August 24, 2010 - tree-trimming, Camden wind power

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

In Quincy, Massachusetts, complaints about National Grid's tree-trimming practices have led to the utility's decision not to trim further this year. While utilities argue tree-trimming along distribution (and transmission) lines is necessary to maintain reliability, people who live near the affected trees have complained that National Grid is being too proactive.  Tree-trimming along utility infrastructure corridors is one example of a secondary siting concern: not likely as major an issue as the existence and route of the line in the first place, but of importance to those who value the trees for aesthetic, social, or even productive value (e.g. shading a house to save on cooling costs, or the timber value itself).

Last week, the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting published an interesting series of three articles on the Wind Energy Act of 2008.  As part of the journalists' research, the Center filed a request under Maine's Freedom of Access Act for access to certain Public Utilities Commission records. Under that law, the public has the right to request (and obtain) access to a variety of public documents.  The law does permit agencies to charge “a reasonable fee to cover the cost of copying”. 1 M.R.S.A. § 408 (3)(A).  Now, the Capital Weekly reports that the PUC first told the Center it would charge $10,000 for compilation of and access to the requested materials -- and then, when the Center asked for a waiver, the Commission not only denied the waiver request but then increased its fee estimate to $36,239.52.

The town of Camden, Maine, is considering a joint effort with the towns of Hope and Rockport to explore the wind potential of Ragged Mountain (home to the Camden Snow Bowl, my favorite municipal ski hill).  George Baker, Director of the Island Institute's Maine Coast Community Wind Program, has proposed a three-phase project:
  1. a feasibility study to address technical, logistical, economic and environmental aspects of installing installing wind turbines on Ragged Mountain (estimated to cost $50,000 to $70,000);
  2. permitting and financing the project (estimated at $300,000 to $500,000); and
  3. development of the project (costs depending on the specific project).
I was in Camden on Sunday to meet up with some friends from Hampden, one of whom is training for the upcoming Maine Sport Triathlon in the Camden area.  I am interested to see how the community responds to wind.

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