Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Copenhagen That Matters

NY Times
December 23, 2009



As I listened to Denmark’s minister of economic and business affairs describe how her country used higher energy taxes to stimulate innovation in green power and then recycled the tax revenues back to Danish industry and consumers to make it easier for them to make and buy the new clean technologies, it all sounded so, well, intelligent. It sounded as if the Danes looked at themselves after the 1973 Arab oil embargo, found that they were totally dependent on Middle East oil and put in place a long-term strategy to make Denmark energy-secure and start a new industry at the same time.

The more I listened to the Danish minister, Lene Espersen, the more I thought of my own country, where I’ve been told time and again by U.S. politicians that proposing even a 10-cent-a-gallon increase in gasoline taxes to make America more energy independent and to stimulate fuel efficiency is “off the table,” an act of sure political suicide.

Not in Denmark. So I asked the Danish minister: “Tell me, what planet are you people from?”

Espersen laughed. But I didn’t. How long are we Americans going to go on thinking that we can thrive in the 21st century when doing the optimal things — whether for energy, health care, education or the deficit — are “off the table.” They’ve been banished by an ad hoc coalition of lobbyists loaded with money, loud-mouth talk-show hosts who will flame anyone who crosses them, political consultants who warn that asking Americans to do anything important but hard makes one unelectable and a citizenry that doesn’t even ask for optimal anymore because it believes that optimal is impossible.

Sorry, but there are no good ideas proven to work in other democratic/capitalist societies that we can afford to shove off our table — not when we need to build a knowledge economy with good jobs and everyone else is trying to do the same.

“Already the green taxes here are quite high,” said Espersen. “And even though we know this is not popular with business and industry, it has made all the difference for us. It forced our businesses to become more energy efficient and innovative, and this meant that, suddenly, we were inventing things nobody else was inventing because our businesses needed to be competitive.”

The Environmental and Energy Study Institute, a nonpartisan research center, and the Embassy of Denmark recently held a briefing on how Denmark is working to become a low-carbon economy. Here are some highlights:

Although it still generates the majority of its electricity from coal, “since 1990, Denmark has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 14 percent. Over the same time frame, Danish energy consumption has stayed constant and Denmark’s gross domestic product has grown by more than 40 percent. Denmark is the most energy efficient country in the E.U.; due to carbon pricing, through energy taxes, carbon taxes, the ‘cap and trade’ system, strict building codes and energy labeling programs. Renewable resources currently supply almost 30 percent of Denmark’s electricity. Wind power is the largest source of renewable electricity, followed by biomass. ... Today, Copenhagen puts only 3 percent of its waste into landfills and incinerates 39 percent to generate electricity for thousands of households.”

The Danish government funnels energy tax revenue “back to industry, earmarking much of it to subsidize environmental innovation,” wrote Monica Prasad, a faculty fellow at Northwestern University’s Institute for Policy Research, in a March 25, 2008, essay in this newspaper. Therefore, “Danish firms are pushed away from carbon and pulled into environmental innovation, and the country’s economy isn’t put at a competitive disadvantage.”

It’s why Denmark, with only five million people, boasts some of the leading wind, biofuel and heating, cooling and efficiency companies in the world. Energy technologies are now 11 percent of Denmark’s exports. Oil exports and energy taxes also subsidize mass transit and energy efficiency, keeping bills low for Danish consumers.

Where do Danish politicians get the courage to do the right things — even if painful?

“We don’t have a lot of resources,” said Ida Auken, a spokeswoman for the Danish green/socialist party, S.F. “We have a welfare state that we have to keep up, so we have to think forward all the time and not get stuck in the past. That is where we get the courage. And we have seen it work for 30 years. It is good business. Danish contractors are begging for strict standards on buildings because they know that if they can become efficient and meet them here, they can compete anywhere in the whole world.”

My fellow Americans, the fact that the recent Copenhagen climate summit was a bust in terms of solving our energy/climate problems doesn’t mean that we can ignore those problems — or that we can ignore how individual countries, like Denmark, have effectively addressed them. With unemployment in Denmark at about 4 percent, compared with our 10 percent, maybe we should at least consider putting a few of its ideas on our table.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Islanders flock to unveiling of wind turbines - Bangor Daily News

Islanders flock to unveiling of wind turbines - Bangor Daily News

Offshore wind farm developers visit Brewer - Bangor Daily News

Offshore wind farm developers visit Brewer - Bangor Daily News | Maine shows off its wind potential | Maine shows off its wind potential

What They Really Believe


Published: November 17, 2009

If you follow the debate around the energy/climate bills working through Congress you will notice that the drill-baby-drill opponents of this legislation are now making two claims. One is that the globe has been cooling lately, not warming, and the other is that America simply can’t afford any kind of cap-and-trade/carbon tax.

But here is what they also surely believe, but are not saying: They believe the world is going to face a mass plague, like the Black Death, that will wipe out 2.5 billion people sometime between now and 2050. They believe it is much better for America that the world be dependent on oil for energy — a commodity largely controlled by countries that hate us and can only go up in price as demand increases — rather than on clean power technologies that are controlled by us and only go down in price as demand increases. And, finally, they believe that people in the developing world are very happy being poor — just give them a little running water and electricity and they’ll be fine. They’ll never want to live like us.

