Friday, February 19, 2010

Since transportation is such a large part of our energy consumption, transportation policy has implications on energy policy. Rail service can provide low-cost, low-carbon transportation for a variety of raw materials and products. That's why the Maine legislature is considering a proposal for $20 million in bonds to enable the state to purchase 240 miles of the Millinocket to Madawaska line. Word on the street is that its owner Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railroad will begin the legal process to abandon the tracks as early as this week. If abandoned, this would eliminate rail service to about 20 companies, including some of northern Maine's largest employers.

More offshore tidal power! Portland, Maine-based Ocean Renewable Power is deploying its 60 kW underwater Turbine Generator Unit (TGU). (Note that 60 kW will make this the largest ocean energy device deployed in U.S. waters. You can see we have a long way to go.) This unit will be deployed on March 2 about 25 feet below the surface at a site off Shackford Head near Eastport (acme map). Tidal power captured by the underwater turbines will be stored in batteries on the barge, which are then shuttled back and forth by boat to the Coast guard -- what they're calling a "virtual transmission line". How efficient can that be?

Although the project has the capacity to power 20 homes, Ocean Renewable does not have its pilot-project license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and thus cannot interconnect.

How about jobs? While spending about $5 million in the past year, Ocean Renewable has grown from 4 to 17 Maine-based employees, and has created or retained another 80 jobs total at companies around the state, including Stillwater Metalworks.

An article about citizen opposition to wind farms is interesting for a variety of reasons -- both its good summary of recent actions that can be seen as limiting wind generation, and the fact that it does not appear to be spurred by any particular event.

On the local level: Central Maine Power and Rockland are in a fight over tree trimming. Reminds me of the situation in Warren when MDOT widened Route 1.

Nationally: agreement has been reached on the removal of four dams on the Klamath, three in Oregon and one in California. Shades of Edwards Dam and the Fort Halifax Dam in Maine.

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