January 30

MAINE COMPASS: Industrial wind power a catastrophe on every level

Mike Bond

As a lifelong Democrat, environmental activist and renewable energy advocate, I commend Gov. Paul Le Page’s recent criticisms of the huge taxpayer-funded industrial wind power scam, which will ruin Maine unless it is stopped.

Though initially a proponent of industrial wind, I’ve learned it’s a catastrophe on every level — environmental, fiscal, social and economic. And now with Maine’s southern neighbors halting industrial wind in their states, they’re paying to build thousands of turbines in Maine, to devastate every magnificent Maine ridge, pinnacle and mountain with howling machines more than 50 stories high, some so tall they’ll be the third-tallest structures in New England.

Industrial wind projects have been clearly proven to slaughter millions of birds and bats, destroy scenic beauty, lower property values and tourism, sicken people and drive them from their homes, increase erosion and raise electric rates. But they make billions in taxpayer-funded subsidies for the investment banks that develop them.

Yet the biggest trouble with industrial wind is it doesn’t lower greenhouse gas emissions or fossil fuel use. Not one molecule. The reason is that winds (particularly in Maine) are erratic, and as a result, industrial wind “farms” have to be backed up constantly by “fixed” generation, e.g, fossil fuel plants. This problem, called spinning reserve, basically invalidates any claim that wind projects lower fossil fuel use or carbon dioxide generation.

Online one can find numerous scientific, utility and environmental studies showing that, despite nearly three decades of huge federal subsidies, industrial wind projects don’t lower greenhouse gas emissions or fossil fuel use, and in some cases even increase them. In Germany and Britain, for instance, development of wind projects has led to an escalation in coal use.

This is without even considering the extensive greenhouse gases produced by constructing these huge towers, shipping them across the ocean, trucking them to wherever the wind industry has overridden the local folks and imposed a wind farm and building them.

Consider a typical Maine wind farm advertised as 100 megawatts, about 35 turbine towers. Because Maine winds are poor, turbines run at a low rate, sometimes as little as 4 days a month. Even industrial wind developers admit the capacity of wind projects in Maine is only 25 percent of their advertised amount. Thus a 100MW project creates only 25MW.

Even when the turbines are turning, however, the power can’t always be used, such as at night, so utilities curtail or dump it. In Maine, this reduces our wind projects used power to barely 17MW. And because most wind electricity will be transmitted out of Maine to Connecticut or Massachusetts, the transmission loss could exceed 5 percent, lowering this to 16.6MW.

One also has to deduct the fuel to run the spinning reserve, which means the real power provided to electricity consumers by a 100MW industrial wind project is barely 8 percent of advertised capacity — 8MW, not 100MW.

This 8MW is disastrously low for a project that could cost taxpayers $300 million. By comparison an 8MW gas-fired power plant could be built for less than $15 million and would create far less carbon dioxide. Or, for the same $300 million, we could equip 20,000 Maine homes and businesses with rooftop solar, and significantly reduce Maine’s carbon dioxide emissions.

Ever noticed the turbines turning when there’s no wind? To keep them from seizing up, they have to be turned by buying electricity. This is why three of the largest electricity consumers in Maine are wind projects. They each use more power than Maine’s largest pulp mill.

I may not agree with LePage about everything, but he has clearly enunciated an absolute truth for Maine. If we care about the beauty of our precious state, the superb individuality of our Maine people, and the enormous economic engine that this beauty and cohesion represents, then we must all, Democrats, Republicans and independents stand for what is right for Maine, and reject what is wrong.

We hear a lot of pro-wind commercials on the Maine Public Broadcasting Network, and a lot of pro-wind talk from groups such as Maine Audubon, the Sierra Club of the Maine and the Natural Resources Council of Maine. Guess why? Many such organizations get major funding from industrial wind developers.

Years ago, I learned a lot about life as newspaper boy, delivering it sometimes in a blizzard at 30 below, but I made sure my customers got their papers. That’s a spirit Maine inculcates: fairness and reliability. Industrial wind projects have neither.

Mike Bond of Winthrop is an environmental activist, renewable energy advocate and author of a wind industry exposé, “Saving Paradise.”
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