FMM Intervenes in Power Line Case Before PUC

Friends of Maine's Mountains has been granted intervenor status in the case for Central Maine Power Company's power line from Quebec to the New England grid. In the New England Clean Energy Connect, FMM sees both positive benefits and negative impacts. Although on paper the proposed project is for Massachusetts utilities, it could affect all New England ratepayers, and it could have major ramifications for future Maine wind development.  

FMM prefers that Massachusetts would host its own electricity infrastructure, unlikely as that may be.  FMM would only support the project if certain conditions are required. 

To read FMM's testimony, CLICK HERE at # 103.

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What's Going On?

A lot.  And not much.

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The Massachusetts RFP was

awarded to the Northern Pass, a High Voltage Direct Current Transmission Line that would provide clean, reliable, dispatchable power.  Mainers were thrilled to learn that Massachusetts selected the good stuff instead of a passel of feckless wind projects in Maine's most precious places.

But then Northern Pass hit a snag when the permitting authority in New Hampshire denied a license for the game-changing transmission line.

Suddenly, the thousands of Maine wind turbines that had bid in the RFP were breathing new life.  

Will the Massachusetts selection committee jettison Northern Pass, or will they stick it out through a potentially long appeal process?  There are alternatives on the table. Since Massachusetts seems intent on importing -- rather than generating its own -- clean energy, Mainers are on guard.  CMP's New England Clean Energy Connect is a strong contender to replace Northern Pass.  

FMM's first priority is to see Massachusetts host its own generation facilities.  But since that is unlikely, and because Maine is intricately connected to Massachusetts via the ISO-New England grid, FMM has been advocating for clean and dispatchable power that can replace/displace the thousands of megawatts of power that is going off-line.  No amount of wind turbines despoiling Maine's Quality of Place can fill the void that New England faces.  

FMM is monitoring the situation and will keep you informed.

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Maine puts the brakes on Big Wind

Frustrated with the Legislature's years of inaction on reforming the ludicrous Wind Act, and fearing the thousands of turbines bid into the Massachusetts FRP,  Governor Paul LePage issued a de facto moratorium on new wind projects.  He also ordered a study commission that will examine Big Wind's negative impacts on Maine's brand and tourism.   A desired outcome is a fresh look, supported by ten years of data and unfortunate experience,  at the omissions and false presumptions of the 2007 Wind Task Force.

FMM Has Been Sounding the Alarm about

Big Wind's pending threats. While the Wind Act blithely called for 2000 megawatts of installed wind capacity by 2015, Mainers have succeeded in subduing the assault.  Today only 900 megawatts is online, and on average, the grid only gets less than 300 megawatts of power from that multi billion dollar "investment." The 2017 figures say that wind contributed only 3.2 percent of New England's electricity, despite the exorbitant costs. Over a billion dollars has been spent on Maine wind projects. Billions more have been spent on the transmission lines that make it all somewhat possible. And New England ratepayers are now spending billions every year to keep dirty old oil and coal plants afloat and burning fuel for the days and hours when the wind fails to blow. This is unsustainable

Maine Wind Projects

in 2017 accounted for almost 20 percent of all Maine electricity generation.  On the surface this sounds impressive.  But Maine has stopped being a net exporter of electricity and is now a net importer.  Too often, those necessary imports (when the wind isn't blowing) rely on dirty oil and coal from New Brunswick.  This is backwards energy policy, and a clear indicator that Maine has reached its limit, both environmentally and economically. The fabled Maine Quality of Place cannot endure any more industrial wind projects, and the Maine economy cannot endure the cost.

The Maine Legislature

continues to do nothing to stop the greatest threat in history on the Maine Brand.  The 2008 Wind Act passed unanimously with no debate or scrutiny, for reasons that made no sense, environmentally or economically.  The same Maine legislature that presumed it could deploy wind energy to mitigate climate change recently passed a law (unanimously) to allow 75 mPH speeds on the Interstate 95 highways.  This happened unwittingly despite the fact that Maine CO2 emissions from transportation are 6 times higher than CO2 emissions from electricity! 

