerProjectFiles/NumberNine/

 

Public comment will be accepted through early March, 2016, which is the deadline for DEP to render its decision.  Here is a guide to how the process will work:  

http://www.maine.gov/dep/publications/documents/is-public.pdf  

 

Please get involved, speak up and stay tuned as this process unfolds.

 

You Can Opt-Out of the Expedited Wind Area

One shot.  That's all we have.  

To get your petition: CLICK HERE

FMM sending a flyer to all 6000 voters in the UT.  Watch for it.  Two clicks here for the front and back of the flyer

In 2015 the Legislature created an easy way for residents in the Unorganized Territory (UT) to remove themselves from the so-called "Expedited Area" where wind development is essentially a rubber stamp transaction. If you live in the UT, you only have six months to sign up for this chance to protect your property. After June of 2016, you will lose the opportunity. 

Removing your township or plantation is not guaranteed to kill every wind project that developers want to build, but it raises the bar a lot.  If wind developers come seeking to industrialize your newly Unexpedited Area, they will have to go through a more difficult permitting process where they are less likely to get a permit. 

If you live in the the majority of Maine's land mass that we call the UT you are only 1% of Maine's population.  And your rights got trampled when the EA was (link) arbitrarily created behind closed doors. Since then you've watched the dozens of cities and towns in Maine write wind ordinances to protect themselves, while you've also watched helplessly as the UT gets overrun by massive industrial wind complexes that don't belong in the quiet woods, or on scenic mountains.

If you want to make this change in your township or plantation, there's now a simple way to sign up and it doesn't cost money. In some places it will require only two signatures!  But you should do it right away.  FMM can help you with this very easy opt-out, but you have to act now because on July 1st you'll lose your shot.

To get your petition: CLICK HERE  

When you decide to opt out-of the Expedited Area, please let us know:   mainemountainfriends@gmail.com