Wind Off the Water

Legal Action. Maine Superior Court  was asked Monday to suspend Bureau of Parks & Lands decision approving  Monhegan offshore wind energy test center, test area. Click picture of complaint’s first page  for 9 pg pdf of  legal petition filed January 25th.Front page of petition sent to ME superior Court re monhegan offshore wind test area. R&D center. Jan 25, 2010

Conservation activist & deep ecologist Ron Huber has asked Maine Superior Court to rule on whether Maine Bureau of Parks & Lands Director Willard Harris followed  two recently passed state laws, 12 MRSA 1868  “Identification of Offshore Wind test areas and  MRSA  35-A, Chapter  34-A: Expedited Permitting of Grid scale Wind Energy Development when on December 14, 2009, he authorized the Monhegan test area, one of three in Midcoast and southern Maine waters. Read Ron’s media briefing explaining why he decided to file the case, his relationship with Monhegan – and media reactions to the case so far.

Background. Maine’s Legislature and Executive Branch have authorized the University of Maine to occupy a roughly 2 square mile deepwater tract 2 miles “south and seaward” of Monhegan Island to test build two deepwater floating wind turbines: a 100 kilowatt wind tower and a ten kilowatt one. Funding sufficient to get the project underway has been secured. As politicians, agency staffers,  academics, entrepeneurs, NGOs and  even two high powered public relations firms are already hard at work on this, so too should the interested public be!   Information is power. Charge yourself up here: Links to documents, reports, charts, maps, photographs, deadlines, contacts, key personnel involved and other information sufficient to equip the viewer for meaningful involvement in this process, and provide a forum for the sharing and vetting of important information as it arises.

Voices of the Wind Rush. Online audio of speakers at Maine Offshore Energy ’09   11/29/09 , at Energy Ocean 2009  June 15-18 , ’09 at the 2009 ME Fishermen’s Forum Ocean Energy Workshop 3/7/09 and on  January 20, 2010:  speakers & legislators at hearing on wind energy bill LD 1504 before the Joint Standing Committee on Utilities and Energy

Your participation, is of course vital to bringing the essence of Monhegan into the decisionmaking mix.   Issues of truth and beauty abound; who  better than those who love and/or live on Monhegan to guide and shape the outcome?

18 thoughts on “Wind Off the Water

  1. Ron, when and how were Islanders, non resident tax payers, Monhegan Associates, etc, consulted or requested to become part of the process (beyond what you’ve just initiated)?

  2. The short answer appears to be – mostly you weren’t! It is likely that DMR’s Dierdre Gilbert conferred with at least two Monhegan fishermen.

    I suggest that that as many of the people and entities you mention write to or otherwise contact the below officials and ask to be formal enrolled as interested parties or as stakeholders or whatever term you prefer. Links to government officials and others (two PR firms!) involved in the Monhegan offshore Wind Test Center Project :

    I’ll give suggested wording of such requests by separate post.

  3. Hopefully, after these two test platforms, there will be a whole wind farm established and Monhegan can be the terminus for a cable to the mainland. Cheaper electrical power at “onshore” rates, economic activity as a result of facilities being constructed/maintained, plus a potential “tax revenue” perhaps even based upon KwH trasmitted could be recovered.

    1. State law restricts to 6 the number of windmills allowed in state waters; a maximum of two at each of the three locations – near Monhegan, Damariscove and Boon Islands. Further, Maine’s offshore windmills projects are restricted to R&D

  4. I know I don’t live there………and I don’t have a dog in this fight but I have spend a fair amount of time on the island in both summer and winter.
    BUT, with Monheganites all seemingly environmentally sensitive, willing to try alternative generation systems (on island generator, solar, etc), being adamant about recycling, etc. what is the problem with these turbines?
    Please educate me as to why some are so adamantly against these wind turbines. It would seem to me that this would be something the islanders WOULD support….or is this just a small vocal minority?

    1. Nobody has said there is anything the slightest wrong with the University of Maine carrying out its R&D in the wind energy test area south of Monhegan. (Other than my personal distaste for offshore light pollution)

      What is in contention is whether the decision making process that applicants must go through has been overly streamlined. Exempting offshore wind applicants from the key conservation laws of the state sets a lousy standard. In essence the new state standard is “Nobody knows if there will be any impacts to nature and nature’s grandeur, but we don’t need to find out, either.”

      Monheganites may well all be environmentally sensitive; was there a pelebiscite on the University wind project in plantation waters? I know of none, but legislation under consideration will make the point moot by stripping Monheganites and their government body of having any say in wind energy applications. (The legislation applies, of course, to applications elsewhere in the state’s waters as well.)

      A parting thought from Margaret Meade on vocal minorities: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

  5. My 2 cents (as a non-islander): All the impacts need to be studied and considered. But I think those impacts need to be weighed against the impacts of other forms of energy: oil, coal, nuclear. I can see Vinalhaven’s three new towers from the dock at my Camden office, with red lights at night. Those red lights are a reminder of coal NOT fowling the air, uranium that we WILL NOT have to store forever. It’s a good sight.

  6. Jim
    While all impacts need to be studied and considered, regrettably, a state law just enacted: “38 §480-HH. General permit for offshore wind energy demonstration projects.” exempts offshore wind projects from just that: no review of its impacts is required under the state’s Natural Resources Protection Act. The other windfarm-relevant environmental law, the Site Location of Development Act, does not appear to have clear jurisdiction over offshore windfarm projects, though this has not been tested in court.

