An Essay Regarding Jobs in Maine and Wind Power Development

We frequently see the wind industry's line about all the jobs they create.  I responded to someone tonight and before I knew it, I had written the following essay.

Sir, you have been listening way too much to the wind power industry's propaganda. They count every possible job related to planning and constructing these projects, however remote that connection may be.  Yes, it takes some consultants to draft the application materials, some engineers to plan and lay out the project.  Site work is done mostly by local contractors like Maine Drilling & Blasting, Sargent Co., and Reed & Reed brings in its "biggest crane in New England" to hoist the components up into place.  Any major construction job of any kind is going to employ these types of contractors.

However, the true employment impact is generation of permanent "new jobs".  The industry standard is approximately one maintenance worker per ten turbines. So that number is miniscule. 

To demonstrate my point, let me relate to you the tale of two power projects near Lincoln, Maine.  One is Covanta biomass plant in West Enfield; the other Rollins Wind in Lincoln, Lee, Winn, and Burlington. Now, pay attention to the contrast.

Covanta is 25 MW, operating at 80% capacity factor, cranking out 20 MW 24/7/365. Rollins is 60 MW, operating at 24% capacity factor, cranking out 14.4MW intermittently, when the wind blows just right. The grid operator plans on using Covanta power as base load; but due to the unpredictable, unreliable nature of Rollins' dependency on how the wind blows, it is relegated to surplus.

More contrast: Covanta cost $70 million to build, or $3.5 million per net MW rating; Rollins cost $180 million to build, or $12.5 million per net MW rating. Covanta received NO taxpayer subsidy.  On 12/29/2011, Rollins received a $53.2 million ARRA Sec. 1603 grant from the taxpayers. Covanta occupies 50 acres on the Lincoln Rd. in West Enfield and except for the sign out at the road, you wouldn't know it is there hidden in the woods. Rollins sprawls across 7 miles of high visibility ridgelines, dominating the views from the 13 Lincoln Lakes with 389 ft tall wind turbines. The site clearcut 1,000 acres and more than a million cubic yards of the ridges were blasted, leveled, cut & filled.

Now, to get to your point about employment. Covanta employs 24 and that number of jobs creates substantial payroll going into the area's economy. Because its fuel source is scrap wood, bark, and wood chips, dozens more are indirectly employed in the timber industry, which in turn helps to support other jobs in the area. Known in Economics 101 as the "multiplier effect". First Wind has never revealed its local payroll, but it is well known that Rollins created 3 local jobs, with nil multiplier effect.

Take this one step further.
We already know that the power purchase agreements for wind power are substantially greater than the ISO-NE average wholesale pricing, generally 8 cents per kwh compared to less than 5 cents per kwh. Because wind power is just a blip of surplus now, it really doesn't have a great impact. Regarding off-shore wind development: right now shallow water projects using monopoles with off the shelf turbines (such as Block Island& Cape Wind) are at 24 cents per kwh; deep water floating turbines proposed for the Gulf of Maine will be far more costly. Combine those higher costs with all the states having arbitrary Renewables (which in New England is industrial wind) mandates of 20% to 50% and we are heading for an economic

Speaking of jobs,Texas Instruments computer chip plant in South Portland employs more than 1,000 high tech workers. TI probably has an economic development entity from somewhere in the world try every week to make a case for packing up that plant and moving it to a lower business overhead location. I use this as an example because computer chip making is a huge electricity consumer. Given all the other economic disadvantages of Maine, driving up the electricity cost could easily close a plant that has an huge economic impact. Do you want to jeopardize our economy by forcing hugely subsidized and expensive wind power onto our state's business and all the regular folks who already pay some of the highest electricity rates in the USA?

