Maine currently uses more fossil-fuel produced energy than any of the other New England States. The solution to reducing, and even eliminating, that dependency could lay in state’s potential to produce much of the energy it needs through wind generated power.
“We have a lot of wind energy on and off shore in Maine,” said Jeff Thaler, associate university counsel for environmental, energy, and sustainability projects for the University of Maine System and member of the UMaine team that has developed cutting edge offshore wind power technology. “We went through a process nine or so years ago where the state mapped out wind potential in the state [and] established expedited zoning regulations in certain areas that showed great promise.”
According to the American Wind Energy Association, Maine has enough reliable wind blowing over land to produce 69,797 megawatts of power annually. With developing technology in offshore wind generated power, there is the potential for an additional 94,498 megawatts of power. Combined, it’s more than enough to power the state.
But the state isn’t there yet.
As of 2018, Maine was harvesting 923 megawatts of wind-generated power, meeting 21 percent of the state’s overall power needs of 4,615 megawatts. “There is plenty of wind in Maine,” Thaler said. “Does Maine have the potential to meet its own energy needs through wind power? The short answer is yes.”
The mandate is here
Wind power has been on the radar of state officials for more than a decade. In 2009, the Maine Legislature passed the Maine Wind Energy Act mandating the state have 3,000 megawatts of wind power on line by this year and 8,000 megawatts of wind power on line by 2030. The idea was to encourage the development of wind energy and associated infrastructure in Maine.
Dan Burgess, director of the Maine Governor’s Energy Office, acknowledged Maine’s new renewable portfolio standard that requires 80 percent renewable energy by 2030, including wind generated power, is an ambitious one, but one he believes is obtainable.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, since the passage of the Maine Wind Energy Act, 625 megawatts of wind produced energy have gone online in Maine produced by 14 separate wind turbine farms with a total of 386 turbines built between 2009 and 2017. Prior to 2009, a handful of turbines around the state were producing 298 megawatts of wind power. There are no wind projects currently under construction in Maine.
“We think there’s a real opportunity for Maine’s energy future, for its environment and for the economy to produce homegrown clean power,” Burgess said, “This is especially true in those areas of expedited zoning regulations”
In those zoning areas, which cover much of the state, proposed wind-generated power projects would be eligible for streamlined permitting and zoning considerations. All of the wind power generating sites developed since 2009 were constructed in areas of expedited zoning.
Counties not granted expedited zoning were the western half of Aroostook County, much of Pisacataquis County, the western edge of Somerset County and portions of Washington and Hancock Counties.
Julia Bayly is a reporter at the Bangor Daily News with a regular bi-weekly column. Julia has been a freelance travel writer/photographer since 2000.
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