Gulf of Maine: New Task Force Will Consider Leases For Offshore Wind Energy Developers

By Fred Bever 12/12/19

A new task force will convene for the first time Thursday to consider how and where to lease potentially vast swathes of the Gulf of Maine to offshore wind-energy developers. The outcome could have big consequences for Maine's fishing industry, and for the state's role in the next wave of renewable energy development.

An earlier round of auctions awarded leases in federal waters off southern New England, where several large-scale wind projects should soon start churning out thousands of megawatts of electricity — a big down payment on state commitments to ramp up the use of renewable energy.

Now, at New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu's request, the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is starting a new process to designate the best areas for offshore wind projects farther north — in the Gulf of Maine. Analysts say investments could be worth billions of dollars, with thousands of jobs in the offing.

"This is a really significant opportunity for our energy future and economy," says Dan Burgess.

Burgess directs Maine Gov. Janet Mills' energy office, and he is leading the state's delegation to the intergovernmental task force that will advise the Bureau Of Ocean Energy Management. The panel also includes representatives from New Hampshire, Massachusetts, tribal governments and the feds.

One challenge for Maine, Burgess says, will be to pursue offshore wind opportunities without harming fishing or shipping industries and the Gulf's ecosystems.

"Any development really does have to consider existing commercial maritime interests and habitat as well. And we really do want to bring that full lens to this process."

Burgess says some major wind developers are showing interest in Maine. That would mark a change from the sector's recent doldrums in the state.

Jeremy Payne, the executive director of the Maine Renewable Energy Association, says former Gov. Paul LePage stalled ocean wind development off Maine when he intervened in an offshore energy bid that had been won by a Norwegian company called Statoil — which prompted the company to withdraw from the state altogether.

"Reputationally, the state really suffered, particularly in the last couple of years of the LePage Administration when there was so much uncertainty created by the Governor's constant public criticism,” says Payne. “So companies that were interested in Maine either started looking elsewhere or, at a minimum, put their early development projects on the back burner."

But Mills and the Legislature got things back under way again this year, directing utility regulators to finalize a contract for electricity from a pilot project for a floating turbine system led by the University of Maine, called Aqua-Ventus, to be located in state waters off Monhegan Island.

It's an important first effort, Payne says. He notes that the continental shelf extends far offshore of southern New England, allowing for the installation of well-developed fixed-platform wind technologies in those relatively shallow waters. But off Maine, the shelf drops off closer to shore, which would force the use of more experimental floating platforms.

But if the feds open up new lease areas, and Maine lawmakers authorize new long-term contracts, Payne says, the market is likely to follow.

"And perhaps a year or so from now we'll see another procurement, and that really will get the industry's attention and say 'you need to look at Maine.'"

But that worries some in the state's fishing industries. Ben Martens is the executive director of the Maine Coast Fishermen's Association.

"I think this could be much bigger than whales when it comes to the impacts it could have on our fishing industry in the Gulf of Maine," he says.

Martens says offshore wind development could rival pending federal action to protect endangered North Atlantic right whales that, right now, has the lobster industry up in arms.

He says fishermen are concerned about conflict with the multiple anchors and cables needed for floating platforms. And in the Monhegan area, he adds, fishermen feel burned by their experience with Aqua Ventus.

"They've really bungled the rollout of that project, to the extent where fishermen just don't trust them anymore because they keep on changing, they keep updating, the story is different every time they talk to the fishing communities,” says Martens. “And so there's a lot of fear right now around offshore wind that didn't exist before that project started."

Aqua Ventus officials could not be reached for comment.

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Comment by Willem Post on December 13, 2019 at 10:47am
Comment by Penny Gray on December 13, 2019 at 6:50am

No environmental impact studies?  What will the effect be on the whales and other marine life when the oceans are polluted with infrasound from all these machines?  Water amplifies sound.  And what about the birds?  No mention of this.  The fishermen, I can understand their fears.  Their habitat is being destroyed.

Comment by Willem Post on December 13, 2019 at 6:21am
Comment by Willem Post on December 13, 2019 at 6:17am

Wind and Solar Subsidies Provide a Bonanza for Wall Street


This URL shows wind and solar prices per kWh would be at least 50% higher without direct and indirect subsidies. They would be even higher, if the costs of other items were properly allocated to the owners of wind and solar projects, instead of shifted elsewhere. See below section High Levels of Wind and Solar Require Energy Storage.


This URL shows about 2/3 of the financial value of a wind project is due to direct and indirect subsidies, and the other 1/3 is due to electricity sales.


- Indirect subsidies are due to federal and state tax rebates due to loan interest deductions from taxable income, and federal and state MARCS depreciation deductions from taxable income.


- Direct subsidies are up-front federal and state cash grants, the partial waiving of state sales taxes, the partial waiving of local property, municipal and school taxes. See URLs.


Any owner, foreign or domestic, of a wind and/or solar project, looking to shelter taxable income from their other US businesses, is allowed to depreciate in 6 years almost the entire cost of a wind and solar project under the IRS scheme called Modified Accelerated Cost Recovery System, MARCS. The normal period for other forms of utility depreciation is about 20 years.


Then, with help of Wall Street financial wizardry from financial tax shelter advisers, such as BNEF*, JPMorgan, Lazard, etc., the owner sells the project to a new owner who is allowed to depreciate, according to MARCS, almost his entire cost all over again. Over the past 20 years, there now are many thousands of owners of RE projects who are cashing in on that bonanza.


Loss of Federal and State Tax Revenues: The loss of tax revenues to federal and state governments due to MARCS was estimated by the IRS at $266 billion for the 5y period of 2017 - 2021, or about $53.2 billion/y.

The IRS is required to annually provide a 5y-running estimate to Congress, by law.

The next report would be for the 2018 - 2022 period


The indirect largesse of about $53.2 billion/y, mostly for wind and solar plants^ that produce expensive, variable/intermittent electricity, does not show up in electric rates. It likely is added to federal and state debts.


Most of the direct federal subsidies to all energy projects of about $25 billion/y also do not show up in electric rates. They likely were also added to the federal debt.


Most of the direct state subsidies to RE projects likely were added to state debts.


The additional costs of state-mandated RPS requirements likely were added to the utility rate base for electric rates.


* BNEF is Bloomberg New Energy Finance, owned by the pro-RE former Mayor Bloomberg of New York, which provides financial services to the wealthy of the world, including providing them with tax avoidance schemes.


^ In New England, wind is near zero for about 30% of the hours of the year, and solar is minimal or zero for about 70% of the hours of the year. Often these hours coincide. Where would the electricity come from during these hours?


Warren Buffett Quote: "I will do anything that is basically covered by the law to reduce Berkshire's tax rate," Buffet told an audience in Omaha, Nebraska recently. "For example, on wind energy, we get a tax credit if we build a lot of wind farms. That's the only reason to build them. They don't make sense without the tax credit."


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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