News report misses fact on true costs of Vinalhaven industrial wind turbines

categories: Maine


On June 5th the Bangor Daily News incorporated a misleading statement of energy “savings” claimed to be “substantial” when in fact electric rates on the Maine island, Vinalhaven, are higher than if the turbines had never been built.

The quote was provided by former Harvard Business school professor George Baker, Fox Islands Wind CEO, who “said that the wind project has reduced the cost of electricity on Vinalhaven from 28 cents per kilowatt hour to 24 cents per kilowatt hour.” He called it “a significant reduction”.

The news report was based on an island tour by the US Department of Agriculture which financed $10.5 million of the $14.5 million wind turbine project. Anyone reading the Bangor News Report is likely to take the statement as fact. That is a mistake.

Fox Islands Wind Neighbors on Vinalhaven analyzed utility customers’ bills and the published cost of electricity to Maine utilities. The graph shows cost per kilowatt hour and dates from 2004 to the present. The FIEC rate numbers are from billing statements to consumers. Based on historical trends, Vinalhaven residents are paying more, not less, because of the poorly planned wind turbines.

The graphs shows that the years leading up to November 2009, when the wind turbines began operating, the cost of electricity to islanders closely tracked the CMP rate, as indicated by the trend lines. The project was “sold” to islanders who believed the promoters that it would reduce costs. (Data set is available.)

In early 2009 electric rates in Maine began to drop because of low natural gas prices and increasing supply. The CMP rate continued to decrease (because natural gas prices kept falling) while FIEC rates increased dramatically from about $.20/kwh to about $.25/kwh — a 25% increase. CEO Baker refers to a rate of $.28 without mentioning the date: October, 2008. When the wind turbines are not spinning — because of the intermittent nature of wind and inefficiency of turbines — Vinalhaven’s Electric Co-Op (FIEC) buys electricity through the wholesale market, via underwater cable, at a price based on the ISO-NE standard offer rates.

Fox Islands Wind Neighbors is a group of citizens living near industrial wind turbine who bear the full costs of destruction to property values, health and natural quiet on the small rural island in Penobscot Bay. In November 2009, Fox Islands Wind LLC (FIW) commenced operation of three 1.5 megawatt GE turbines. From the first day, neighbors complained about excessive noise from the industrial turbines only to be stonewalled by FIW, that operates the turbines, and its sole customer: the local electric coop.

The misleading statement about energy costs on Vinalhaven, printed without further investigation by Bangor Daily News, is part of a pattern. In the years before the turbines were permitted, wind power enthusiasts on Vinalhaven first contracted with an engineering firm then deliberately concealed from neighbors its results when they strongly pointed to noise problems likely to affect neighbors. After the turbine farm commenced operation, Baker and FIW obstructed discovery of facts of wind turbine noise and delayed time after time the opportunity to resolve the responsibility for measurement and mitigation with the state of Maine. FIW has repeatedly delayed progress of a petition by the neighbors against the state in Maine Superior Court.

Just as wind power advocates claims of economic benefits are phantom, the $10. 5 million loan application to the US Department of Agriculture by FIW should also be scrutinized for compliance with all federal legal requirements.


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