Yes, the opponents of any tax on carbon to stimulate alternatives to oil must believe all these things because that is the only way their arguments make any sense. Let me explain why by first explaining how I look at this issue.

I am a clean-energy hawk. Green for me is not just about recycling garbage but about renewing America. That is why I have been saying “green is the new red, white and blue.”

My argument is simple: I think climate change is real. You don’t? That’s your business. But there are two other huge trends barreling down on us with energy implications that you simply can’t deny. And the way to renew America is for us to take the lead and invent the technologies to address these problems.

The first is that the world is getting crowded. According to the 2006 U.N. population report, “The world population will likely increase by 2.5 billion ... passing from the current 6.7 billion to 9.2 billion in 2050. This increase is equivalent to the total size of the world population in 1950, and it will be absorbed mostly by the less developed regions, whose population is projected to rise from 5.4 billion in 2007 to 7.9 billion in 2050.”

The energy, climate, water and pollution implications of adding another 2.5 billion mouths to feed, clothe, house and transport will be staggering. And this is coming, unless, as the deniers apparently believe, a global pandemic or a mass outbreak of abstinence will freeze world population — forever.

Now, add one more thing. The world keeps getting flatter — more and more people can now see how we live, aspire to our lifestyle and even take our jobs so they can live how we live. So not only are we adding 2.5 billion people by 2050, but many more will live like “Americans” — with American-size homes, American-size cars, eating American-size Big Macs.

“What happens when developing nations with soaring vehicle populations get tens of millions of petroleum-powered cars at the same time as the global economy recovers and there’s no large global oil supply overhang?” asks Felix Kramer, the electric car expert who advocates electrifying the U.S. auto fleet and increasingly powering it with renewable energy sources. What happens, of course, is that the price of oil goes through the roof — unless we develop alternatives. The petro-dictators in Iran, Venezuela and Russia hope we don’t. They would only get richer.

So either the opponents of a serious energy/climate bill with a price on carbon don’t care about our being addicted to oil and dependent on petro-dictators forever or they really believe that we will not be adding 2.5 billion more people who want to live like us, so the price of oil won’t go up very far and, therefore, we shouldn’t raise taxes to stimulate clean, renewable alternatives and energy efficiency.

Green hawks believe otherwise. We believe that in a world getting warmer and more crowded with more “Americans,” the next great global industry is going to be E.T., or energy technology based on clean power and energy efficiency. It has to be. And we believe that the country that invents and deploys the most E.T. will enjoy the most economic security, energy security, national security, innovative companies and global respect. And we believe that country must be America. If not, our children will never enjoy the standard of living we did. And we believe the best way to launch E.T. is to set a fixed, long-term price on carbon — combine it with the Obama team’s impressive stimulus for green-tech — and then let the free market and innovation do the rest.

So, as I said, you don’t believe in global warming? You’re wrong, but I’ll let you enjoy it until your beach house gets washed away. But if you also don’t believe the world is getting more crowded with more aspiring Americans — and that ignoring that will play to the strength of our worst enemies, while responding to it with clean energy will play to the strength of our best technologies — then you’re willfully blind, and you’re hurting America’s future to boot.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Herald Gazette: Wind proposal tops Camden agenda

The Herald Gazette: Wind proposal tops Camden agenda

The Herald Gazette: Oceans called solution to energy crisis

The Herald Gazette: Oceans called solution to energy crisis

University of Maine hosts wind energy company - Bangor Daily News

University of Maine hosts wind energy company - Bangor Daily News | Building green for a sustainable future | Building green for a sustainable future

Lost There, Felt Here


Published: November 14, 2009
Belem, Brazil

The question was asked with eyes wide and a voice of incredulity. The person asking was Antonio Waldez Góes da Silva, the governor of the Amazonian state of Amapá, which has the biggest national park in the world. I had just shared with Gov. Waldez Góes a recent news article in The Hill, the Congressional newspaper, which said the total cost of stationing one U.S. soldier in Afghanistan for one year is $1 million.

What if we kept just one soldier back from Afghanistan and gave you the money, I asked the governor? What would it buy you? Gov. Waldez Góes mulled that over: “If you kept three soldiers back, that would be enough for me to keep the State University of Amapá running for one year, so 1,400 students could take different courses on sustainable development for the Amazon.”

O.K., I know. It is a bit misleading to take a war budget and assume that if it weren’t spent on combat, it would all go to schools or parks. And we do have real enemies. Some wars have to be fought, no matter the cost. But such comparisons are still a useful reminder that our debate about Afghanistan is not taking place in a vacuum. We will have to make trade-offs, and there are other hugely important projects today crying out for funding, as my colleague Nick Kristof has pointed out regarding health care.

Well, if America is going to assume the primary burden of fixing Central Asia, maybe, say, China, could help pick up the tab for saving what is left of the Amazon and the world’s other great tropical forests. Could President Obama raise that idea in Beijing?

