“A consortium of grant seekers, organized under the name ‘Aqua Ventus,’ vies for $40 million in Department of Energy grants to build a demonstration wind project within three miles of Monhegan Island. They do so under the higher moral purpose of saving the planet, but that is simply to camouflage what is but a callous quest for ‘free’ government money, taxpayers and ratepayers be damned.”
Will the new, improved US Department of Energy (DOE) just-say-no to a massively uneconomic proposed wind project offshore?
I call your attention to a situation in Maine which I believe is a poster child for how the forgotten American is being robbed and disrespected by the renewable-energy special interests and their coterie of shills. The issue is this: DOE is presently considering grants of $40 million for a project which would never exist absent tax-and-spend government largesse to this point.
In 2008, Governor John Baldacci’s “The Expedited Wind Energy Act” passed the Maine Legislature with absolutely no debate or objection. “Maine is the Saudi Arabia of wind,” they said, among other exaggerations and deceits.
The push was buttressed by a slick 105-page study from the Brookings Institution, Charting Maine’s Future: An Action Plan for Promoting Sustainable Prosperity and Quality Places.
Yet the subsidy seekers continue to try and put through more and more industrial wind projects in the state of Maine both on land and now offshore.
The bill constituted one of the most significant changes in the state’s land use laws in a generation. According to the nonpartisan Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting:
Baldacci said all this could be done without hurting Maine’s landscape or the tourism industry. The law is still largely in effect today.
According to Chris O’Neil, a former state legislator who now works as a public affairs consultant to groups opposing wind power development in Maine’s mountains, the governor’s vision was fundamentally flawed. “To fulfill the charge of making Maine a leader in wind power development and to simultaneously protect Maine’s quality of place, is impossible.” O’Neil’s use of the phrase “quality of place” was surely intentional, as those precise words had oft been articulated by Governor Baldacci as Maine’s most important asset. On that count, Baldacci was right. Even a broken clock….
Current Aqua Ventus Proposal
Monhegan Island is one of Maine’s idyllic places, an island that has been treasured by visitors and artists as well as residents who ply the surrounding waters for fish and lobsters as did their ancestors for generations. Putting wind turbine towers in these waters, ultimately twice the height of any building in the state of Maine, would be an unthinkable blight on the island.
However, that is exactly what is on the wind proponents’ drawing boards, as a consortium of grant seekers, organized under the name “Aqua Ventus”, vies for $40 million in Department of Energy grants to build a demonstration wind project within three miles of the island. They do so under the higher moral purpose of saving the planet, but that is simply to camouflage what is but a callous quest for “free” government money, taxpayers and ratepayers be damned.
Existing Projects and Complications
In another part of the state, Aroostook County, EDP Renewables (EDPR) seeks to build the largest wind project in the state in its pursuit of “free money”.
EDPR, which passes itself off as Texas-based, is in fact owned by a Portuguese company, Energias de Portugal, who has just sold part of their interest to China Three Gorges (CTG) because of debt problems. In fact, the latest Wikipedia entry for CTG now lists Energias de Portugal as one of CTG’s subsidiaries.
We looked briefly for financial documents further evincing this relationship, but realized we had hit a wall when we learned that CTG is owned by the People’s Republic of China.
Power from our wind turbines does not support the people of Maine, rather is sent to Massachusetts and Connecticut and would not exist except for the vast subsidies and tax incentives given to the developers of these projects. (To say nothing of government mandated Power Purchase Agreements and public utility commissions making ratepayers fund the mammoth new transmission invariably required by any substantial introduction of wind power into an area).
We in Maine have become the industrial wasteland of those states to our south that do not want their citizens and land exposed to wind towers. In fact, the politicians who put these projects through have become some of the wealthiest people in Maine as they left their political positions and morphed into management with the developers.
In December 2015, Governor Baldacci, the father of the state’s heinous expedited wind law, was made Vice Chairman of Avangrid, the second largest wind company in America, and one headquartered in Spain, with significant ownership by Qatar and the UAE. Our Senator Angus King, who started the wind ball rolling while he was Governor, got very rich on his investment as a founder of Independence Wind, the first installer of wind turbines in Maine at Record Hill which came under investigation for Federal Loan Guarantee irregularities .
