In the coming months, the residents of Frankfort will learn more about an exciting emission-free, clean energy project proposed for their town. Waldo Community Wind LLC, a subsidiary of Eolian Renewable Energy LLC, is pursuing the development of a modest six-turbine wind farm on private land in Frankfort — enough electricity for about 6,500 average Maine homes.
As we saw this winter, our overreliance on natural gas leaves us dangerously exposed to violent price swings that lead to sticker shock when our monthly utility bills arrive. One opportunity to shield ourselves from the future unknown costs of natural gas is to embrace and cultivate local renewable sources of energy with no fuel cost.
Importantly, a new report released this month by the U.S. Department of Energy shows that wind energy pricing is at an all-time low. Further evidence from a study by the regional grid operator , ISO-New England, found that for every megawatt of new wind added to the system, New England wholesale rates may be reduced by $354,000 each year. This is true because wind has no fuel costs, which offers much needed price stabilization when compared to volatile fossil fuels that can and will spike as demand fluctuates around the nation. This equals direct financial benefits for Maine ratepayers.
In addition to the clean air benefits, the town of Frankfort stands to benefit from considerable local economic benefits. Eolian has committed to work with Frankfort to ensure that the project creates long-term value for the town. The proposed project will create annual tax payments of a minimum of $250,000 — or $5,000,000 over the life of the project — directly to Frankfort, immediately becoming the largest taxpayer in town.
There will be work and jobs for Maine companies, especially during the project’s construction phase, and Eolian has committed to using local vendors as much as possible in support of the wind farm’s ongoing maintenance. As other towns hosting wind projects have seen, donations to important local community causes and nonprofit organizations also will be part of Eolian’s presence. For example, Eolian has committed to the town of Frankfort it will provide community benefits totaling $100,000 per year for at least 20 years. These funds will help create an energy rebate fund to offset residents’ energy costs, offer support for a local scholarship fund and provide funding for the two local fire departments.
Importantly, it’s not only financial benefits that this project will bring: The role wind farms play in improving the quality of our air and the health of our environment is undeniable. In its report from earlier this year, Environment Maine noted that Maine’s wind farms generated more than 880,000 megawatt-hours of electricity, displacing other, much dirtier forms of energy. That reduction in carbon dioxide is equivalent to removing more than 100,000 cars from the road. The Waldo Community Wind project will only increase these benefits.
It is important the people of Frankfort take the time to learn more about the clear and localized benefits that would accrue to their community and statewide. I encourage the community to ask questions of Waldo Community Wind and, in the end, support the exciting potential this wind farm has to offer.
Jeremy N. Payne is the executive director of the Maine Renewable Energy Association, www.renewablemaine.org.