An intergovernmental working group for saving the rainforests estimates that for about $30 billion we could reduce deforestation in places like Brazil, Indonesia and the Congo by 25 percent by 2015. After that, financing from global carbon markets, plus these countries’ own resources, could save much of the rest. China now has $2.2 trillion in reserves. How about it, Beijing? Why don’t you step up and provide some public goods for the world for once — not because you get a direct benefit, but just because it would make the world a better place for everyone?

Sure, America should still lead such efforts. But China’s days as a global free-rider should be over. China should pay its fair share — and more — since it will benefit every bit as much as the U.S., Europe and Japan. Indeed, the U.N. Foundation estimates that because living tropical forests are such huge storehouses of carbon — which gets released when we chop the trees down — if we just stop deforestation, we get a big chunk of the carbon-emissions reductions the world needs between now and 2020.

“And forest-rich developing countries, like Brazil, are now ready to do their part because they depend on the water that the rainforests provide for energy and agriculture, and because they see a new model for growth based on their natural capital,” said Glenn Prickett, a senior vice president with Conservation International and my traveling companion here. “Brazil has developed the science, political will and basic rules and institutions for preserving its rainforests. What Brazil and other rainforest nations like Indonesia lack, though, are the funds to take this new economic model to scale.”

I was struck by how many of the building blocks for “natural capitalism” that Gov. Waldez Góes — whose state sits at the mouth of the Amazon — is putting in place, so that he can have an economy based on preserving the rainforest rather than stripping it. He’s building on the three P’s — creating protected forest areas, improving productivity on lands that have already been cleared so farmers there will not need more, and establishing property rights for Amazonian lands, which are a legal mess, inviting Wild West land grabs and scaring off investors in sustainable agriculture.

Gov. Waldez Góes has already protected 75 percent of his state as rainforest and has enacted the laws and created a technical college to provide for sustainable logging and eco-tourism and for developing medicinal and cosmetic products from rainforest plants. But he needs funds to implement and monitor at scale and prove that “natural capitalism” can deliver more than the extractive version.

“I am the son of a rubber tapper,” he explains. “I was born and raised in the jungle, so even before becoming a politician I had a strong connection to nature.” The world is facing this relentless “development path that brings pollution and degradation and deforestation,” he added. He and other Brazilians want to prove you can do better by bringing “conservation and development together.”

Tropical forests represent some 5 percent of the earth’s surface but harbor 50 percent of all living species. Conservation International has a motto: “What is lost there is felt here.” If we lose what is left of the Amazon, we’ll all feel the climate effects, changing rainfall and loss of biodiversity that enriches our world. Brazil seems ready to do its part. Are we? What about you, China?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Angus King urges business owners to conserve, think alternative energy

By Rebekah Metzler, Staff Writer
Published: Oct 23, 2009 12:00 am

LEWISTON — Former Maine Gov. Angus King told local businesspeople to start conserving and to think about investments in renewable energy sources in his keynote address at a conference held at Bates College on Thursday.

The Androscoggin County Chamber of Commerce hosted the event, titled "Surviving the Energy Crisis: How to Save Money," which was sponsored by the Unitil Corp., Efficiency Maine and the Natural Resources Council of Maine.

King is a principal investor in Independence Wind, a company seeking to develop large-scale wind power projects in Maine. The group recently won state regulatory approval for a project in Roxbury.

"For every dollar that gasoline and home heating oil go up, that represents $1.2 billion a year out of the Maine economy," he told the audience of about 30 people. "It affects you as businesspeople because that's money people don't have to spend to buy CDs or go to the movies or go out to dinner or buy clothes. It's money that just disappears."

The combined state earnings from sales and income tax is about $1.8 billion a year, King said.

"So if gas goes up $1.25, it's as if the major taxes in Maine doubled and we get nothing for it," he said.

King pointed to Maine's exceptional reliance on fossil fuels — up to 88 percent of all the energy consumed in state — and its inability to control the price or supply of things such as gas and home heating oil as a dire problem.

"In my view, we're really in borrowed time on this and we really need to be thinking about what the alternatives are and how to hedge our bets," he said.

The first step to solving the problem, King advised, is conservation.

"It's the least expensive, the quickest, the least permitting involved, the least hassle and there are all kinds of things that can be done," he said.

But, he added, conservation alone would not be enough to counteract the growing global demand for fossil fuels.

"While we're caulking windows, in China they are building whole new cities," King said.

So, King said, looking to invest in alternative energy sources, like wind power, makes sense both for Mainers' pocketbooks and the environment.

"We have this energy going by us every day that's free," he said of wind power. "It's just the opposite of gas, which is cheap to build but more expensive to operate because you have to pay for the gas."

Successful off-shore wind development could produce enough energy to completely wean Maine off oil, King said.

The University of Maine has been awarded federal money to development technology that could withstand the rough off-shore elements, such as corrosive saltwater, and create a way to tap into the high-powered winds in the Gulf of Maine — "the Saudi Arabia of wind," according to King.

Americans tend to look for one solution to a problem, but King said that wouldn't work in this case.

"There is no one answer, but there are lots of little ones," he said. "We have to do for ourselves, we have to look at what it is we have."

To Cut Global Warming, Swedes Study Their Plates

October 23, 2009

STOCKHOLM — Shopping for oatmeal, Helena Bergstrom, 37, admitted that she was flummoxed by the label on the blue box reading, “Climate declared: .87 kg CO2 per kg of product.”

