Using our vast resources of wind, water, wood, and sunlight, combined with conservation, Maine can be an economic and environmental powerhouse. And we’re getting there, albeit too slowly for many of us. Consider this news and these exciting new projects.
Maine Wood Pellet Co. is constructing the world’s largest biomass power system in Athens. Turboden, part of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, was chosen to supply the Organic Rankine Cycle power unit that will produce 8 megawatts of electricity by converting the heat of thermal oil generated by wood residues from de-barking and chipping operations.
Maine Wood Pellet Co. has a state-of-the-art pellet production mill in Athens, capable of producing up to 100,000 tons of wood pellets a year for the bulk and bagged fuel markets. It is the state’s biggest pellet manufacturer.
Central Maine Power will purchase the electricity and — this is important — Maine Woods Pellet Co. will receive a tax credit for its equity investment through the New Markets Tax Credit Program. The project should be online by March of next year.
Maine Audubon is leading and showing us the way to sustainable solar power, with help from Revision Energy and Moody’s Collision Centers. At its Gilsland Farm headquarters in Falmouth, Maine Audubon has constructed one of the largest solar panel arrays installed by a conservation organization in the state. The panels will provide roughly 84 percent of Gilsland Farm’s electricity.
Revision Energy installed the system and Audubon partnered with Moody’s Collision Centers in a clever collaborative way to finance the solar system. It’s called a Power Purchase Agreement. Moody’s, as the investor, is able to take advantage of federal solar energy tax credits for which the nonprofit Maine Audubon cannot quality.
Technically, Moody’s owns the solar panels, and Maine Audubon will purchase the electricity from Moody’s for the next six years. Moody’s will get its investment money back in that time, and then Audubon will have the option of purchasing the system.
Maine Audubon’s new executive director, Charles Gauvin, said, “Climate change is the No. 1 threat to wildlife in Maine. As the state’s largest wildlife conservation organization, we must take actions to reduce carbon emissions.”
Good for them, and shame on us. Maine is one of the few states that offer no tax credits for installation of solar systems.
In just eight years, wind power companies have spent more than a half-billion dollars in our state. And if that doesn’t impress you, consider this: another $745 million will be spent in the next four years. The 14 projects already producing power or now under construction will have a capacity of 614 megawatts — enough electricity to serve more than 200,000 homes.
A report by economist Charles Colgan noted that these projects have created an average of 1,560 jobs each year. Colgan predicted wind power projects will employ 4,200 workers this year.
Eight years ago, Linda and I had an energy audit done at our Mount Vernon home, and followed up on the recommendations generated by the audit, including lots of insulation in the walls and ceiling and foam on the basement walls. We reduced our consumption of oil from 1,600 gallons to less than 500 gallons per year.
Many Maine homes and businesses are heating all outdoors because of poor insulation. Investments in energy conservation make sense and save money.
Mainers are being asked to pay $75 million to help expand natural gas pipeline capacity. That’s quite a generous subsidy for a nonrenewable energy source. At the same time, some legislators have proposed a reduction in subsidies for renewable energy. Jeremy Payne, executive director of the Maine Renewable Energy Association, recently told reporter Tux Turkel that most of the state’s renewable energy subsidies go to biomass power plants and wood boilers at paper mills.
Payne was right when he said it’s all about winners and losers. Mainers will be the winners when we support power and energy projects that can be achieved with resources right here in our state.
Or, stated more simply, how’s it worked for us to be the state most dependent on oil? And pinning all of our hopes on natural gas, another nonrenewable not-produced-in-Maine fuel, seems to indicate that we have learned nothing from our oil dependency problems.
A recent phone survey of Maine voters by Goodwin Simon Strategic Research found that 87 percent of Maine voters believe that wind power is the type of zero emission, clean and renewable energy source that should be encouraged in Maine. I am certain they would have gotten the same result for wood, wind and solar energy.
Gov. Paul LePage and legislators should take note. A lot more Mainers favor and support renewable energy than support the politicians.