Wind plantations

With giant wind developer SunEdison now bankrupt and struggling to reorganize, several Maine wind energy projects continue to move forward under new management.

It appears, according to filings in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York, that before its voluntary bankruptcy declaration in April, SunEdison sold Maine wind farms in Bingham and Oakfield and the Bull Hill project in Township 16 to Terra Nova Renewable Partners, owned by SunE Utility and Novatus Energy.

SunEdison also had withdrawn, at least temporarily, an application to the Maine Department of Environmental Protection for the Weaver Wind project – a 22-turbine proposal in the Hancock County towns of Osborn and Eastbrook. But another SunEdison and Novatus project – the 17-turbine, 56-megawatt Hancock Wind farm in Townships 16 and 22 – remains under construction. And according to contractor Reed & Reed, the project, when completed, will boast the largest turbines in the Americas with towers of 382 feet and turbine rotor diameters of 384 feet.

Now Patten Energy Group Inc., San Francisco-based investors, has agreed to buy development rights to SunEdison’s proposed 174-turbine, 600-megawatt wind farm in Unorganized Territory in southern Aroostook County – what would be Maine’s single largest wind farm. If built to capacity, the King Pine project would dwarf the state’s largest functioning wind farm in Bingham with more than three times the capacity.

But there’s a kicker to the deal. The agreement depends upon a plan advanced last fall by three southern New England states to turn Maine into their own wind plantation. Sale of the King Pine wind project, for about $26.5 million, reportedly depends on the project winning a supply contract under the Clean Energy Request for Proposals issued by a consortium of agencies and electric utilities in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

Promoters of the Clean Energy RFP, like other wind energy advocates, are quick to proclaim that adding hundreds of additional wind turbines here in Maine will do wonders in reducing emissions from burning fossil fuels and enhance price stability, energy security and supply diversity. But Maine and New England already have some of the cleanest, albeit most expensive, electricity in America. What the southern New England consortium wants to do – with the complicity of developers – is to turn Maine into the wind plantation that its members don’t want in their own states.

Make no mistake. The bottom line in all of this is money – big money.

As writer Robert Bryce observed in a “National Review” article earlier this year, “it takes enormous amounts of taxpayer cash to make wind energy seem affordable.” Bryce cites data from Subsidy Tracker, a database maintained by Good Jobs First, a Washington, D.C.-based organization promoting “corporate and government accountability in economic development and smart growth for working families.”

According to that data, the value of subsidies given to the biggest players in the U.S. wind industry is now $176 billion. That includes all local, state and federal subsidies, federal loans and loan guarantees received by companies on the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) board of directors since 2000, according to Bryce.

The “National Review” article quoted Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway and one of the world’s richest men, who readily admits that his companies are in the wind business for one reason. “We get a tax credit if we build a lot of wind farms,” said Buffett. “That’s the only reason to build them. They don’t make sense without the tax credit.”

And there’s more money – lots of it – being handed out to companies not on the AWEA board, according to “National Review.” That includes $1.5 billion to the now-bankrupt SunEdison, as well as nearly $5 trillion in federal loans or loan guarantees to J.P. Morgan and Bank of America, some of which was part of the federal programs instituted by the Federal Reserve in the wake of the financial meltdown of 2008.

We’ve said before, and we’ll say it again. Maine’s greatest resource is our unparalleled scenery – our mountains, lakes, rivers and ocean coastline. Continuing to despoil this birthright to support a misguided energy policy and put big money in the pockets of developers and investors is a travesty that must be stopped.

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