“Right now, I don’t know what this means,” said Ms. Bergstrom, a pharmaceutical company employee.

But if a new experiment here succeeds, she and millions of other Swedes will soon find out. New labels listing the carbon dioxide emissions associated with the production of foods, from whole wheat pasta to fast food burgers, are appearing on some grocery items and restaurant menus around the country.

People who live to eat might dismiss this as silly. But changing one’s diet can be as effective in reducing emissions of climate-changing gases as changing the car one drives or doing away with the clothes dryer, scientific experts say.

“We’re the first to do it, and it’s a new way of thinking for us,” said Ulf Bohman, head of the Nutrition Department at the Swedish National Food Administration, which was given the task last year of creating new food guidelines giving equal weight to climate and health. “We’re used to thinking about safety and nutrition as one thing and environmental as another.”

Some of the proposed new dietary guidelines, released over the summer, may seem startling to the uninitiated. They recommend that Swedes favor carrots over cucumbers and tomatoes, for example. (Unlike carrots, the latter two must be grown in heated greenhouses here, consuming energy.)

They are not counseled to eat more fish, despite the health benefits, because Europe’s stocks are depleted.

And somewhat less surprisingly, they are advised to substitute beans or chicken for red meat, in view of the heavy greenhouse gas emissions associated with raising cattle.

“For consumers, it’s hard,” Mr. Bohman acknowledged. “You are getting environmental advice that you have to coordinate with, ‘How can I eat healthier?’ ”

Many Swedish diners say it is just too much to ask. “I wish I could say that the information has made me change what I eat, but it hasn’t,” said Richard Lalander, 27, who was eating a Max hamburger (1.7 kilograms of carbon dioxide emissions) in the shadow of a menu board revealing that a chicken sandwich (0.4 kilograms) would have been better for the planet.

Yet if the new food guidelines were religiously heeded, some experts say, Sweden could cut its emissions from food production by 20 to 50 percent. An estimated 25 percent of the emissions produced by people in industrialized nations can be traced to the food they eat, according to recent research here. And foods vary enormously in the emissions released in their production.

While today’s American or European shoppers may be well versed in checking for nutrients, calories or fat content, they often have little idea of whether eating tomatoes, chicken or rice is good or bad for the climate.

Complicating matters, the emissions impact of, say, a carrot, can vary by a factor of 10, depending how and where it is grown.

Earlier studies of food emissions focused on the high environmental costs of transporting food and raising cattle. But more nuanced research shows that the emissions depend on many factors, including the type of soil used to grow the food and whether a dairy farmer uses local rapeseed or imported soy for cattle feed.

Business groups, farming cooperatives and organic labeling programs as well as the government have gamely come up with coordinated ways to identify food choices.

Max, Sweden’s largest homegrown chain of burger restaurants, now puts emissions calculations next to each item on its menu boards. Lantmannen, Sweden’s largest farming group, has begun placing precise labels on some categories of foods in grocery stores, including chicken, oatmeal, barley and pasta.

Consumers who pay attention may learn that emissions generated by growing the nation’s most popular grain, rice, are two to three times those of little-used barley, for example.

Some producers argue that the new programs are overly complex and threaten profits. The dietary recommendations, which are being circulated for comment not just in Sweden but across the European Union, have been attacked by the Continent’s meat industry, Norwegian salmon farmers and Malaysian palm oil growers, to name a few.

“This is trial and error; we’re still trying to see what works,” Mr. Bohman said.

Next year, KRAV, Scandinavia’s main organic certification program, will start requiring farmers to convert to low-emissions techniques if they want to display its coveted seal on products, meaning that most greenhouse tomatoes can no longer be called organic.

Those standards have stirred some protests. “There are farmers who are happy and farmers who say they are being ruined,” said Johan Cejie, manager of climate issues for KRAV.

For example, he said, farmers with high concentrations of peat soil on their property may no longer be able to grow carrots, since plowing peat releases huge amounts of carbon dioxide; to get the organic label, they may have to switch to feed crops that require no plowing.

Next year KRAV will require hothouses to use biofuels for heating. Dairy farms will have to obtain at least 70 percent of the food for their herds locally; many previously imported cheap soy from Brazil, generating transport emissions and damaging the rain forest as trees were cleared to make way for farmland.

The Swedish effort grew out of a 2005 study by Sweden’s national environmental agency on how personal consumption generates emissions. Researchers found that 25 percent of national per capita emissions — two metric tons per year — was attributable to eating.

The government realized that encouraging a diet that tilted more toward chicken or vegetables and educating farmers on lowering emissions generally could have an enormous impact.

Sweden has been a world leader in finding new ways to reduce emissions. It has vowed to eliminate the use of fossil fuel for electricity by 2020 and cars that run on gasoline by 2030.

To arrive at numbers for their company’s first carbon dioxide labels, scientists at Lantmannen analyzed life cycles of 20 products. These take into account emissions generated by fertilizer, fuel for harvesting machinery, packaging and transport.

