Recently, Naomi Schalit of the “Center for Public Interest Reporting” wrote a three-part series on wind energy development that was published in this newspaper. Unfortunately, this series did not provide an opportunity for the supporters of wind power to discuss the important role wind is playing in Maine. Wind power is supporting our economy through statewide investment and employment, protecting our environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and moving Maine closer to energy independence.
These are the kinds of benefits that are well-understood by the people of Maine, as demonstrated by the 88 percent support for wind power identified in a scientific survey by Pan Atlantic SMS Group that we commissioned in May.
As we all know, Maine’s motto is “Dirigo,” (“I lead”), and wind energy offers part of the answer for this state to lead us into a clean, green, sustainable energy future. Our fair state just so happens to have the best wind resource in all of New England and 19th best in the country.
If Ms. Schalit had contacted the Maine Renewable Energy Association, Maine companies that are involved in the wind industry or others with detailed statistics, she would have been able to provide readers with a wealth of information about the vital support the state has enjoyed to date for wind energy. Readers can judge for themselves by visiting an informational website on Maine wind power: www.windforme.org.
Wind power development has attracted more than $750 million in capital investment; $105 million in wages paid to Maine residents; and host communities are estimated to receive nearly $95 million in community benefit agreements, property tax reductions, electricity rate cuts and other economic development programs. The vast majority of this investment is occurring in rural Maine, which has endured significant challenges due to the global economic downturn. These projects offer rural Maine a real lifeline, and the industry remains committed to employing Maine people, buying services and products in Maine and capitalizing on Maine’s “can-do” spirit whenever possible.
The environmental benefits from wind power continue to grow. For example, just 100 megawatts of wind power offsets 100,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions from conventional generation sources including coal, oil, and natural gas.
Looking at the greenhouse gas reduction benefits other states enjoy from wind power is instructive, as Maine continues to work toward achieving its policy goal of hosting 2,000 MW by 2015 and 3,000 MW by 2020.
According to data compiled by the U.S. Department of Energy, Colorado shows that as wind energy increased from 2.5 percent of their generation mix to 6.1 percent, carbon dioxide emissions dropped by 4.4 percent, nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide emissions decreased by 6 percent. Also, the state experienced a 3 percent drop in the use of coal, which means that 571,000 tons of environmentally unfriendly coal went unburned.
Wind power is an indigenous, renewable power source that we have in abundance in Maine. This Maine-made generation source provides the opportunity to insulate ourselves and our businesses from the volatile energy commodity pricing of oil and natural gas that we all experienced in summer 2008.
Fortunately, we are not forced to be the first to slide the proverbial razor’s edge when it comes to hosting these projects. Europe has been siting wind projects for decades, and we are able to learn from and improve upon their efforts in order to provide Maine with the most beneficial, environmentally suitable, cost-effective and clean energy possible.
Maine policy leaders and residents broadly agree that wind power is vital to our future and provides enormous public benefits. The expedited permitting law, which was approved unanimously by the Maine Legislature and signed into law by Gov. John Baldacci, helps encourage investment in Maine’s economy. The process is streamlined, through its recognition that Mainers see wind power as a public good, but continues to provide a public, careful process for reviewing individual projects.
Those opposed to this renewable energy source offer no alternative to meet our immediate and long-term energy needs with a homegrown, green, renewable energy source. Instead, through hollow, misinformed criticism of wind, they become de facto advocates for the status quo in energy policy: more coal, oil, and natural gas.
I, along with 88 percent of Mainers, want to leave Maine better off for our children and their children. To that end, we must continue to embrace appropriately sited and sized wind developments, and ensure their economic, environmental and energy-independence benefits stay in Maine.
Jeremy N. Payne is the executive director of the Maine Renewable Energy Association, www.renewablemaine.org.