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.

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