They decided to examine one representative product in each category — say, pasta — rather than performing analyses for fusilli versus penne, or one brand versus another. “Every climate declaration is hugely time-intensive,” said Claes Johansson, Lantmannen’s director of sustainability.

A new generation of Swedish business leaders is stepping up to the climate challenge. Richard Bergfors, president of Max, his family’s burger chain, voluntarily hired a consultant to calculate its carbon footprint; 75 percent was created by its meat.

“We decided to be honest and put it all out there and say we’ll do everything we can to reduce,” said Mr. Bergfors, 40. In addition to putting emissions data on the menu, Max eliminated boxes from its children’s meals, installed low-energy LED lights and pays for wind-generated electricity.

Since the emissions counts started appearing on the menu, sales of climate-friendly items have risen 20 percent. Still, plenty of people head to a burger restaurant lusting only for a burger.

Kristian Eriksson, 26, an information technology specialist, looked embarrassed when asked about the burger he was eating at an outdoor table.

“You feel guilty picking red meat,” he said.

Scientists Unite! 18 Scientific Groups Reaffirm Climate Science in Letter to Senators

By gulledgej
Created 10/21/2009 - 09:13

Scientists to Congress: You can argue about the politics all you want, but if you decide not to act on climate change, it won’t be because the science wasn’t strong enough.

In a letter [1] sent today, a slew of scientific organizations, including the American Meteorological Society, American Geophysical Union, Crop Science Society of America, and American Chemical Society, informed the U.S. Senate that there is a strong scientific consensus [2] that manmade greenhouse gases are changing the climate and that claims to the contrary are scientifically indefensible:

“Observations throughout the world make it clear that climate change is occurring, and rigorous scientific research demonstrates that the greenhouse gases emitted by human activities are the primary driver. These conclusions are based on multiple independent lines of evidence, and contrary assertions are inconsistent with an objective assessment of the vast body of peer-reviewed science.”

And they go further: “there is strong evidence that ongoing climate change will have broad impacts on society, including the global economy and on the environment.” They also say the United States will experience significant impacts; climate change isn’t just a problem for poor or developing countries [3]:

Notably, eight agricultural, plant, and ecological organizations signed the letter, thoroughly undermining recent attempts by opponents of climate policy to spin [4] manmade CO2 emissions as “plant food” that’s good for the environment. The letter, signed by 18 scientific groups, warns that: "For the United States, climate change impacts include sea level rise for coastal states, greater threats of extreme weather events, and increased risk of regional water scarcity, urban heat waves, western wildfires, and the disturbance of biological systems throughout the country.” More CO2 is not going to do crops and forests any good if they can’t get enough water or if storms, pests, or wildfires are mowing them down.

This is the first time that so many professional scientific organizations have spoken in unison on the need for climate change policy:

“If we are to avoid the most severe impacts of climate change, emissions of greenhouse gases must be dramatically reduced. In addition, adaptation will be necessary to address those impacts that are already unavoidable.”

You won’t find a political statement in the letter to the senators. Instead, you’ll find a professional community united against politically motivated denialism [5] designed to deceive the public and Congress about what scientists know about climate change. You’ll also find a community of professional problem solvers eager to help our nation find the needed solutions, if and when our policy makers finally decide to act.

In my two decades as a practicing scientist, I’ve never seen scientific organizations speak with one voice about a politically controversial issue. Why is this happening?

First, the sophisticated understanding of the climate system that has developed over the past century is a truly historic achievement shared by thousands of professionals representing many scientific disciplines in dozens of countries. Claiming that we don’t know enough about climate change to do anything about it unfairly diminishes this accomplishment and stands as an affront to the profession.

Second, with knowledge comes the burden of understanding the risks [6]. Scientists know better than anyone that the consequences of doing nothing are likely to be severe and could even be catastrophic [7] for society and for nature as we know it.

As a scientist, I would have preferred to see our professional community come together like this sooner, but scientists are a fractious bunch and are politically shy. It speaks volumes about the seriousness of climate change that they have come together at all!

Read the letter [1].

Organizations signing the letter: American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Chemical Society, American Geophysical Union, American Institute of Biological Sciences, American Meteorological Society, American Society of Agronomy, American Society of Plant Biologists, American Statistical Association, Association of Ecosystem Research Centers, Botanical Society of America, Crop Science Society of America, Ecological Society of America, Natural Science Collections Alliance, Organization of Biological Field Stations, Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, Society of Systematic Biologists, Soil Science Society of America, University Corporation for Atmospheric Research

Source URL:


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Turning 'sawdust' into fuel for future

A team that tested its formula in Gorham seeks a $50 million grant for a biofuel demonstration plant.

By TUX TURKEL, Staff Writer
October 19, 2009

GORHAM — Stephen Fitzpatrick reaches into a bag and scoops up a handful of ground waste wood. Beyond him stands a maze of pipes, pumps and vessels that fill a small warehouse.

In his other hand, Fitzpatrick holds a bottle of clear liquid. It has the aroma of ripe fruit, but it actually is a substitute for heating oil.

Using a proprietary process that involves chemicals, pressure, temperature and time, Fitzpatrick and his colleagues at Biofine Technology LLC say they've figured out how to turn what's essentially a sack of sawdust into heating and motor fuels, at a cost of roughly $2 a gallon.

