March 10, 2008

CLF calls for industrial development of 300 miles of Maine's wild mountain ridges

The Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) of New England participated in the Maine Governor's Task Force on Wind Power Development, which issued its recommendation for installing 3,000 MW of wind power by 2020 on Feb. 14. In a press release the same day, CLF expressed its support and excitement, believing that it would "help avert the disastrous impacts climate change could have on our region and economy".

The output of 3,000 MW, at an average rate of 25% capacity, would be equivalent to about half of Maine's current electricity consumption (though much less of 2020's likely needs). But Maine exports a fourth of its power and is already arranging with New Brunswick to export its wind-generated power.

Given that the wind rarely blows in proportion to electricity demand, and blows erratically with high variation, that makes sense. The utilities have quite enough of a challenge to keep supply and demand in balance. The most practical way to deal with the huge and largely unpredictable swings of wind power -- which, unlike the power from other facilities, they have no control over -- is to make sure the grid is big enough to absorb it as insignificant. That is how Denmark manages its "20%" wind: by using its large international connectors so that the wind is only 1% of the total, which can be easily balanced by Sweden's substantial hydro capacity (thus no carbon savings).

And that is why building heavy-duty roads to access 300 miles of Maine ridgelines for the erection of thousands of giant industrial wind turbines will not "help avert the disastrous impacts climate change could have" -- not even a little.

Even if Maine tried to balance the fluctuating wind energy -- using their abundant diesel and natural gas capacity -- those plants would be forced to operate less efficiently and less cleanly, canceling much -- perhaps all -- of the expected benefit.

When there is no record anywhere in the world of a single thermal electricity plant shutting down, nor of any measurable reduction of fossil fuel use or emissions, due to wind energy on the grid, it is rash indeed to call for the destruction of 300 miles of mountain ridgelines for such an unlikely prospect of actual benefit.

This is a political game that the CLF should be ashamed of. They should be opposing this obvious industry putsch into our last rural and wild places, not abetting it.

wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism, human rights, animal rights, Maine, ecoanarchism