Drawing a line

Three Southern New England states want to turn Maine into their wind plantation, and Central Maine Power and Emera Maine appear to be enthusiastic supporters of that plan. Last November, a consortium of agencies and electric utilities in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island issued a Request for Proposals to deliver at least 5,000 gigawatt hours of clean energy to those states, with proposals due by Jan. 28, 2016. According to Friends of Maine’s Mountains, developers now have responded with over 51 project proposals, many of them in Maine, which will undergo reviews in the next several months.

Among those proposals is SunEdison’s Weaver Wind project, which would place 22 more giant wind turbines near Eastbrook in Hancock County. CMP and Emera Maine have joined forces to submit the Maine Renewable Energy Interconnect (MREI), which would transmit up to 1,200 megawatts of energy from wind projects in northern Maine to power at least 250,000 homes in the southern New England states. The proposed MREI would include 150 miles of new transmission line and new substations that would work hand in glove with the proliferation of wind turbines on Maine’s hills and mountains. Emera Maine President Alan Richardson touted the project in a recent press release. “MREI offers a number of differentiating elements that we believe will be very attractive to the states that are seeking new sources of clean energy,” he said. “MREI will be able to deliver that energy on time and at a competitive price because we are tapping our existing infrastructure.”

Promoters of the Clean Energy RFP, which embraces the various project proposals, are quick to claim that the addition of hundreds of wind turbines in our state will reduce emissions from burning fossil fuels and enhance price stability, energy security and supply diversity.

But as Chris O’Neil, policy director for Friends of Maine’s Mountains, observed, “Maine and New England already have among the cleanest and most expensive electricity in America. 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 stop it.”

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

O’Neil projected that “the industrial assault” on Maine would result in more than 2,000 additional installed megawatts of the towering wind turbines, all to supply only about 500 of 16,000 to 26,000 megawatts of electricity that the New England grid requires on a daily basis.

We’ve observed before in these columns that the misguided focus on wind energy is not going to make Maine any “greener.” Even before the wind turbines began sprouting across the landscape, Maine was generating almost all of its electricity from clean sources, sources other than oil and coal. Rather than pave the way for still more visually disruptive wind turbines, the state would be better served by the removal of the statutory 100-megawatt cap on electricity generation other than by wind. That cap denies Maine the option of purchasing electricity from massive Canadian hydropower projects.

Wind turbines operate only when the wind blows. That is an inescapable reality that makes such energy generation intermittent and unreliable. Encouraging boondoggles such as the Clean Energy RFP certainly will satisfy residents beyond our own borders who don’t want to see wind turbines scattered across their own states.

Maine’s greatest resource is our fabulous scenery – mountains, lakes, rivers and ocean coastline. Already, the horizon north of Mount Desert Island, as seen from Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park, glows nightly with a line of flashing red beacons of existing windmills. Continuing to ravage our birthright to support a misguided feel-good energy policy is an insult to our own citizens, their children and their grandchildren.

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