For three years, researchers inside this anonymous building in the Gorham Industrial Park have been pursuing a vision that could radically change Maine's energy and economic future.

Maine is the most forested state in the nation. It's the most dependent on imported petroleum for home heating. And it has a paper industry struggling to survive.

That makes for a natural fit: Set up commercial versions of the Gorham pilot plant next to paper mills. Use Maine's plentiful wood supply to kick petroleum. Create thousands of jobs building, operating and supplying the plants.

Now Fitzpatrick and his team are at a pivotal point. They have applied for a $50 million federal energy grant, meant to help offset the cost of a $113 million demonstration plant that would pave the way for full-scale production in Maine. They'll find out in December whether they got the money.

"This Department of Energy grant will be the key to putting this technology into pulp mills in Maine," Fitzpatrick said. "It's a huge deal."

Efforts to build production-scale biorefineries are ramping up nationwide. The U.S. government is encouraging these plans because of their promise to convert wood, farm waste and other low-grade materials into fuel. By contrast, the ethanol now mixed in gasoline has become controversial because it relies on food crops, namely corn.

In Maine, a second biorefinery effort is under way at a former paper mill near Bangor. Old Town Fuel and Fiber is in the final stages of negotiating a $30 million federal energy grant that would cover half the cost of a similar demonstration project.

Both companies are working with the Maine Technology Institute and the Forest Bioproducts Research Initiative at the University of Maine. As it turns out, the different technologies being pursued by Old Town and Biofine complement each other, and the firms are likely to end up working together at a tech center the university is preparing to build inside the Old Town mill.

Although Old Town's ambitions have been well-publicized, the work in Gorham has gone on largely unnoticed in Maine. A reporter and photographer from the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram last week were the first media to tour the plant.

The Gorham plant is capable of turning a ton a day of biomass – including wood, pulp, recycled paper and food waste – into 20,000 gallons of liquid fuel a year. The demonstration plant the team wants to build would be sized to handle 50 tons a day and make 1.2 million gallons a year. It would create an estimated 125 jobs in operation and supply.

A full-scale commercial biorefinery would convert 1,000 tons a day into 28.7 million gallons of liquid fuel a year and create 486 jobs, the company estimates. No one has done this yet, although a commercial plant is being built in Georgia.

The technology being used in Gorham has been under development by Fitzpatrick since the 1980s. It was validated at a Glens Falls, N.Y., pilot plant in a partnership with a subsidiary of energy giant Royal Dutch Shell.

In 2006, Shell spent $5 million to build an upgraded test plant in Maine. Gorham was chosen because it's near the wood supply, Fitzpatrick's home in Massachusetts and two partners – Paul Nace and Norman MacIntyre of Maine BioProducts – who also were working on biofuels in Maine. The two efforts have since merged under the Biofine Technology LLC name.

Shell's ambition was to develop motor fuels, and various car engines were run on the fuel produced in Gorham. But seal problems on early fuel-injection models led Shell to end its involvement.

That left Fitzpatrick, Nace and MacIntyre to pursue what they decided was an easier and more logical path – home heating oil. The Northeast burns 4 billion gallons a year, in a market concentrated near underused paper mills and abundant forestland.

Despite ready demand, the men don't expect homes to be heated with pure biofuel right away. Until several full-scale plants are built, it makes more sense to mix biofuel with regular heating oil, just as vegetable-based oil is now blended with heating oil and diesel fuel.

Scientists have come up with different technologies to produce biofuels.

Old Town Fuel and Fiber uses fermentation to extract sugars that can be converted to ethanol. Biofine's process is chemical, rather than biological. Its product is levulinic acid, an organic compound that's ultimately turned into ethyl levulinate, a chemical that serves as a platform to make fuels, plastics, pharmaceuticals and – producing a fruity smell – fragrances.

Inside the plant, the biomass is dumped in a large hopper, mixed with acid and subjected to steam and high heat for 15 minutes. The resulting liquid moves through a system of pipes and tanks, where it's blended, turned into a vapor and condensed. The process also makes marketable byproducts and a carbon char that can produce steam and electricity for the plant. Biofine says a larger plant will make enough surplus green energy to sell on the power grid.

Don't look for trucks delivering this Maine-made biofuel any time soon, however.

If Biofine receives full funding from the federal government, and it can raise $63 million in additional private capital, a 50-ton demonstration plant could be operating by 2014. After testing and data collection, a commercial plant could come online by 2017, the company estimates.

In its application for federal money, the company says 16 regions of the country could support commercial-scale Biofine facilities, including multiple locations in Maine.

This potential, even if it's far off, is exciting to the state's heating oil industry.

The fuel produced in Gorham has been run full-strength in a test oil burner that needed only a minor pump-seal replacement to operate reliably. Late this summer, national oil heat scientists visited the Gorham plant and reviewed the process.

They concluded it's for real, which was encouraging to Jamie Py, executive director of the Maine Energy Marketers Association. The trade group recently launched a campaign to get oil dealers to embrace biofuels and energy efficiency.