    MDEP would like to change the law; the industry may not be so supportive of doing that. Some are even looking to boot the Board of Environmental Protection, and the Maine Superior Courts, out of the windfarm appeals process, and require appellants to go straight to the Maine’s Supreme Judicial Court.

    You may find the blinkers on Vinalhaven’s windmills at night to be red badges of courage , declaring the struggle on against carbon.
    De Gustibus non disputatum est Though if you think less coal or oil is being burnt in in response to Vinalhaven’s windmills, well, I think it likely that less coal will be burned when there is less coal to burn, .

  7. So Ron…..may I assume by your use of a certain Latin phrase that the decision as to whether wind turbines should be used is simply one of taste?
    Looking at a smoke spewing coal buring smokestack vs. a wind turbine? No brainer in my book.
    How are we as a society supposed to move forward with alternative energy in this world if everyone fights the location of every wind turbine?
    I am still looking to uderstand the opposition ot these turbines.

    1. In my legal case, you will see that I asked the judge to require the state and University to meet the standards, jump the same bar that every other big development project must go through. To the state’s disgrace, it has, with the assistance of an Island Institute and a University that should know better, sought out ways to exempt the offshore wind industry – and much of the onshore – from Maine’s environmental laws and regulations, and from its laws and regs protecting scenic values. And worse, stampeding out permits ahead of strong rules and regulations just to grandfather them in.

      Do scenic values matter? On Monhegan? Need one ask?

      My case asks the judge to direct the Baldacci administration and legislature to go ahead with alternative offshore energy development, but do it with eyes and ears wide open.

  8. smokestack v windturbine is rather a false dichotomy, isn’t it? Those are hardly the sole options.

    If one doesn’t ‘fight’ agencies of government when they promote a land rush style approach to natural resource management, then one ends up like other landrushes: the laws of the land relaxed, keystakeholders of the way its always been often simply ignored. Not consulted.

    There’s usually a hangover from these sorts ofgovernmental rush jobs, and the wind rushers are likely to be no different. To fight them is simply to fight to keep the applicants ‘bar as high as possible. Force them to achieve the highest possible standards within the laws protecting natural resources, scenic resources. BEAUTY, if I may use so blunt a word.

    To demand the laws be respected is to require standards for windfarming; standards that actually do give proper deference to existing resources, while carrying out that very useful and necessary function of enabling wind and lunar energy researchers to try out their designs. Lead, Maine. Just not blindly. Or greedily.

  9. “Smokestack v windturbine?” what about less instead of more? At what point does less become more? Not power, but quality of life? (Was that not the philosophy that brought about Monhegan’s first self imposed trap limit and limited season?)

  10. And what about the bottom lost for lobstering? Will there be a loss? will there be vibrations and the lobsters will steer clear? Maybe they will be attracted to it but doubtful. They are fickle creatures. No one knows of course but hasn’t science messed with Monhegan enough already? We are down to 6 lobstermen with traps in the water now, the rest of the winter, because of science. Lets just leave us alone already. I am not against wind power but please go elsewhere. the couple of lobstermen here spoke for all of the Captrains as far as I know and I may be wrong, but that also isn’t the way it is done here. period.

    1. It appears the state is planning to push Monhegan lobstermen off those wind test area grounds, to make a precedent.* If fishermen in such a restricted tightly regulated fishing area as Monhegan can have several square miles of their fishing grounds taken away and given over to energy research, then the wind industry can get away with it anywhere on Maine coast. The waters south of Monhegan are the front line for defense of the fishery. All of Maine’s lobstermen are watching how Monhegan’s deal with this. Will they fight?

      * In the latest Working Waterfront newspaper, the Island Institute head honcho Phil Conkling writes about this. He says the state ist considering a Community Benefits Agreement – this would mean the Community (defined however that is defined) gets an annual payoff from the state or the industry for the taken-away fishing grounds and industrialized view and noise. But you may not even get that. Conkling writes “The state has suggested that if policy makers recognize that lobstermen have traditional rights of usage to the state’s “commons,” what’s to stop hunters and fishermen in Maine’s unorganized territories from arguing the same thing?”

      A spin the state’s industrial wind merchants want to use to boot the lobnstermen off their grounds for the greater benefit of the offshore wind energy corporations.

  11. I vacation on Monhegan and I’m all for wind power, but I really don’t want to sit on the rocks at Lobster Point and see windmills/turbines. They will also have lights on them I would imagine to keep ships away.

  12. I’m not trying to throw a wrinkle in all of this as I have not lived on the island for a long time.. but what if and I say “what if”, the wind power test facility was “required” to terminus on Monhegan AND the kwH produced were subject to a local tax that was used to reimburse “lost economic earnings”? This whole thing is still very much up in the air. Or, the power was required to be provided for “free” to the full time reisdents of Monhegan. Wouldn’t that also be an economic benefit that could be derived? Just asking………….

  13. Lance that would be a good idea. It would be irregular in utility, though – the point of R&D is to try different things out, so there would be downtime in between experiments.

    What about the on-island wind turbine supposedly being planned for Monhegan’s Lighthouse Hill? Is that still underway?

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