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Could Maine be Energy Self Sufficient in Ten Years?

By Kenneth Barbalace
[Thursday, March 04, 2010]

Yesterday I attended a meet and greet for Pat McGowan who is one of seven candidates who are running for the Democratic nomination to be the next Governor of Maine. One of his key agenda items is to continue Maine on its path to energy self sufficiency within ten years. This would be accomplished through harnessing a diverse array of renewable energy sources.

McGowan's stated that this is totally achievable as within about a year Maine could have a maximum capacity of 400 megawatts of electricity from wind energy. This would be equivalent to almost half the power capacity of the 900 megawatt Maine Yankee nuclear power plant when it was operational. This would be enough electricity to power somewhere around 150,000 homes.

Based on data I compiled from the Natural Resources Council of Maine website, Maine currently produces a maximum of 175 megawatts of wind power, with an additional 202.5 megawatts under construction and up to 229.5 megawatts currently in the permit application process, with even more projects being studied. All told, the short range maximum wind generating capacity either currently operational, under construction or undergoing permitting is over 600 megawatts or around 1.6 billion kilowatt hours per year of electricity. This would be enough electricity to power the equivalent of nearly 250,000 Maine homes. Assuming permitting went reasonably smoothly all of this power generating capability could be online within a couple of years, with more proposed wind farms still in the works.

From permitting application to fully operational Maine will have brought online 2/3 the electrical generating capacity of the now decommissioned Maine Yankee Nuclear power plant. This will have happened in a fraction of the time it would take to permit and build a modern nuclear power plant for a fraction of the cost and none of the long term risk. Furthermore, the wind farm projects are spread out across the state bringing desperately needed local jobs to communities across the state. Best of all, this will be zero CO2, clean, renewable energy with none of the hazardous waste or pollution that is produced by nuclear or fossil fuel based power plants.

Could Maine really become energy independent within ten years? Well, at least from a power generation standpoint, the answer is yes, this is a very achievable goal. Maine won't be able to do it on wind power alone, but if wind generation capacity is coupled with solar, hydro and tidal energy projects we could become the first state in the U.S. to have a 100% renewable energy grid. We will, however, still need to work really hard to reduce our dependence on oil, especially when it comes to heating our homes.

Maine Wind Farms and Production Capacity

Source: Natural Resources Council of Maine.
Last updated: 3/4/2010

LocationOwner OperatorMax Capacity (MW)Number of TurbineskWh/yr Produced/ ProjectedPhase (year)Equivalent # of Maine homes supplied
LiveBeing BuiltProposedLivePermit ApprovedPermit Applied For
Mars Hill, AroostookFirst Wind42.028200725,000
Stetson Ridge, Washington CountyFirst Wind57.038169,269,000200923,500
Beaver Ridge, Freedom, Waldo CountyPatriot Renewables, LLC4.5312,500,00020082,000
Kibby & Skinner Townships Franklin CountyTransCanada66.066.043357,000,000200950,000
OakfieldFirst Wind51.034135,000,000201020,000
Lincoln, Lee, Winn, Burlington & Mattawamkeag, Penobscot CountyFirst Wind60.040168,000,000200923,500
Stewart-Bald Mountains and Briggs-Burnt Hill, Highland Plantation, Somerset CountyIndependence Wind130.548360,000,000200948,000
Jimmey and Owl Mountains, Washington CountyFirst Wind25.51781,468,000200911,500
Vinalhaven, Knox CountyFox Islands Wind, LLC4.5311,600,0001,500
Spruce Mountain, Woodstock, Oxford CountyPatriot Renewables, LLC20.01155,000,00020108,500
Saddleback Ridge, Carthage, Franklin CountyPatriot Renewables, LLC34.519106,000,000201016,500
Sisk Mountain, Kibby and Chain of Ponds Townships, Franklin CountyTransCanada45.015120,000,000200917,000

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NOTICE: Comments are user generated feedback and do not represent the views and/or opinions of EnvironmentalChemistry.com.

Brad said...

Sigh! Big Sigh! Here I go again, a regular citizen, having to educate someone in a position to influence. Regarding wind, the first thing you should do is avoid going to websites like NRCM that are paid shills for the industry. The information there shows what developers are trying to get. At the present time, only Mars Hill, Stetson I, Kibby, Freedom, and Vinalhaven have been built. Stetson II is under construction only because of an outright grant of $40.4 million from Obama. Record Hill started construction of roads last fall but was stopped. If the turbines never go in, which is likely given the financial capacity problems of the developer, said developer will put in expensive houselots with incredible views. Meanwhile, up in Lincoln, which NRCM also says is under construction, not a spade of earth has been turned as Friends of Lincoln Lakes (15 pristine lakes nestled at the bottom of the 5 ridges First Wind wants to destroy)has this tied up in lengthy litigation. Meanwhile, the 40 Made in China turbines and 120 Made in Brazil blades lay under 3 feet of snow and ice and will likely be shipped off somewhere else with Spring thaw---First Wind can't sit on that inventory. NRCM also says Oakfield is being built when the permit application has barely been submitted!