"It's an indigenous product from a biorefinery," Py said. "It has low greenhouse gas emissions, we already have the infrastructure and it will keep jobs in Maine. It makes a lot of sense. Hopefully it can happen."

University of Maine researchers say the chances appear good. With billions of dollars in economic stimulus money available, and a congressional mandate to reach aggressive quotas for biofuel blending, Biofine's timing may be just right.

Biofine has made it to the final round of the grant program. Competitors aren't using the same thermo-chemical process, said Mike Bilodeau, assistant director of the university's forest bioresearch group, and the government has already invested millions in fermentation technology. That gives Biofine a distinction, with a process that appears to be more cost-effective than fermentation at a commercial level, he said.

"It has a lot fewer issues when you scale up," Bilodeau said. "I think the Department of Energy will have a very favorable view."

Staff Writer Tux Turkel can be contacted at 791-6462 or at:

Petition on wind power moratorium accepted


By Mary Standard, Special to the Sun Journal
Published: Oct 21, 2009 12:24 am

BUCKFIELD — A resident's petition asking the town to approve a 180-day moratorium on wind power development was found sufficient by selectmen Tuesday night. There were 115 valid signatures on the petition.
The decision on whether to hold a referendum at the polls or a special town meeting to vote on the issue was tabled until all members of the Board of Selectmen are present.

James Parker's petition says that the full impact of wind turbines has not been fully explored and the town has a duty to protect the health, safety and welfare of its residents. The moratorium would give the town time to approve an ordinance to regulate wind power projects, according to the petition.

In other business, the Recreation Committee bylaws were approved after some discussion. The main area of concern for Selectman John Lowell was that the committee should have full control of choosing a chairman. Town Manager Glen Holmes said the wording was a compromise with the Recreation Committee. It states that once the committee has elected a chairman, the name will be sent to the Board of Selectman for ratification.

The bylaws also say that close relatives of members will not be appointed to the committee.

Another area of concern for Lowell was that any member who fails to attend two consecutive regular meeting must be reported in writing to the selectmen. That member would meet in executive session with the board and if the reason for missing was not excusable, they would be removed from the committee.

Holmes read lengthy letters of resignation from three members of the Recreation Committee. The Board accepted with regret the resignations of Jillian and David Shabe. The resignation of Sandy Albert was not accepted.

No appointments were made, as Selectman Chip Richardson was not present and had asked to be present for any appointees since the board had decided to review applications more fully.

The resignation of Dick Piper from the Planning Board was accepted. The board approved alternate Joyce Hartson as a full member. Warren Wright pleaded with the board to appoint an applicant to fill Piper's spot so they could conduct business. A decision was tabled until the next meeting.

The selectmen's meeting was recessed until Friday, Oct. 23, at 5:30, when the tax rate could be set. The board will also consider applicants for the Planning Board.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Decentralizing Electricity

Decentralizing Electricity
The Coming Energy Revolution

By Stefan Schultz

Electric cars, intelligent washing machines, mini power plants in your basement: Germany is on the verge of an energy revolution. SPIEGEL ONLINE looks at the latest developments in the smart grid and how it will change the relationship between consumers and energy suppliers.

The power grid of the future is one of humanity's boldest visions. Gigantic wind farms in the sea and enormous solar fields in the desert are to generate the bulk of our power in the years to come. But consumers and companies are also producing energy with mini-power plants in their own basements and solar panels on the roof. And intelligent appliances are saving energy in our homes: washers, dryers and refrigerators that communicate with each other wash, dry or cool when electricity is cheapest. The information age is arriving at a new level: It's becoming the electricity age.

The electricity age is imminent in six German regions: The technology of the future for smart energy management is going to be developed and tested, under the label E-Energy, in several cities. A number of projects will kick into high gear this month. Tens of thousands of homes and hundreds of companies are expected to participate in the field tests. Research will be conducted into the possibility, for example, of homes that can largely produce all the electricity required by a household, as well as energy exchanges that enable consumers to sell any excess, self-produced and environmentally friendly electricity at a profit back to the energy grid.

Together with firms like Siemens, SAP, IBM and energy giants like EnBW, RWE and Vattenfall, Germany's economics and environment ministries have already mobilized €140 million for the development of the associated technologies and the tests. The government has provided €60 million and the industrial partners are raising the rest together with public utilities and smaller, innovative technology partners. According to Ludwig Karg, one of the researchers working together with scientists and communication experts in the model regions, E-Energy is intended to jump-start a greater energy revolution in Germany. "We are providing German companies with future access to markets worth billions," he said.

Companies Create New Super Sector

The project actually does have the potential to speed things up. It could help to explain the new technologies to consumers. Indeed, a number of recent developments suggest the energy revolution is already taking shape. In recent months, numerous spectacular future-oriented projects have been launched:

In mid-September, the German federal government agreed to the massive expansion of power generation through large offshore windparks.
Companies like Munich Re, Siemens, Deutsche Bank, E.on and RWE, working together under the name Desertec, want to build giant solar power plants in Africa's Sahara desert to feed the European power grid.

Carmaker Volkswagen, together with ecologically friendly energy utility Lichtblick, wants to install 100,000 mini power plants directly in consumers' homes. Demand for the system has been strong from day one.
Car parts maker Bosch acquired solar cell manufacturer Ersol in 2008 and, rumors suggest, is currently working to design a solar-powered car.

