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.)
“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.”
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.”
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.