Amended Bill Title: An Act to Provide Predictable Economic Benefits to Maine Communities that Host Wind Power Projects
by Pete Didisheim, NRCM Advocacy Director
Senator Hobbins, Representative Hinck, and members of the Utilities Committee, my name is Pete Didisheim, I am the Advocacy Director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine. I also served on the Governor’s Wind Power Task Force. I am here to testify in support of the bill language offered by Sen. Mills to replace LD 1504 as introduced. This bill helps bring into focus the benefits of wind power – particularly the economic benefits to host communities.
The Committee is well aware of the energy and environmental benefits of wind power, which I’ll summarize quickly. Maine currently has 94 utility-scale wind turbines that generate clean renewable power. At Mars Hill, Stetson, Kibby, Beaver Ridge, and Vinalhaven, these turbines produce power to the grid without burning any fossil fuels.
These projects contribute to Maine’s energy security by displacing fossil fuels that otherwise would have been used to produce the same electricity. In so doing, wind power is helping Maine achieve its greenhouse gas reduction goals, and moving us away from forms of power generation that are imposing serious security, environmental, and public health impacts on others – including future generations.
The wind power projects now operating in Maine, under construction, or having received permits will provide as much electricity on an annual basis as is used by more than 175,000 households (Attachment AAttachment B
Within five years, Maine may generate more electricity annually from the wind blowing across the state than from the water in our rivers.
Wind power also is providing important economic benefits. Nearly 300 businesses have participated in the construction of Maine’s wind power projects to-date, supporting hundreds of Maine workers (Attachment C
These are important benefits, but some of these benefits are abstract (such as enhancing Maine’s energy security) or diffuse (such as providing jobs to companies spread across the state). It is also important to understand whether Maine communities that host wind power projects receive tangible benefits for doing so. The evidence so far suggests that they are, but LD 1504 as revised could improve how tangible benefits are provided to host communities.
Over the next 20 years, wind developers are expected to provide more than $88 million to seven towns and two counties where operating or permitted wind farms are located (Attachment D
This is a substantial amount of money that will go primarily to rural Maine. But the amounts vary considerably from one host town to the next (in terms of dollars-per-megawatt-per-year), even for neighboring towns involved in the same project.
When the Legislature adopted the Maine Wind Energy Act in 2008, it established a new “tangible benefits” permitting standard for projects in expedited permitting areas. The new standard is important, but was not clearly defined. As a result, State agencies use a guidance document with vague descriptions for how a developer can meet the requirement.
NRCM believes that there is too much uncertainty and variation when it comes to the tangible benefits provided to host communities. The amended version of LD 1504 would help solve this problem, while also providing increased flexibility in how such funds could be spent by a host municipality, plantation, or County (if the project is in the unorganized territory).
We support the concept of a legislated standard that would clarify for a host community what they could anticipate in terms of a “tangible benefits” package. The proposed level of $14,000 per megawatt per year for projects between 20 and 100 MW seems fair, based on Maine’s experience to-date. Attachment E
It also would help the State of Maine as a whole understand the economic benefits (Attachment F
NRCM does not view wind power as a panacea, but we do believe that it is an important part of Maine’s energy strategy moving forward. These projects provide significant environmental and economic benefits to Maine people, by helping reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and create clean energy jobs. Passage of this bill would make the benefits for host communities more predictable – and more tangible. We urge the committee to use the substitute language as the basis for your work session. I appreciate this opportunity to testify and would be pleased to answer any questions that you may have.
1. Assuming 700MW in projects 20-100 MW size range = $9.8m annually; 300MW in 100+ projects = $2.4m annually, for total of $12.2 million.