An energy answer blowing in the wind

Posted Dec. 12, 2008, at 5:56 p.m.

The development of wind power greatly benefits the state of Maine. These projects provide hundreds of millions of dollars of private investments at a time when the state’s economy has been struggling. Maine has seen a tremendous downsizing of industry, loss of jobs and tax revenue. The wind industry is a breath of fresh air in these trying times.

These projects create construction jobs, permanent jobs, and many millions of spin-off dollars to businesses such as hotels, restaurants, materials suppliers and the like. They contribute major tax dollars without adding traffic to our roads, putting sewage in our treatment plants, or filling up our schools.

Reed & Reed is thrilled to be a part of this emerging economy. We are an old Maine company, founded in 1928 in Woolwich. We started out as a marine contractor. Over the years, our work diversified and has included building bridges, marine terminals, buildings and more.

In 2006, we had the opportunity to get involved in the wind industry with the Mars Hill Wind Farm, consisting of 28 wind turbines. We jumped in with both feet because we felt it would be a natural offshoot of the work we were already doing. This project spurred our excitement and commitment to the wind industry. We were able to turn over a quality project, constructed safely and efficiently — and done with almost all Maine subcontractors and labor.

Reed & Reed Wind Power Services crews recently celebrated another major milestone for the company: the successful completion of the 38-turbine Stetson Wind Project near Danforth. On this project, of approximately $65 million spent for construction, engineering and development services, about $50 million was spent in Maine. Major team members on this project were the Sargent Corporation, Maine and Maritimes Utility Services Group, Underwood Electric, Langille Construction, Larry Ham Construction, The Sewall Company, SW Cole Engineering and SGC Engineering — all Maine firms. Almost 100 Maine businesses — from Lyman to Kingfield to Dennysville to Caribou — benefited by selling goods and services to this project.

Our team of qualified local subcontractors and labor force is one of the key reasons the project has been completed to such high standards for safety, quality and performance. At any given time there were well over 100 people working on the construction. More than 95 percent of these people were from Maine.

Our employees have expressed more excitement about these wind projects than just about any other project that we’ve worked on. They feel they are working on something that is new and exciting, helping our environment, and lessening our dependence on fossil fuel. While wind power provides electricity, it can also help to revitalize rural communities and increase the security of the U.S. electricity supply without consuming fossil fuels or producing global warming pollutants.

Many of our employees who worked on the Mars Hill and Stetson projects gained valuable experience. This has translated into additional work for us. We are about to begin construction of the 132 megawatt Kibby Wind Project in western Maine. Because of our expertise in this highly specialized area, we have received requests to do wind project work in Canada and Pennsylvania, but we have kept our focus on Maine and New England.

Reed & Reed is committed to the wind power industry, and we are investing for the future. Our company’s investment in wind power services includes our new 440-ton Manitowoc crawler crane, which is very large and designed specifically for wind turbine construction. This new crane was delivered to the Stetson project and helped us to complete turbine installation safely and efficiently. We are also hiring new people, sending staff to specialized training, and adding programs and purchasing more industry-specific equipment.

Overall, the growth of the wind power sector in Maine has been very good to our business and many others. We have invested and will continue to invest in the training and equipment necessary to strengthen Maine’s green economy and the development of more clean, renewable energy.

The future of our economy and environment are intertwined. An investment in clean energy will create a more prosperous future for Maine and the nation: more jobs, less pollution and less dependence on foreign oil and gas. Maine has a tremendous asset in its wind resource, and we should take advantage of it.

Maine has an enormous opportunity to invest in the development of “made in America” solutions that offer people real job opportunities and provide families with better energy choices. The new administration can make clean energy policies a top priority, and Maine’s leadership can ensure a smooth process for increased development of responsible wind power infrastructure. This will be a win-win situation for Maine, its people, and our environment.

Pat DeFilipp is a senior project manager at Reed & Reed Inc. in Woolwich.

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