Ten years later we know what a colossal mistake the Wind Act was, but Big Wind clutches onto its golden ring with understandable zeal, and with lobbying prowess.  As we enter the period when all 186 legislative seats are up for election, as well as the governor's seat, FMM is redoubling its efforts to educate policymakers about the differences between fact and fantasy.

 CAN YOU GUESS WHICH OF THESE TWO PHOTOS APPEARS ON THE "CAREER                                  OPPORTUNITIES" RECRUITING PAGE OF UNUM'S WEBSITE?

CAN YOU GUESS WHICH OF THESE TWO PHOTOS APPEARS ON THE "CAREER                                  OPPORTUNITIES" RECRUITING PAGE OF UNUM'S WEBSITE?

 http://www.unumgroup.com/Careers

http://www.unumgroup.com/Careers

Looking Ahead

The state is forming a "commission" that will study the long overdue balancing of Big Wind's impacts and benefits.  The governor is concerned about "tourism" but it is more than tourism.  The very Maine brand that is so integral to our economy is at stake if we allow southern New England to convert us into a tragic power plantation with no climate or economic benefits. Hundreds of businesses rely on the integrity of the Maine brand, and they buy and sell it daily.  To defile that brand for an unnecessary and ineffective Wind Lobby is utter folly. 

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Please stay tuned as the legislative session turns into the home stretch, and as politicians hit the streets looking for votes.  FMM will continue to remind Maine about wind energy's high impacts and low benefits. 

Maine Puts The Brakes on Big Wind

Today the State of Maine issued an order calling for a re-examination of Maine's embattled "Wind Act" and its "expedited" permitting for destructive industrial wind projects.

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The order includes a de facto moratorium on permits for new wind projects until a commission can make recommendations about the Wind Act, now that Maine has ten years of experience with a land use of unprecedented scope and scale: industrial wind. 

Friends of Maine's Mountains (FMM) had urged the Governor to act decisively before a Massachusetts selection committee announces preliminary winners in a historic Clean Energy RFP.  That committee has said it intends to make those announcements tomorrow, January 25.  There are some very attractive bids in that RFP, but there are also several ominous bids that propose massive Maine wind buildup.   

"The original Wind Task Force a decade ago embarked with untested assumptions, false presumptions, and unrealistic expectations," said FMM Chairman Rand Stowell.*   The Wind Act, one of Maine's most sweeping laws ever,  sped in only a few days through the legislature without debate and without a single dissenting vote (see graphic below). 

Stowell further said "It was 'garbage in - garbage out' and we've been fighting to overturn a horrible law ever since."

"Most of us thought wind energy was a great idea because it was going to get us off oil, save the planet, improve the economy...it was a 'can't miss' until we learned that none of that was going to come to fruition because of wind energy.  After ten years of struggling under an ill-conceived law, now Maine knows the massive impacts are just too high a price to pay for such minimal benefits. The Expedited Wind Law been Maine's worst policy boondoggle since Car Test. This commission is a good chance for Maine to correct its mistakes."

The original Wind Act called for 3000 megawatts of installed wind in Maine.  After achieving a third of that goal, Stowell said "Mainers now realize that there is simply no more room for industrial wind in Vacationland.  We have had enough.  Over 100 Maine communities have learned the facts and then taken action to protect against wind encroachment, so today's order recognizing Maine's frustration comes as no surprise. Because Maine is already doing its part to combat climate change, there is no rationale for destroying our Quality of Place." 

