Monday, January 25, 2010

A trio of Maine news stories, all surrounding offshore wind. First, a report of noise complaints from the three turbines installed this fall on the island of Vinalhaven.

Next, proposed legislation by Sen. (and Gov.-candidate) Peter Mills would create a standard "benefits package" of annual payments of $8,000 or $14,000 per megawatt of installed wind energy capacity to hosting municipalities. Existing wind developments pay either full taxes, or a negotiated rate. For example, the town of Mars Hill is projected to receive $9.8 million from First Wind over 20 year -- about $487,000 a year or $11,600 per MW of capacity; NRCM projects that the town of Oakfield, where Maine DEP has approved the siting of a 34-turbine facility, would receive roughly $11.8 million over 20 years, or $588,300 a year and $16,400 per MW. The wind industry and supporting players are concerned about raising the cost of doing business in Maine even higher, which would drive away investment. To give a sense of the value to the Maine economy of promoting wind development, John Cooney of Maine-based construction company Reed & Reed -- which itself is transitioning to wind from its traditional bridge- and road-building, estimated that his company has spent $288,000 in wages per MW of wind energy installed on Kibby Mountain, more than 95 percent of which went to Maine residents earning an average hourly wage of $31. Not bad, green-collar economy!

Finally, the Rockland-based Ocean Energy Institute (a not-for-profit) is developing plans for a pilot project in Maine that would take hydrogen from seawater and nitrogen from the air to form ammonia, which then can be used as a type of fuel similar to propane. Distributed wind generation can be used to generate energy, which could then be stored as ammonia until needed (e.g. when the wind stops blowing). OEI faces technical and commercial challenges, as well as regulatory ones -- for example, ammonia is not classified as a fuel by US DOE, which would need to be changed for OEI's plans to take flight.

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