Monday, March 10, 2014
By Jeremy Payne
AUGUSTA — When it comes to increasing the state’s energy independence, reducing our reliance on fossil fuels and protecting our environment, few sources of energy can compete with the benefits of clean, renewable wind energy. As the Maine Legislature considers several bills that would make it much harder for wind to be a central piece of our state’s clean energy future, it’s important to look at the facts.
Jeremy Payne is executive director of the Maine Renewable Energy Association in Augusta.
There are a lot of proven reasons to be excited about wind energy in Maine, and I’m not the only person who is so enthusiastic in my support. A recent poll showed that support for wind energy is shared by an overwhelming 87 percent of Mainers, who said that it is the kind of clean, emission-free renewable energy that our state should be prioritizing.
Despite constant efforts by a vocal few to mislead Mainers about wind energy, people from every part of our state, and all across the political spectrum, strongly support wind energy. I often hear from supporters of wind energy who are pleased with how wind projects are keeping our air and water clean, and boosting our local communities.
Wind energy is clean and great for our environment. In a November report, Environment Maine noted that Maine wind farms generated more than 880,000 megawatt-hours, all from the power of the wind, displacing other, much dirtier forms of energy.
Using clean, renewable wind energy to generate this electricity means that Maine’s air was spared 534,700 metric tons of carbon dioxide. That reduction in carbon dioxide is equivalent to removing more than 100,000 cars from the road.
And it’s not just carbon dioxide, either; using the wind to create electricity reduces other harmful, polluting emissions. In 2012, wind energy in Maine avoided more than 500 tons of nitrogen oxide, the chemical that leads to smog, and more than 620 tons of sulfur dioxide, which can lead to soot and acid rain.
All forms of energy have some impact, but since wind energy doesn’t require burning fuel, it’s hard to compete with in terms of cleanliness and sustainability. Well-sited wind projects reduce the impact on wildlife and its habitat, and help increase Maine’s energy independence.
In the United States, the leading creator of greenhouse gases – which are dirtying our air and changing our climate – is the generation of electricity.
As we shift more and more of electricity generation to safe, clean, renewable sources like wind, tidal, hydropower, biomass and solar, we can enjoy cleaner air and a healthier environment. Its role in improving the quality of our air and the health of our environment is why wind energy has earned the support of America’s leading group working for healthy lungs and healthy air, the American Lung Association.
Wind energy has tremendous pricing benefits for Maine ratepayers – individuals and business owners. A study from ISO-New England found that for every megawatt of new wind that is added to the system, New England wholesale rates may be reduced by $354,000 each year.
This is true because wind energy, and other renewables, can offer much needed price stabilization. Unlike volatile fossil fuels, which can and will spike as demand fluctuates around the nation, wind is both constant and free. That means lower, more stable prices for Maine families and businesses.
Wind energy benefits and stabilizes our economy by offering alternatives to finite energy sources that are all shipped in from out-of-state, and it is a vital and growing part of our economy. In Maine, wind energy has directly created hundreds of jobs and has benefited hundreds more local business. Additionally, wind energy brings much-needed tax revenues to towns.
Wind energy developers have worked closely with nonprofits, community groups and towns to ensure maximum economic benefit for the regions surrounding wind projects. These investments have led to lower local taxes, funding for public safety and educational programs, and the ability to build new recreational trails and conserve land in Maine.
Businesses and residents across the state agree; Republicans, Democrats and independents agree: Wind energy is good for Maine. We hope Maine lawmakers will agree, too, and will stop efforts to end wind energy as we know it in Maine, and make future investment impossible.
There is no one energy source that is the perfect solution for Maine. However, with its proven benefits for our environment and economy, we’d be foolhardy not to prominently feature wind as one of the leading elements of Maine’s clean energy future.
— Special to the Press Herald