* For a stunning 3-part journalistic investigation into how The Wind Act was rushed into law, see:

https://pinetreewatch.org/wind-power-bandwagon-hits-bumps-in-the-road-3/

https://pinetreewatch.org/wind-swept-task-force-set-the-rules/

https://pinetreewatch.org/flaws-in-bill-like-skating-with-dull-skates/

 The hasty path of the Wind Law

The hasty path of the Wind Law

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Don't tread on ME

Maine is preparing for battle, as some historic decisions are being made this month in Boston. The Massachusetts Clean Energy RFP has attracted numerous proposals to develop industrial scale wind energy that could more than triple the installed wind capacity now in Maine. 

 Maine tore down the billboards 40 years ago  (Press Herald photo)

Maine tore down the billboards 40 years ago  (Press Herald photo)

Nobody appreciates a clean environment like Mainers, who banned billboards in 1977.  But when it comes to hosting wind plantations, we have had enough. A decade ago Maine generally viewed wind energy as necessary, useful and trendy. But having witnessed wind’s colossal impacts and miniscule benefits, over 100 Maine communities have taken action to thwart wind development.

Boston is the 12th ranked city in the nation with 49 skyscrapers over 100 meters tall. Shockingly, our pristine Maine woods are host to almost ten times that many skyscrapers. On mountains!  Maine has reached its limit, with almost 1000 megawatts of installed wind energy. If the pending Boston decision triples that amount it will do grave harm to the New England Electric grid, to our regional economy, and to Maine’s environment. 

Tourism is one of Maine’s largest industries. Maine tourism depends on our brand: the outdoors.  According to the Maine Office of Tourism’s latest figures, 41% of overnight visitors come primarily for the lakes & mountains/highlands/Downeast. That is more than the visitors who flock to trendy Portland and Maine’s spectacular beaches combined.  Moreover, a whopping 88% of overnight visitors came to Maine for touring/sightseeing/active outdoor activities.  This is 28% higher than people who came for the food scene.  Tragically, these special areas and the outdoor activities within them are directly threatened by industrial scale wind development.  

Massachusetts is Maine’s biggest tourism customer. So it is clear that Massachusetts citizens appreciate Maine’s fabled Quality of Place, which the Brookings Institution called our “calling card, brand, and truest source of prosperity.” Ironically, the state that apparently loves Maine most is now poised to destroy that which makes Maine such an attractive outdoor destination.

Everbody has responsibility for the environment. Maine is doing its part. The Bay State’s population is five times greater than Maine’s. Yet Maine has five times more wind turbines. While wind developers won’t even bother trying to locate in Massachusetts, they readily industrialize Maine’s iconic White Mountain National Forest, our Mahoosuc Range, the High Peaks Region, the Boundary Mountains, the Appalachian Trail, Katahdin and other priceless natural resources. 

Maine has the highest Renewable Portfolio Standard of the 50 states.  Maine CO2 emissions from electricity rank third least in the nation, contributing less than 2% of total New England CO2 emissions.  Maine has facilitated industrial wind speculators to bill ratepayers for over a billion dollars worth of massive wind infrastructure, not including the billions more in accompanying transmission costs and capacity payments.  Maine is doing its part.  

While high energy costs have exacerbated Maine’s loss of industry, Massachusetts has persistently isolated us from nearby plentiful and inexpensive natural gas supplies. It once seemed smart spending money on wind infrastructure instead of gas infrastucture. But now we know that wind contributes only a tiny fraction of our electricity, while our neglect of critical gas investment is forcing an expensive and dirty return to oil and coal.

Massachusetts should do its part: allow crucial gas pipeline upgrades, host its own wind turbines, and buy quality renewables from Quebec.

There are some good and necessary proposals in the RFP.  The selection committee must make sound policy decisions, rather than chase old trends. 

Recently the New England grid operator wrote:

"More than 4,200 megawatts (MW)…will have shut down between 2012 and 2020 and is being replaced primarily by new natural-gas-fired plants…Over 5,500 MW of additional oil and coal capacity are at risk for retirement in coming years, and uncertainty surrounds the future of 3,300 MW from the region’s remaining nuclear plants… These retiring resources are likely to be replaced by more natural-gas-fired resources, thereby exacerbating the region’s already constrained natural gas transportation system…"

Thousands of low-performing wind turbines cannot fill this growing void in baseload / peakload power. Only the High Voltage Direct Current transmission projects from Quebec (one of them in Maine) can provide the dispatchable, clean, affordable energy that New England wants and needs. 