Now, the nitty-gritty. You, as a scientist, can't use the nameplate capacity as a way of bragging up wind. You have to be honest and use the capacity factor, the actual percentage of output obtained by these. In a good wind potential area, this might be 30-35%. However, most of the areas in northeastern Maine that are proposed, are poor wind potential (see the state map from the US Energy Information Administration). In these areas, the capacity factor is more like 20-25%. So, the Stetson I project is likely doing 25%. So, the nameplate capacity of 57MW actually ends up being 14-15MW. And so it goes. This unpredictable, unreliable, inefficient source of electrical power generation is oversold to an unsuspecting, ignorant public. The linkage to powering Maine households is a propaganda ruse as well. Again, the nameplate capacity is used, not the capacity factor.

Lastly, you seem to enthusiastically push this scam and rhapsodize about how onderful it will be to have 50 or so sprawling industrial wind sites around the jewels of rural Maine. It will never happen because they local people are becoming educated to the huge negatives involved. Towns like Dixmont and Jackson have enacted restrictive ordinances and many other towns are developing similar ordinances and enacting moratoriums. Eventually, the voodoo economics will catch up with this as well.

I suggest you take the rosy sunglasses about wind off and put on some good reading glasses and investigate wind much more before you continue to be a shill for an industry that simply would not exist without heavy subsidies and preferential treatment.

Ken (EnvironmentalChemistry.com) said...

The table does dully note what capacity is in production, what is under construction and what is in permitting. Also the table does provide both the maximum capacity and the actual kilowatt hours per year of production. The only kWh/yr figure I'm missing is for Mars hill and I have sent the operator of Mars Hill an email asking for this figure.

Yes max capacity doesn't equal actual production; however, you are wrong about it being unpredictable. From day to day wind is not predictable, but long term averages are predictable. If it weren't investors wouldn't be willing to invest. Yes there are heavy subsidies for these wind farms, but there are heavy subsidies for ALL energy sources. Giving wind farm tax subsidies only levels the playing field.

In regards to your claims about propaganda, your post comes across more like propaganda I'd expect a NIMBY naysayer or shills for the oil & coal industry. It is really easy to trash someone else if you don't have to provide evidence or cite sources.

All energy source have negatives, but I'd take the negatives of wind over the negatives of nuclear (think Chernobyl) or coal (think: mountain top removal and coal-to-liquids) any day of the week.

When the wind turbine is spent, and removed the land will heal itself up and in a 100 years no one will be able to find its footprint. With nuclear there will lethal stockpiles of radioactive waste left behind for hundreds of thousands of years. With coal, entire mountains are removed, entire eco systems destroyed and soot and CO2 spewed into the air helping to exasperate climate change. In regards to oil, I have two words "Exxon Valdez". Wind energy isn't perfect, but its WAY better than most of the alternatives.

Is wind the end all be all solution? No it is not, but it is an important part of the solution as is solar, hydro and tidal power sources. We also must have a mix between small and large industrial projects as well as encourage residential projects (e.g. roof top solar).

Terry T said...

Hey Ken Do you really think wind is predictable.There are at least 100 days a year when the wind doesn't blow.
I know for a fact the Kibby turbines can't react fast enough on a gusty day and they shut down.And have to be rebooted.
You need to get some facts.
Guess who I won't be voting for?
there isn't a wind plant on the planet that has ever shut down a fossiled fueled power plant.
Are you and Angus King working together?

Ken (EnvironmentalChemistry.com) said...

Terry T.,

In regards to your comment I'll reiterate what I said above. It is really easy to make baseless claims when one doesn't have to provide links and citations to back one's claims as you have done.

Maybe in the past a wind power plant has never shut down a fossil fuel power plant, however, wind along with other alternative energies will certainly help reduce our needs for new ones to be built.

There are no silver bullet perfect solutions to the challenges we face. What is for certain is that as a state and a nation we MUST become energy independent. How many wars have been fought, how many people have died, how many eco systems destroyed, how many tons of nuclear waste has been created to supply civilization with the energy it needs?

It is so very easy to be a NIMBY naysayer when one doesn't have to come up with real solutions to our nation's and our state's energy, environmental & economic challenges.

Anonymous said...

Well I, for one, think that a race to see which state can be 100% renewable first is a good thing.

Obviously you will have days that the wind won't blow, but that doesn't make it a bad technology, that doesn't mean that it doesn't work, wind farms and solar plants still produce reliable energy, it's just more of an average than a constant figure. Generally, it's either windy, or it's sunny. There are very few days in which it is neither.

And the downsides of wind farms? What are they? I have asked this question many times and still haven't got a decent answer. You can't say that they are noisy, I live just a few miles away from a new wind farm, and I can stand right next to the things and hear only wind. You can't tell me that they pollute the landscape, I think they are very elegant. I would rather look at a wind farm than a coal power plant.

People need to stop making excuses, stop whining about pointless issues and realize that until we have reliable fusion power, we are going to have to rely on the sun for our energy, no matter how you get it.

TS said...

Have to agree if this works it will be great. Utilizing the wind, solar and tidal components that you mentioned may make up for the days when wind or sun aren't enough. It never hurts to try to find a better way to produce energy, and I hope it does work for Maine because then maybe other states will follow suit.

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