March 12, 2010

Oil dealers: Offshore
wind plan a mistake

They oppose a bill to speed up ocean energy projects, which they say will kill their industry and cost many jobs.

By Tux Turkel tturkel@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

John Baldacci
click image to enlarge

In 2008, Maine Gov. John Baldacci set up the 22-member Ocean Energy Task Force to make recommendations focused on offshore wind power.

Associated Press file photo

No one wants to put people out of business, said Sen. Barry Hobbins, D-Saco, who co-chairs the Utilities and Energy Committee. The oil spike of 2008 highlighted the state's over-dependence on oil and gasoline, he said, and the state needs a long-term plan to develop alternatives.

But even an executive who has spent most of his adult life selling electricity said the ocean wind alternatives are too expensive.

Carroll Lee, former president of Bangor Hydro-Electric Co., estimated that offshore wind power would cost 25 cents per kilowatt hour, well above what residential customers now pay. It would make more sense to generate power in Maine from natural gas, he said, and install efficient heat pumps.

That led Rep. Jon Hinck, D-Portland, the committee's House chair, to note that the nuclear power industry was subsidized in its infancy. He asked Lee whether he thinks offshore wind serves as an analogy.

Lee disagreed, but general debate over the cost of offshore wind power and how to pay for it got a bit more real when Chuck Digate stepped up to testify. Digate is managing general partner of Neptune Wind LLC, a Massachusetts company that is interested in developing an ocean wind farm in Maine.

It will cost an estimated $1.5 billion to build a 250-megawatt ocean wind project, he said. Its power would cost 22 cents a kilowatt hour, and with no state support to help financing debt, he said, it would add $8 a month to the average household's electricity bill.

The financial benefit for Maine: $585 million spent during construction and $112 million a year over 25 years of operation.

Digate posed a question that may be the core of what lawmakers will have to decide over the next few weeks: How do you encourage a half-dozen developers to come to Maine and each spend $500 million on construction and $100 million or so a year?

 

Staff Writer Tux Turkel can be contacted at 791-6462 or at:

tturkel@pressherald.com

 

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