Mainers will oppose wind projects at every stage of permitting.

Feel Good Massachusetts Policy - Bad for Maine

 

This link  https://www.iso-ne.com/isoexpress/  shows in graphs and charts what feel-good energy policy looks like on a frigid winter day. 

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We already “got off of oil” largely by switching to cleaner natural gas. 30 years ago oil accounted for over a quarter of Maine's electricity generation.  Even as we closed Maine Yankee we started to get off oil, and by 2012 oil generated less than half a percent of Maine electricity.  Natural gas generation climbed to 60 percent. 

The real time pie chart shows how on cold winter days we are consistently using oil for at least 25 percent of generation. Mothballed coal plants are also firing up, quadrupling their normal generation. And New England spot prices leap tenfold from 30 dollars to 300/MWH! 

Today’s wholesale electricity spot price in Western New York is $33/MWH or less and Hydro Quebec at the New York border is selling for $10.80 MWH. 

Gas is plentiful just past New England. While our neighbors pay some of the lowest worldwide prices for natural gas, New England pays some of the highest. Our Algonquin Citygate Spot price for gas is $20/MMBTU today which is down from $30/MMBTU yesterday. The Henry Hub Spot price for the rest of the country is only $3/MMBTU today. Our exorbitant cost is all about the pipelines. No pipelines = No Gas.

Because gas is being used heavily by sectors other than electricity, like heating and manufacturing, the gas fired power plants cannot answer the call, necessitating our reliance on coal and oil plants that we ratepayers also pay billions annually just to sit ready. 

Why can’t we get enough natural gas? Because Massachusetts feels good about ruining Maine Mountains with billions of dollars worth of low performing wind turbines (see chart: generating one percent today) while simultaneously refusing to allow expansion of crucial gas pipelines in the Bay State. All this while Maine policy makers apparently embrace our becoming a wind plantation. 

Bad for the ratepayers, clean air, the economy and the environment. But the nimbys in Massachusetts feel good.

How Numbers Affect Visual Impact

Friends of Maine’s Mountains, via an amendment to LD 901, wants to set a predictable visual impact standard instead of spot-zoning, instead of cherry picking favorite places. The Wind Lobby has its hair on fire, despite the fact that every wind application except one (Mars Hill) has submitted a Visual Impact Assessment during its permitting process. 

But over the years we've learned that how people see wind development depends a lot on...

                            ...how people see wind development. 

If people look at a wind turbine and BELIEVE that it is saving the planet, they think the turbine is beautiful.  But it people KNOW that the turbine is merely a useless and unnecessary feel-good scam to line the pockets of speculators, their VIEW of Big Wind is changed.  If wind energy actually did some good, it would be easier to accept. 

Electricity generation is a virtual non-factor in Maine's GHG output but we are destroying our landscapes to benefit foreign corporations building wind and transmission all because of this virtual non-factor. See chart below:

By 2011, Maine electricity generation by oil had fallen to under one half of one percent of all Maine electricity generation.  

In Maine, one of the top three cleanest electricity states in America, transportation emits FIVE+ times more CO2 than electricity. Yet in less than a decade Maine has decided to throw $2 billion (not counting billions more for transmission, capacity payments, etc.) at unsustainable, redundant and unnecessary wind projects that contribute on most days 1% to 3% to the ISO-NE electricity mix, even as dirty plants continue to burn fuel and get paid handsomely for being ready.  

But what has Maine done about the real problem, transportation emissions?  

We raised the speed limit.  

It is noteworthy that both the Maine Wind Law and the more recent law that raised the speed limits on I-95 were enacted by the Maine House & Senate unanimouslywithout debate, and without any roll call votes.  