His family is still involved with the company he started. (Conflict of Interest?) And of course, despite our having brought this seeming conflict to the attention of the Maine press, nary has a word been published. We sometimes think that the media works for this industry. We wouldn’t be surprised, as we know that the wind industry is not shy about throwing money around to curry favor, e.g. The Audubon Society and The Sierra Club, the so called environmental groups who unceasingly shill for the industry and take large donations.
And that’s just the money one can readily see. In fact, the wind industry subsidies, originally birthed by Enron, are so large that one can’t help but think that they include a set aside for bribery.
Wind is a financial and political boondoggle that has managed to raise the rates and taxes of common people and businesses here in Maine while hurting our health, property values and landscapes, the latter key to one of our largest industries, tourism. The companies involved have changed hands so often it is going to be hard to track down who will be responsible for decommissioning them when the time comes. First Wind was the original owner who sold out to SunEdison, now bankrupt, who passed them on to TerraForm, itself is in trouble, and on to Portugal and finally China.
Wind and solar have not made a cent in profits except for the subsidies and tax benefits they get. They have caused instability in the grid system and higher delivery rates for ratepayers. Whenever the subsidies have been suspended, there has been no development. Two major investors in energy, Warren Buffett and T. Boone Pickens, have both determined that wind energy is a failure without government subsidies and tax incentives. Why do politicians continue to promote it? Perhaps big payouts to campaign funds by lobbyists.
Our National Energy policy is in a terrible turmoil, and most of it is because of ill advised “renewable energy” standards imposed on us by politicians, not scientists. We need to reanalyze our future and the costs that have been involved in creating this nightmare.
We have spent nearly $2 trillion dollars worldwide chasing a belief that something other than energy we already know is viable for our future, and it does not even meet 6% of the worldwide output of energy. In 2015 46% of our government investment in energy went to wind development, and it rose to 74 GW, 5.6% of our base. That ‘s 74,000 Megawatts of plate power, and they usually only produce 25% of that, (18,500) and just yesterday, according to EIA, we used 9,370,000 MWH of electric energy for 46% of our $$ invested.
And as expensive as onshore wind is, the costs of bringing offshore wind power to the grid are going to be yet higher. Wind commonly only produces 25% of its rated output, though offshore might push 40%. That said, modern society requires instant power at the flick of a switch and, absent grid scale storage which is perhaps 40 years off despite wind industry-spawned fake news to the contrary, wind energy is simply not dispatchable as such, relying on the whims of Mother Nature. Full scale gas plants must remain operating to keep the system stable and that makes them inefficient.
Over the course of about a decade the New England grid will have lost to retirement 5000 to 8000 megawatts of reliable base load and peak load power plants. Most are coal, oil or nuclear units. These dispatchable generators cannot be replaced or even materially displaced by wind generation.
Yet our national and regional policies still favor wind. The DOE would be better off investigating and financing a way to get more natural gas to Maine so one or two new gas generating power plants could be hooked up to the existing grid at a much reduced price and provide more energy than all the turbines they are proposing. Putting moderate amounts of investment into what could be true energy breakthroughs might also have a small place. But research is very different than simply doing the same thing over and over again (wind turbines) with the only result making fat cat insiders fatter.
It really comes down to reliability and economics. And ultimately it comes down to whether politicians put Americans or the special interests, many foreign, first. Aqua Ventus is a drop in the bucket to the needs of our population and energy. It is a very expensive drop in the bucket, however, and the money spent would be much better targeted building a new nuke or several new gas plants. Not only will it be environmentally unfriendly, it will be grid unfriendly and economically unfriendly.
Jim Lutz, a retired graduate of Johns Hopkins University, lived in about 15 different places before retiring to Maine from Massachusetts in 2000. He came to the idyllic lake described above for the first time at age one-and-a-half from Ohio where his father (now 93, a chemical engineer) was in graduate school.
Lutz has studied scientific anthropogenic global warming (AGW) passionately and has been fighting the wind power and alcohol fuel cronies for the last seven years with many published editorials and letters in Maine and Boston newspapers.
Jim’s previous post at MasterResource, “Vanishing Vacationland (wind turbines roil the wild)” was published in December 2016.