Blowing in the wind: Maine’s energy past and future

Blowing in the wind: Maine’s energy past and future

Posted March 30, 2012, at 12:58 p.m.
Last modified March 30, 2012, at 9:18 p.m.
Print this   E-mail this    Facebook this   Tweet this   
An aerial photo, taken March 18, 2012, of First Wind's 60 megawatt, 200 wind turbine Rollins Wind project, 8 miles east of Lincoln.
Photo courtesy of R.W. Estela
An aerial photo, taken March 18, 2012, of First Wind's 60 megawatt, 200 wind turbine Rollins Wind project, 8 miles east of Lincoln.

The nearly 400-foot-tall turbines atop Mars Hill Mountain had been spinning for several months when, on March 27, 2007, the facility quietly marked a historic moment in Maine’s energy history by selling electricity into the power grid.

The Mars Hill project formally opened the door in Maine to a renewable energy industry that had been discussed for decades but, prior to that day, had never amounted to more than talk.

Five years later, Maine is the largest source of wind energy in New England. The 205 commercial wind turbines spinning on Maine mountaintops, ridgelines and coastal islands are rated to produce enough juice to light more than 6 million 60-watt bulbs.

But like most growth spurts, Maine’s rush into wind energy has not been pain-free.

Lawsuits, regulatory challenges and financial problems have slowed or snuffed out numerous projects. Alarmed by stories told by turbine neighbors elsewhere, voters in towns across Mainehave banned commercial wind power near their homes.

Federal subsidies that fueled wind power’s dramatic national expansion are at risk of expiring amid the changing political environment in Washington, D.C. And in Augusta, the LePage administration wants lawmakers to revisit key policies written by their decidedly pro-wind predecessors — starting with dropping the state’s optimistic but symbolic goal of generating 2,000 megawatts from wind power by 2015. Turbines already installed in Maine can produce nearly 400 megawatts when operating at maximum capacity.

“Looking back five years, I think we all knew that [goal] was aggressive but we didn’t know if it was attainable,” said Ken Fletcher, director of the LePage administration’s Office of Energy Independence and Security. “We now have five years of experience so we think it is time to have the Legislature do a look-back at where we are, where we are going and what’s ahead.”

A $1 billion industry

Despite the rapid development of the industry during the past half-decade, wind energy represented just 6.6 percent of the total electricity generated in Maine in January 2012, according to figures from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Hydropower, by comparison, accounted for 25 percent of Maine’s total electricity generation.

Nationally, Maine’s wind farms generated less than 1 percent of the nation’s total wind energy production in January 2012. Production of wind power in Maine increased by roughly 59 percent between January 2011 and January 2012, roughly equal to the national average.

Yet Maine’s wind power sector has grown from almost nothing a decade ago into one that has funneled more than $1 billion and created thousands of jobs, according to an industry group, much of that during an economic downturn. And industry representatives insist Maine is poised not only to remain as New England’s top source for sought-after wind energy but potentially tobecome an international leader in the arena of offshore wind produc.... A 2010 survey found that 88 percent of Mainers support wind power in the state.

“That is an enormous investment that these companies are making in Maine and, quite frankly, in Maine people,” said Jeremy Payne, executive director of the Maine Renewable Energy Association, an industry trade group. “And it is important to recognize that a lot of these jobs are happening in rural parts of the state where there often aren’t a lot of job opportunities.”

Rural and economically challenged aptly describes Mars Hill, an Aroostook County town located about 15 miles south of Presque Isle on the Maine-Canada border. The 28 turbines operated by First Wind — New England’s largest wind power company — sit atop a 1,700-foot-tall mountain that dominates the horizon and, in winter, is a popular ski destination for locals.

The Mars Hill project may have paved the way for future wind farms but it also left a legacy that continues to haunt the industry in Maine.

Noise problems persist

Although the project has enjoyed strong support from Mars Hill officials and many town residents, some neighbors of the 28-turbine project were expressing concerns about the turbines as soon as they began spinning.

Upset residents accused First Wind of downplaying the potential noise created as the nearly 200-foot-long blades sliced through the air, especially at night and whe...

The rest of this article can be read here.

Fair Use Notice: This website may reproduce or have links to copyrighted material the use of which has not been expressly authorized by the copyright owner. We make such material available, without profit, as part of our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, economic, scientific, and related issues. It is our understanding that this constitutes a "fair use" of any such copyrighted material as provided by law. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes that go beyond "fair use," you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Views: 196


You need to be a member of Citizens' Task Force on Wind Power - Maine to add comments!

Join Citizens' Task Force on Wind Power - Maine

Comment by Gary Campbell on March 31, 2012 at 11:47am

It would be nice if you pointed out the factual errors in this article. For example, the Bowers project application has NOT been withdrawn by First Wind. They have REQUESTED to withdraw it but it's very unlikely LURC will allow it. If they don't allow it, Bowers will be the first time in its history that First Wind has been denied a permit!!

The historic meeting will take place Friday April 6th at 9:30 at the Waterfront Events Center in Lincoln. For details and a map, go to

I hope to see you there!


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.”

Not yet a member?

Sign up today and lend your voice and presence to the steadily rising tide that will soon sweep the scourge of useless and wretched turbines from our beloved Maine countryside. For many of us, our little pieces of paradise have been hard won. Did the carpetbaggers think they could simply steal them from us?

We have the facts on our side. We have the truth on our side. All we need now is YOU.

“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

 -- Mahatma Gandhi

"It's not whether you get knocked down: it's whether you get up."
Vince Lombardi 

Task Force membership is free. Please sign up today!

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."

© 2023   Created by Webmaster.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service