My wife and I intend to build a new home in Brooklin. With considerable interest we went to Blue Hill Thursday evening, April 8, to hear a presentation about wind turbines. A representative from a very small alternative energy company located at the elbow of Cape Cod had come to Blue Hill to make a sales pitch about large-scale wind turbines. The presentation was a disappointing amateurish [one]. Maine is a long way into the wind turbine debate and I was disappointed at the shallowness of the presentation. Apparently the young fellow from Brewster, Mass., was surprised to find out how large Maine is, because it was after 7:30 before he showed up to make a 7 p.m. presentation. Another 30 minutes was spent flubbing around with the PowerPoint gear. After help making it work by a Mainer, the presentation began. Power production, decibel levels and tower height information was displayed and discussed. Some information was provided about financial incentives, and the, oh, so attractive concept of “pay back” that would result from the installation of a million and a half dollars worth of wind generator.
The idea of locally generating power at low cost for local consumption is laudable. Unfortunately, I think it is so much wishful thinking and magic economics. The cost of a kilowatt of electricity is about 7 cents from Bangor Hydro. Try as I might I can’t figure out how the purchase, installation, maintenance and operation of a million and a half dollars of wind turbine on Caterpillar Hill will deliver a kilowatt of electricity to my home in Brooklin for less than 7 cents. I doubt that Bangor Hydro is going to deliver it over its lines for free.
There are quite a few people who live in Maine who are knowledgeable about large-scale wind power. I look forward to Peninsula Power sponsoring other informational meetings. Perhaps those future meetings will include presentations by professionals in the wind industry who will know something about the utility structure in Maine and net metering as regulated by the Maine Public Utilities Commission.
From the research that I have completed on the subject, it appears to me that the only reality about small wind production that utilizes net metering is that such production generates electricity that Bangor Hydro sells into the grid. That power goes south to help light the streets of Boston. Since deregulation, the only beneficiary of net metering appears to be the utility company.
The Peninsula Power group should continue to learn about the wind and wind power generation. I support their efforts and am a firm believer that Maine has an enormous natural resource that can be harvested and put to work with minimal impact on the environment. It seems likely that Peninsula Power will find that meaningful wind power generation can best be accomplished by the installation of a for-profit wind farm of perhaps 40 or 50 wind turbines on places like Caterpillar Hill.
The mystical thinking and magic economics of sticking one big turbine on top of a hill and having it make any impact on the cost of electricity delivered to the people at its feet seems like whistling in the wind.
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