Former Maine Governor, Angus King recently visited Freeport Maine to talk about wind energy. King co-founded Independence Wind, LLC which consults with companies on wind turbine projects in Maine and New England. King delivered his ideas on the future of wind energy in Maine to a crowded Freeport Community Center as the second speaker in a four part lecture series sponsored by Wolfe’s Neck Farm and USM PIRG.
Because Maine has no oil or natural gas reserves of its own almost all of the fuel that we use to create electricity, heat our homes, and drive our cars is derived from imported fossil fuels. Maine must import 85% of its energy from elsewhere which King says is, “downright dangerous,” because of the projected energy shortages resulting from a increasing energy demand from China and India.
To put the expected increase of demand for energy into perspective, King broke the numbers down into more manageable terms. King stated that the average American uses 340 million British Thermal Units (BTU’s) of energy a year which includes heating, lighting, and transportation. The yearly average energy consumption in BTU’s for a Chinese citizen is 52, an Indian citizen is 14, and lastly a sub-Saharan African citizen uses only 8. King concluded that because we have no right dictate energy consumption to other countries we need to prepare for what happens if China and India continue to trend toward American levels of energy consumption, otherwise we’ll face a spike of energy prices like the one we saw last summer.
“You know the old saying we dodged a bullet? We dodged a howitzer shell this winter, way beyond a bullet. If oil and gas would have stayed at $4.00 and $4.50, which is where they were in August, people would have died this winter in Maine. The fact that we didn’t have that happen is miraculous, its good, its a wonderful thing, but are we just going to run that risk every winter from now on?”
So what do we do? Instead of becoming frozen within indecision, King offers up wind power as part of the solution because he says its one of Maine’s few abundant indigenous clean energy resources. King co-founded Independence Wind LLC, a firm that helps orchestrate the development of large scale on-shore and off-shore wind farm projects in New England.
“The Gulf of Maine is the Saudi Arabia of wind energy,” says King before adding, “it is a huge resource. To put it in perspective the engineering calculations are there is something like 250,000 megawatts of potential wind electrical generation power in The Gulf of Maine. To tell you what 250,000 megawatts is, all of New England today uses 30,000 megawatts. So its five times the electricity use of New England.”
In order to harness the power that King identifies in the Gulf of Maine, there needs to be a fundimental shift in the way that we think about energy. King says that when most of the people he talks to think about power in Maine, they think about electrical power but electrical power is only part of Maine’s total energy consumption:
“Usually when you say okay Energy in Maine, new energy sources in Maine, you think electricity. Right, electricity? Wheres our power come from? Electricity. Here is something interesting. Electricity is only 10% of the energy usage in Maine. Its only 10%. 40% is heating our homes and buildings. 50% is powering our vehicles. So if you’re only talking about electricity you’re really not talking about the energy situation in Maine your only talking about a little piece of the energy. If you improve electricity efficiency by 10% you’ve only had a 1% effect on the overall energy bill of Maine Families. So we can’t just think about electricity.”
Not all who attended the lecture were in favor of Kings proposed wind energy solution. During the question and answer session following the presentation, Brad Blake of Cape Elizabeth who co-founded the group Friends of Lincoln Lake asked King, “How can you sleep at night, knowing the damage that you will cause on Roxbury pond.” Blake adamantly voiced the group’s position against the proposed wind farm to be located on the ridge line above his cottage on Lincoln Lake. The group claims that wind farms are “sprawling industrial wind sites” that would devastate Maine’s natural beauty. Blake also added that the sign at the entrance of the region that currently reads, “Land of 13 Lakes,” would have to be changed to, “Land of 40 Turbines.” Blake was unavailable for later comment but encouraged the audience to visit his website to seek alternatives to the proposed projects, which he says only serve the turbine’s investors.
In response to concerns over the destruction of Maine’s pristine beauty, King is quick to point out that wind energy is not a perfect answer to our growing energy concerns, but openly invites anyone to offer up a better answer. He admits that wind turbines need to be placed at an appropriate distance away from residents or they can be loud and can produce what is commonly called the ‘flicker effect’ which is the result of sun light passing through the moving blades.
King concluded that wind is not a perfect solution but, “Its the best solution that I know of to a huge environmental problem and a huge economic problem for the state of Maine. If the worst thing that happens is that people’s views are modified, you know… I don’t consider that devastation.” If the state of Maine is to release itself from the grasp of foreign energy something will need to be done and a hard choices need to be made. Whether or not wind will be part of the solution depends entirely upon the people of Maine.
This lecture was the second installment of an ongoing sustainability lecture series. the next lecture is featuring Dr. Harry Dresser, founder of Maine Energy Systems, will be from 6:30pm – 8:30pm on Thursday February 26Th at the Freeport Community Center.
Wolfe’s Neck Farm Calendar of Events
Governor Kings Wind Company:
A link to the complete audio recording of Gov. Kings lecture will be provided with online version of this article on the http://www.FreePress.org website.