Prolific wind spending is the reason why your light bills have not gone down even as ISO-NE wholesale rates have dropped in a few years by more than double. (See spread sheet here.)

Numbers are actually relevant to visual impact assessment: the more Mainers learn about Big Wind’s big impacts and tiny benefits, the less tolerant we are of looking at it.  

See those poll results here.

Pick up the phone. Urge your legislators on the Environment Committee and Utilities Committee to update the visual impact submissions for wind projects.

Maine's Wind Energy Zone Has Shrunk

Congratulations Maine!  

Two years ago there were 3.4 million acres of Unorganized Territory (UT) in the Expedited Wind Development Area (EA).  Thanks to grass roots citizen action, a law was passed and a process was established allowing people in the UT one chance to "opt out" of the EA. 

Now, assuming that one last appeal (Milton Township) goes our way,  there are only 2.6 million acres in the EA.  

Yes, approximately three quarters of a million acres were removed from the EA, enhancing our efforts to protect Maine's most beautiful places from Big Wind's high negative impacts / low positive benefits.

Wind developers might still want to build there, but now opponents stand a fighting chance.  

Milton Township successfully opted out, but a Pennsylvania wind developer challenged the petition. The wind developer has publicly stated that his company will abandon its plans for a wind project if Milton succeeds at opting out! 

If you can help these last petitioners with legal costs in their their Supreme Court appeal, we can make it a complete sweep: zero opt out reversals by Big Wind.    

Donate now to help pay the Milton legal fees:    

CLICK HERE      

....and specify "Milton Fund"

See the new map below, and click HERE for a summary. 

Ask at Town Meeting: Where is our wind ordinance?

Most Maine cities and towns use zoning, sometimes called a land use ordinance, to help them manage what is important in the community. Zoning can cover just about any land use: barking dogs, houselots, signs, parking… 

In recent years a new land use has captured the attention of municipal governments from Portland to Presque Isle: wind energy. While the Maine Department of Environmental Protection issues permits for wind projects, the state’s standards and protections are weak. But once a wind project permit is granted, you cannot protect yourself.

If your town has not prepared to deal with wind energy, FMM strongly suggests that you do it before a wind developer arrives seeking to build a massive project, with multiple towers as tall as Boston’s downtown skyscrapers. Communities that were not proactive on wind zoning have gone through hell when Big Wind suddenly came to town, pitting neighbor against neighbor, driving deep wedges and dividing communities. Big Wind is a dirty, ugly business that has driven Maine people from their homes, ruined property values, and decimated communities. 

It’s much better to plan.

Since it’s now town meeting season, why not take the initiative right now? Contact your local officials and let them know you want to be prepared. Show up at town meeting and make it an issue.

Good news: there’s no need to re-invent the wheel. Dozens of Maine communities have adopted a wind ordinance. Some simply wrote their own, others used a bare-bones template provided by the State Planning Office. (That is a good starting point, but no town should adopt the state's version as-is.) Some of the best written wind ordinances are in little towns like Sumner, Thorndike, Phillips and Buckfield. See the list HERE, many with live links to the actual ordinance, or relevant news stories.

Many of the early-adopting towns called “timeout” with a six month moratorium on accepting wind project applications. During the six month moratorium they learned about Big Wind’s land use implications and they drafted an ordinance suitable for their community. Now many communities are simply doing a cut and paste of these best ordinances from other towns. 

Momentum is growing, and not just in towns and cities that are capable of writing ordinances. Last year almost 50 communities in Maine’s Unorganized Territory -- where there is no municipal government – chose to be removed from a state zoning area where wind projects are easily permitted. See that list HERE.

