Recommendations Would Make Maine a Leader in Wind Power
The Natural Resources Council of Maine today heralded the final report of Governor Baldacci’s Task Force on Wind Power Development. The report calls for at least 2,000 megawatts (MW) of wind power in Maine by 2015 and at least 3,000 MW by 2020, as part of a strategy to increase energy security, provide economic and environmental benefits to Maine people, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
“This momentous report could play a major role in helping Maine reduce its dependence on fossil fuels through clean, renewable energy,” said NRCM advocacy director Pete Didisheim, who served as a member of the Task Force.
“Maine people strongly support wind power. They know that we need clean power to improve energy security and reduce pollution. This report responds to that need by proposing a path forward to making Maine a leader in wind power development,” said Didisheim. “The specific recommendations will be ground-breaking for wind power in Maine, but equally significant is the common ground and consensus that was reached among the diverse members of the Task Force.”
The report, titled Finding Common Ground for a Common Purpose, was presented to Governor Baldacci during a State House news conference. The 16-member Task Force included Democrat and Republican state legislators, representatives of wind developers, environmental organizations, state agency officials, and citizens. Legislation to implement the Task Force recommendations is expected to be introduced by the Governor within the next few weeks.
“Climate change is a global problem, but solutions will happen at the state and local levels. Because Maine has a strong wind resource, we can be a leader in wind power development as part of our response to climate change. This report will help us do so, by guiding projects to the right areas, ensuring that the right studies are done, and creating a permitting process that makes sense for wind power,” said Didisheim.
The Task Force recommends specific changes to Maine’s permitting processes to make them more predictable and consistent, and to ensure common regulatory approaches by Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection and Land Use Regulation Commission. The Task Force identified Expedited Permitting Areas comprising nearly two-thirds of the state (14 million acres) where projects would be reviewed through a streamlined permitting process. The report also recommends a new requirement that wind power projects provide tangible economic and environmental benefits for Maine people.
The Task Force evaluated the wind power issue within the larger context of Maine’s energy policies, land use policies, and the need to reduce global warming pollution.
”Wind power is an important strategy for addressing climate change,” said Didisheim, “but the Task Force also believes that Maine and the New England states must implement aggressive efforts to increase energy efficiency and to reduce global warming pollution from all sources.” Progress is needed in all of these areas to reduce global warming emissions to 10% below 1990 levels by 2020. This goal was agreed to by the New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers (NEG/ECP) in 2001, codified in Maine law in 2003, and the focus of climate action plans adopted across the New England states.
NRCM hired a consultant team, comprised of Massachusetts-based Sustainable Energy Advantage and LaCapra Associates, and New York-based AWS Truewind, to help the Task Force understand how wind power fits within a region-wide energy strategy designed to meet the 2020 climate action goal set by the NEG/ECP. That analysis projects that more than 11,000 MW of wind power may be needed in New England by 2020, in addition to major accomplishments in energy efficiency, significant contributions from solar and tidal energy, and reductions in global warming emissions from transportation sources.
Current and projected technology advances are enabling developers to pursue wind projects at lower elevation sites, and with lower wind speeds, than were considered the cut-off for economically-viable projects even a few years ago.
Presently, a 42 MW wind farm is operating in Mars Hill, a 57 MW project (Stetson Wind Farm) has been approved, and a 132 MW project (Kibby Wind Farm) is expected to receive final permit approvals this spring. New York is expected to have more than 1,000 MW of installed wind power before the end of the year. Within five years, the Task Force envisions that Maine can surpass that milestone on route toward the 2,000 MW mark.
The Task Force recognized that success in building thousands of megawatts of wind power will depend on many factors that are not fully in Maine’s control, including federal energy policies, energy costs, and technology trends. Even so, the Task Force concluded that the goals established for 2015 and 2020 are achievable and will send a clear signal that Maine intends to be a major player in the Northeast in hosting wind power – and securing the economic and environmental benefits provided by such projects.
“This is a balanced approach that will help protect Maine’s quality of place, guide wind power to appropriate sites, provide a predictable permitting process, ensure that proper environmental studies are done for wind projects, and deliver tangible environmental and economic benefits from this emerging clean energy sector,” said Didisheim.