March 27, 2010

Environmentalists, business interests talk up wind power

By ETHAN WILENSKY-LANFORD Kennebec Journal

AUGUSTA — Business leaders, environmental advocates and legislators joined at the State House on Friday to extol the benefits of wind power.

"We must continue to create a welcoming and inviting climate for these projects to be built and hosted in Maine," said Jeremy Payne, executive director of the Maine Renewable Energy Association, which hosted the event. "While it is true that Maine has the best wind resource in New England, we are not the only place these projects can go."

The emergence of wind power in Maine over the past few years has pitted communities against developers, environmentalists against environmentalists and, in some places, neighbors against neighbors.

Friday's Hall of Flags event was meant to display the range of possible benefits that wind power could deliver to the state.

Jon Cooney, vice president of finance and development for Woolwich-based Reed & Reed, which has built about 98 percent of the wind turbines in Maine, said that since 2006 his company has paid $105 million in wages to Mainers who have worked on wind projects in the state.

"It's our own little stimulus package," said Maine State Chamber of Commerce President Dana Connors.

Pete Didisheim, advocacy director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine, said 10 percent of Maine power comes from coal, which has environmental costs.

Wind power is not a cure-all, he said, but it is the best alternative for future electricity generation.

Sen. Kevin Raye, R-Perry, noted how unusual it is for business and environmental advocates to be so excited about the same issue.

For voters in his district, he said, wind power is about jobs. Washington County has two operating wind farms already, and Eastport is gearing up as a receiving port for large turbine parts destined for projects across the state.

"I can tell you that, as a person that represents a county that has often been left behind economically, we are so thrilled to be a participant," he said.

Two residents of Vinalhaven, where three turbines are running to reduce high electricity costs on the island, also traveled to Augusta to talk up the turbines.

Some people near the turbines don't like the noise, they said, but Fox Islands Electric Cooperative is working with the manufacturer, General Electric, to quiet them by shutting a vent and considering other measures.

"Turning on the light and knowing that that juice comes from right on the island makes people feel good," said Del Webster.

 

MaineToday Media State House Reporter Ethan Wilensky-Lanford can be contacted at 620-7016 or at:

ewlanford@mainetoday.com

 

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