Think beyond the wind industry propaganda. Wind power would never exist without unduly generous subsidies, selling Enron-inspired RECs (bought mostly by polluters because it is cheaper than investing in clean technology), and heinous arbitrary mandates. Meanwhile, the proliferation of sprawling, ugly industrial wind projects is destroying Maine's highly touted "Quality of Place" that the prestigious Brookings Institute study in 2007 claimed to be Maine's greatest asset.  That, in turn, hurts Maine's largest industry, tourism, that brings in more than $10 billion per year to our state and employs tens of thousands of Mainers. 
By contrast, Wind power and its touted job impact is a total farce.

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Comment by Kathy Sherman on September 8, 2014 at 8:04am
Excellent essay. One point of clarification is needed though -- on the 24% capacity. We need to keep in mind that those figures are an average across the entire year (or month), and that at times the output will approach 100% of nameplate (when the wind is blowing 'just right'), but even within a short timespan generation may go from 0 to 60, and vice versa. This is very clear from the hourly results publicly available from Ontario, and results from a study in Massachusetts shows the variability in power output within 10 minutes, and power dash from various publicly funded turbines in MA (e.g., Falmouth Wind 1) show the same thing on an hourly basis. That's what makes the gusty, turbulent, unpredictable winds of eastern North America so very useless and difficult for the grid. If the output was a sustained 25% it would be one thing; even if it was a predictable 100% one day, 50% another and 0% for four days to average 25% that would be much more manageable for planning other resources and economics, but there are many signs that the New England grid can't take the sporadic 100% output of wind generators, including the curtailment in VT last summer and delays in connection to get special equipment that no one is talking about. I suspect that the reason that only half the turbines are operating in strong winter winds that Martha notes is a form of curtailment to spare the grid rather than the turbines themselves. All your points are quite valid, but it needs to be clear that 25% capacity does not mean that the turbines only generate 25% of the time - it means that they have an unpredictable output, and as you have pointed out, the output is greatest when load is least.
Comment by Jim Wiegand on September 7, 2014 at 12:32pm

The reality is these are terrible people and they lie about everything. Just like a used car salesman once told me................"Tell them anything to make the deal. You have to make the deal."


Maine as Third World Country:

CMP Transmission Rate Skyrockets 19.6% Due to Wind Power


Click here to read how the Maine ratepayer has been sold down the river by the Angus King cabal.

Maine Center For Public Interest Reporting – Three Part Series: A CRITICAL LOOK AT MAINE’S WIND ACT


(excerpts) From Part 1 – On Maine’s Wind Law “Once the committee passed the wind energy bill on to the full House and Senate, lawmakers there didn’t even debate it. They passed it unanimously and with no discussion. House Majority Leader Hannah Pingree, a Democrat from North Haven, says legislators probably didn’t know how many turbines would be constructed in Maine if the law’s goals were met." . – Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting, August 2010 Part 2 – On Wind and Oil Yet using wind energy doesn’t lower dependence on imported foreign oil. That’s because the majority of imported oil in Maine is used for heating and transportation. And switching our dependence from foreign oil to Maine-produced electricity isn’t likely to happen very soon, says Bartlett. “Right now, people can’t switch to electric cars and heating – if they did, we’d be in trouble.” So was one of the fundamental premises of the task force false, or at least misleading?" Part 3 – On Wind-Required New Transmission Lines Finally, the building of enormous, high-voltage transmission lines that the regional electricity system operator says are required to move substantial amounts of wind power to markets south of Maine was never even discussed by the task force – an omission that Mills said will come to haunt the state.“If you try to put 2,500 or 3,000 megawatts in northern or eastern Maine – oh, my god, try to build the transmission!” said Mills. “It’s not just the towers, it’s the lines – that’s when I begin to think that the goal is a little farfetched.”

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Hannah Pingree on the Maine expedited wind law

Hannah Pingree - Director of Maine's Office of Innovation and the Future

"Once the committee passed the wind energy bill on to the full House and Senate, lawmakers there didn’t even debate it. They passed it unanimously and with no discussion. House Majority Leader Hannah Pingree, a Democrat from North Haven, says legislators probably didn’t know how many turbines would be constructed in Maine."

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