Jun 16, 2010

Ragged Mountain wind wannabes in Maine can't decide how many they want

At the June 15th meeting of the Camden Selectboard, nearly an hour was spent on a  Ragged Mountain windfarm presentation and Q&A by George Baker of the Island Institute's "Maine Community Wind" group, the institute's for-profit subsidiary. Listen to Baker (30 minutes) and to the question and answer session afterward. (24 minutes)

Indeed money is what this meeting was about:  how to set up a shell non-profit to incubate a fully for-profit entity within it; this corporation would then hatch out like a cuckoo's egg and take on 99% absentee control over the community's wind turbines operation. All in the warm bosom of wonderful government subsidies just waiting for canny investors to use Maine towns as "mules" to reap.    All in the Maine tradition of service to country; of towns willing to sacrifice their ecotourism-based economies to do their part fighting climate change, hand in hand (ahem) with the energy investment community. Isn't that wonderful?

The deal for the town or towns: Not only Camden but Lincolnville and Rockport would include (I think) that the absentee corporadoes would be limited to only a small percentage of the profit, with the bulk of the revenue for debt servicing and reduced power rates awarded to the the minority owners: the community itself.
A shell game, but Uncle Sam likes being fooled, one is assured. Now, community being a diaphanous thing, in this day and age, the 'Tute's bagman Baker showed that a select group of industrial operations would be considered a "community".

The variety of financial shenangians the Island Institute's Baker offered up were near unending; one could mix and match Camden with Lincolnville, with Rockport, with this existing utility or that one, as nauseum. But for all the financial scheming, never EVER until pressed did Baker want to talk about the windmills themselves!
How many? one imagines most Camdenites in the room, and watching on cable, wondering. Would it be a line of towers like Mars Hill? A trio like Vinalhaven? But they were to be disappointed.

For despite taking part in months and months of studies and meetings about extracting Ragged Mountain's wind, neither Baker nor co-worker Susan Pude would offer up any visual image of the proposed windfarm, or even of the number of towers.

It was, Baker said smugly, unknowable, thanks to all the possibilities at this stage; in short, he would not speak a number, for fear of the audience at once populating in minds' eyes Ragged Mountain's magnificent ridges topped by waving shrieking spinners blinking through the nights. Mustn't have that. Let's stick to how much money Camdenites will save on their electric bills! Next question, please.

Short memory: he and Des Fitzgerald of the Camden Energy Committee, who stepped into the discussion now and then, had earlier discussed scenarios of 3,4,5, maybe seven 400+ foot wind turbines filling that gap between Ragged Mountain and Bald Mountain.

But wind wannabes have learned that no good can come of discussing the hideous steel towers. Focus on the money! The savings! The civic joy of owning one's own renewable energy supplier! The green patriotism!

Baker wasn't above stretching the truth at times. He spoke breathlessly about the "bunch of regulators" the Institute had gotten together with in the cause of be-winding Camden. Asked who the bunch consisted of, he said it was actually only one Public Utilities Commission official. Asked which official, Baker said the person had retired! He then declined to name he or she.

As for Nature? Surely the fact that winds blow mightily past that mountaintop means that our area's flying wildlife and passing migrators all use that as part of the great windy bird conveyor belt?

Nary a mention! Nature is something to deal with later, in the permitting process, once things are underway. And yet Island Institute bills itself as a Conservation Organization! Phil Conkling has apparently found that the secret to keeping his $150,000 per year salary flowing is knowing which way the wind blows. Dr Podolsky was at the meeting, too, doubtless mulling over how to certify-in-advance that turbines would be bird & bat friendly on Ragged Mountain.

There's something creepy in the hungry fervor of these energy hucksters. Impatient for magnate-dom, and driven to distraction by all these citizen groups and town governments getting between them and their pot of golden wind

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