AUGUSTA — In his Aug. 10 column, Jonathan Carter charged wind advocates of “distortions and misrepresentations” in making the case for wind power in Maine. (“Mountaintop windfarms not good for the ecology”). But he then went on to make a series of assertions that simply defy logic and have no basis in fact.

Let’s try to separate fact from fiction. He says that almost 30 acres of forest would have to be cleared for every turbine installed.

In fact, the real figure – based upon actual experience in Maine – is closer to three acres, including both roads and the area immediately around the turbine.

And most of the cleared land is allowed to grow back, so the eventual total is even smaller.

Claims are made that we will lose the carbon-reducing potential of the forest, which must be cut to make way for the turbines, thereby offsetting the carbon gains from using wind power.

But here again, the fact is a typical wind project will provide 200 times the clean air benefit of not doing the project. A single 120-megawatt project, for example, would offset about 90,000 tons of CO2 a year versus 450 tons held by the trees on the site if the project doesn’t happen.

Probably the most egregious misstatement wind opponents make is that there really aren’t any pollution savings from wind power – that the energy reserves necessary for when the wind stops cancel out any gains in carbon savings.

One Maine editorial put this claim in its place: It’s “nonsensical.”

When the wind is blowing, the energy directly reduces power produced somewhere else, and in Maine and New England, that’s almost always fossil fuels (usually natural gas).

The argument Carter makes has become an article of faith for wind power opponents, but it’s flat out untrue.

Study after study – and real life experience both here and in Europe – has proven that the amount of on-line reserve necessary to make up for the fact the wind doesn’t blow 100 percent of the time is very small (about 2 percent) and getting smaller all the time, as grid operators learn to manage their energy mix.

Some people get it. “Wind power now produces about 3 percent of Texas’ electricity, enough to avoid about eight million metric tons of global warming pollution per year,” one source reports.

The same website offers this answer to the question of which sustainable energy sources have the greatest potential. “Wind power and solar power are both quite viable sources of energy. At present, wind power probably has the edge.”

Ironically, both of these quotes are from Carter’s own Forest Ecology Network website. It looks like he was for wind before he was against it, as the man once said.

Now he says he’s just against “mountaintop wind.” But that’s where the strong, reliable wind is; this is like being for hydropower, just not in rivers.

Carter says that because China has invested heavily in wind power and is still building coal plants hand-over-fist, it proves that wind power doesn’t offset fossil fuels.

This one gets a zero on the “believe-ability scale.”

The demand for electricity in China is growing so fast that the Chinese are building everything they can to meet their needs – including coal, nuclear, gas, solar, hydropower and wind facilities.

The fact that they are building both wind and coal plants proves only that they are wisely diversifying their energy mix and shifting away from fossil fuels wherever possible. To imply (as he clearly does) that China is forced to build the coal plants because of the wind projects is just ludicrous.

Carter claims that property value declines of “20 to 40 percent” have been “documented” near wind projects.

We are unaware of any such case and in fact the best actual documentation on this question is a recent national study conducted by the Department of Energy, which looked at over 7,000 home sales near wind projects and found no significant property value effects.

Putting aside Carter’s claims, why should we develop wind power in Maine?

Simply because 87 percent of the total energy we use (about 55 percent of the electricity) comes from oil and natural gas – of which zero comes from Maine. Zero.

As we move toward electric heat and cars, the demand for electricity will grow, even after a solid dose of conservation.

So we must ask ourselves: where will the new power come from? Of the options available- – more natural gas, more oil, a new nuclear plant or a coal plant – wind is an essential part of the answer to help meet the needs of our environment, economy, and energy security.

It’s clean, renewable, plentiful and, most importantly, it’s made in Maine.

 

– Special to the Press Herald