Maine Groups Urge State to Slowdown Wind Power Mountaintop Development

Fri November 20, 2009 - Northeast Edition
Glenn Adams - Associated Press




AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) Two groups came to the State House on Nov. 9 to ask the state to slow down wind power development, which they said is gobbling up environmentally sensitive mountain ridges for questionable results.

The Citizens’ Task Force on Wind Power said it wants to work with state officials to reconsider statewide goals the group said will put turbines atop 360 mi. of the state’s mountaintops.

The group formed recently in opposition to a project underway in Roxbury near Rumford.

The citizens’ group co-chair Monique Aniel said a 2008 law that guides wind power development allows for “the destruction of tens of thousands of acres of forested majestic mountain tops brimming with birds, trees, life, beauty and serenity.’’

The law was based on recommendations of a wind power task force that set goals of 2,000 megawatts of wind power capacity by 2015 and 3,000 megawatts by 2020. It would take 1,000 to 2,000 400-ft.-tall turbines to generate that much power.

Erecting even 1,800 windmills would cause clearing and blasting along 360 mi. of mountain ridge lines plus construction of new transmission lines and access roads, said Aniel’s co-chair, Steve Thurston. He said that money spent on wind power would be better used by encouraging conservation and efficiency.

While some of Maine’s largest environmental organizations have endorsed the state’s goals as a way to wean the state from fossil fuels, the Forest Ecology Network lined up Monday in support of the Citizens’ Task Force on Wind Power.

“The sprawling wind power that is being proposed today is going to have a devastating effect on the Maine woods,’’ said FEN leader by Jonathan Carter, a former Green party gubernatorial candidate.

Carter said industrial wind power only serves to feed consumers’ “gluttonous appetite’’ for electrical power. But he noted that his group supports wind energy if it is generated offshore, as is being studied in Maine.

Major land-based wind farms are already in operation in Mars Hill, Stetson Mountain and Kibby Mountain. Expansions are under way at the latter two sites and several other projects are in earlier development stages.

John Kerry, director of Maine’s Office of Energy Independence and Security, said he met with the Citizens’ Task Force on Wind Power.

Kerry said state’s residents have access to an extensive review process for wind projects, which addresses environmental and health issues raised by critics. He defended Maine’s wind-friendly power policy, saying that the state is trying to ease its heavy dependency on fossil fuels. Eighty percent of Maine homes are heated by fossil fuels, he said.

“We’re open, we’re very transparent,’’ said Kerry, “but at the same time we have to be reasonable.’’

A survey of 600 Mainers in late October showed that 90 percent support wind power development.