BANGOR, Maine — Proponents of wind power in Maine unveiled a report Tuesday at Bangor City Hall touting the growth of wind power over the last decade and its potential to further reduce the harm of climate change.
“Our message today is clear: Wind power here in Maine is already growing steadily, reducing pollution and helping to reduce the climate crisis,” said Laura Dorle, a campaign organizer for Environment Maine, a Portland-based environmental advocacy group. “But we need policies to provide steady support for this clean energy resource to maintain our momentum in the fight against global warming.”
The report, “Turning to the Wind,” was unveiled as states look to implement and comply with the federal Clean Power Plan, which mandates a 32 percent reduction in carbon emissions from power plants by 2030. It also comes as world leaders have gathered in Paris to hash out a global strategy to reduce carbon emissions.
Wind power, the report argues, will be critical to reducing human-made carbon pollution that scientists say fuels global climate change, leading to more extreme weather, a rise in the ocean level and rising temperatures.
Since the first wind farm went online in Mars Hill, wind power’s contribution to Maine’s energy production has grown from 1 percent in 2007 to 8 percent last year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. That’s enough energy to offset the carbon emissions from nearly 114,000 cars and to power 100,000 homes, Dorle said.
As a coastal state, Maine has an opportunity to develop offshore wind power to meet the mandates of the Clean Power Plan to reduce emissions.
According to Habib Dagher, director of the University of Maine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center, which is developing offshore wind technology, within 50 miles of Maine’s coast there is a potential capacity for 156 gigawatts in wind capacity, which could significantly reduce carbon emissions.
Dorle said that to ensure that wind power capacity continues to grow in Maine, consistent government policies are “critically important.”
Congress, in December 2014, let expire a production tax credit for renewable energy used for the development of wind power. This credit has been critical to the growth of wind power over the last two decades, Dorle said, and any measure to reinstate the renewable energy tax credit must be approved by Congress before its adjournment on Dec. 18.
The production tax credit, if renewed, would lead to future wind development that would reduce carbon emissions equivalent to an additional 30,000 cars and provide enough energy to power another 50,000 homes, according to Dorle.
But Chris O’Neil, director of public affairs for Friends of Maine’s Mountains, a group that opposes wind turbine development in Maine, questioned whether the industry still needs “training wheels” such as the production tax credit.
“If the wind industry once did need the subsidy to get off the ground, that need is gone because America now has a mature industry,” O’Neil said in an emailed statement Tuesday afternoon.
O’Neil also said that reductions in carbon emissions in the U.S. have been largely the result of phasing out the use of oil and coal for natural gas. Any reductions in carbon emissions from wind power to generate electricity wouldn’t come close to offsetting the emissions from cars and trucks on Maine roads, he said.
Laurie Osher, president of Maine Interfaith Power and Light, a nonprofit group that promotes renewable energy, said Tuesday it is a “moral imperative to address the issue of a changing climate.”
“Each person, each congregation, each community needs to figure out how they can reduce their concentration of carbon that they put in the atmosphere. Each person and each community needs to assess how they can reduce their impact on the planet,” she said.
Climate change, however, has not just environmental consequences, but also consequences for public health, according to Dr. Bill Wood of Bangor.
Wood said warmer temperatures caused by climate change have fueled an increase in Lyme disease, which rose from 247 cases in 2005 to 1,169 cases last year, Wood said citing data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“As the weather warms up going north,” Wood said, “these insect-borne diseases can spread north.”
Correction: A previous version of this report misspelled Chris O’Neil's name.