Some of the major issues towns need to consider when writing a wind ordinance:

  • Noise – Wind turbines and homes never mix well. If you think a mile setback is a long distance for infrasound to travel, think again. 
  • Visual Impact -  Most people think favorably of wind turbines until they learn that they are very high impact and very low benefit.
  • Decommissioning -  Wind developers all use LLCs and they all promise the moon. They are in a highly speculative and unsustainable industry that is essentially a house of cards. To guarantee that someone is going to clean up the blight, you must require a performance bond and you must mandate that the landowner is ultimately responsible for decommissioning. These two requirements should be in every wind ordinance. 

So go to town meeting. Inform your neighbors. Demand a wind ordinance. Protect your community. FMM will gladly consult with any Maine community wishing to pursue a wind ordinance. 

Unsustainable costs of useless wind power in Maine

The wind in Maine’s mountains blows enough only to keep a wind turbine operating about 25% of the time. And yet as this article by Tux Turkel makes clear, it will take hundreds of millions, probably billions, to raze enough of Maine’s wild places and build the snarl of transmission lines that this totally unreliable power source demands. That's IN ADDITION TO the $1 billion plus we've already spent here in Maine to upgrade transmission lines for wind developers!

Maine people will pay for the redundant generation and the unnecessary transmission build-up, but the electricity will be shipped to the south.

While paying for wasteful infrastructure is bad enough, we will pay extra for the irreversible impact on Maine’s tourism industry. We have been investing heavily to attract visitors to the state, but our policy makers have greased the skids for developers who propose to ruin the very natural beauty that attracts visitors here in the first place. All to accommodate a power source that does no good here in Maine.

Do you remember the last time your electricity bill went down? By subsidizing wind developers, you rest assured it will only go up. Read the article in the Press Herald, and ask yourself if this makes any sense.

Record Hill Wind Project: A Big Loser for Yale

Additional Threats From Connecticut Looming

Record Hill finally filed its 2nd quarter 2016 report with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission this week.

The project, constructed with a taxpayer subsidy of more than $100 million, and sold to ratepayers by Angus King before he became a US Senator, was underwritten by Yale University, in its "quest to be to be the world's greenest university."

The Connecticut school boasts that it bought Record Hill to "provide a meaningful economic return to the Endowment while helping the University achieve its sustainability goals."

Aren't those Ivy League folks supposed to be smart?

For the quarter, the Byron & Roxbury, Maine project's average energy price was a paltry $21.11 per megawatt/hour. (That's 2.1 cents per kilowatt/hour.)

Its capacity Factor was merely 24.4%. (This effectively means that three days out of four it doesn't work.)

Total Energy and Capacity Revenues (it's a travesty that we waste capacity payments on wind projects) were $740,000 for the quarter.

This is a serious cash shortfall, considering Record Hill's estimated quarterly debt service is $1.8 million.

Could be interesting when Yale’s investment committee reviews the project’s "sustainability" and "meaningful economic return."

Residents around Ellis Pond, Appalachian Trail hikers, as well as motorists on Maine Scenic Byway Route 17 between Rumford and Rangely, are stuck with a massive industrial eyesore that does nothing to save the planet.

Meanwhile, Connecticut continues plotting to ruin many more Maine mountains as the "Clean Energy RFP" progresses. Rest assured that the bidders in the RFP cannot survive if they win government-mandated contracts at 2 or 3 cents per kilowatt/hour. 

Not unlike those well-educated people at Yale, perhaps we have not learned our lessons. Nobody will know what a bad deal the RFP is until AFTER the contracts have been signed: "Final results of the RFP will be announced to the public when executed contracts are filed for regulatory review." 

Last week Friends of Maine's Mountains had a meeting with Governor Paul LePage to warn him about the Clean Energy RFP's potential impact on Maine's economy and environment.  Over 2000 megawatts of Maine-based wind development has been bid in the RFP.  In the meeting we urged Maine's Chief Executive to use his influence in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island to discourage overpriced contracts that could be mandated by the public utilities commissions in those RFP states.

FMM will continue to monitor the process, and we will oppose all Maine wind projects that eventually emerge from the RFP.