IT giant Cisco is working together with one large European electricity grid provider to create a smart power grid of the future. By mid-2010, the company wants to equip power lines, substations and transformers with information technology.
Search engine giant Google is also trying to get in on the smart grid action. The US company is developing software to allow consumers to track their electricity usage in real-time over the Internet.

The upheaval these projects have the potential to cause is enormous: Energy and IT markets are drawing closer together and the automobile industry will likely follow soon. A new super sector could change the competitive landscape and create new opportunities for partnerships. It will open up new business opportunities for the beleaguered automobile sector, power and IT companies as well as innovative start-ups, providing vast growth opportunities.

'The Greatest Infrastructure Project of the Decade'

Consumers could also stand to benefit from the transformation of the energy market. The German government estimates that more efficient power supply management could save 10 terawatt-hours (i.e. a billion kWh) of energy a year, which corresponds to the annual consumption of 2.5 million households. Márta Nagy-Rotherngass, head of the European Commission's Information and Communication Technologies for Sustainable Growth unit, says the modernization of the energy grid is a "win win situation" for everyone.

Industry experts are urging Germany to spearhead this future market and to try to create an export success story with the technologies that are being tested. E-Energy expert Karg, who introduced the project late last month at a conference in Washington, said the Americans were keen to work together intensively with German companies on the modernization of the power grid.

But there is plenty of competition: The International Energy Agency expects to see investments of several billion dollars worldwide by 2030 in projects to generate electricity, manage consumption and modernize power grids. "The change in energy will be the greatest infrastructure project of the next decade," said Christian Feisst, head of business development at Cisco's SmartGrid subsidiary.

In China there is a huge need for a smart electricity grid and the government is working hard to lay the technological foundations for it. The Americans are also investing heavily in future-oriented projects. Of the $39 billion that President Barack Obama has made available in his economic stimulus package for the promotion of green energies, more than $4 billion is expected to flow into the energy market. Dozens of US startups are producing hardware and software to enable consumers to monitor energy usage in real time, or to automatically regulate it.

Hive Intelligence Will Revolutionize Energy Production

The German government and energy companies are generating plenty of headlines these days with projects like the giant wind farms in the North and Baltic seas, and the desert solar project Desertec. They are intended to massively increase green energy supplies. The Germany economics ministry has forecast that alternative energy sources could provide one-third of the country's electricity needs by 2030.

But the true environmental revolution will happen from the bottom up, through mini power stations in basements of private homes, that generate both heat and power, as well as solar panels that can cover the electricity needs of factories. In future, energy will be supplied from millions of networked mini power plants rather than from relatively few centralized sources.

In early September, carmaker Volkswagen and utility company Lichtblick launched their first major offensive on the people power grid: The two companies intend to install up to 100,000 combined heat and power units (CHPs) in the basements of apartment buildings. They will initially be fired by natural gas, later on possibly by biogas. The basement power plants will heat the homes while simultaneously producing electricity and sending precise data to the companies. The companies believe the total investment in the project will come to €2 billion.

'Virtual Power Plants'

Residents of the cities of Karlsruhe and Stuttgart, where a government pilot E-Energy project is being tested, are already experiencing what it is like to be part a smart grid. There, 200 homes and companies have been equipped with photovoltaic systems and CHPs or fuel cells.

This model transforms the consumer into a producer who can make some money in the energy market. They are also testing a pricing model in which electricity rates depend on supply and demand. If the amount of available energy goes down, the rates go up correspondingly. Users can monitor the system on an Internet portal and generate energy whenever the price peaks, thereby also stabilizing the overall supply.

Lichtblick executives call them "virtual power stations" that can, within minutes, be networked to form a virtual giant electricity producer that can quickly compensate when other electricity production facilities are disturbed -- for example if the wind suddenly slows and thousands of wind turbines begin turning more slowly.

How Consumers Can Take Power from Utilities

Currently, it is next to impossible for consumers to see how much electricity they are using day to day, but devices are being developed to make it easier for consumers to monitor their energy usage. Franz-Reinhard Habbel, spokesman for the German Association of Municipalities, speaks of a "black box" for homes. The smart grid would tell consumers how much electricity each appliance is using. And consumers will be able to do a lot more to determine at which prices they consume electricity.

Customers will be able to cut their electricity bills, moreover, by pinpointing off-peak hours to run their energy-intensive machines. Software and hardware is currently being developed that would enable consumers to automatically shut off washing machines, dishwashers or refrigerators during price peaks.

"The utility companies will lose control," predicts Scott Lang, head of the Silicon Valley-based Silver Spring Networks, whose firm sells electricity meters that can already calculate up-to-the-minute usage.

In addition to smart meters, a number of other potential growth markets are being tested as part of the E-Energy project. German household appliance maker Miele, for example, is supplying hundreds of homes in the Ruhr region with intelligent washing machines that provide exact details about usage and can be either programmed or operated remotely to automatically turn on and do their work at times of the day when electricity is cheapest. Other companies are building adapters that can turn older machines on and off, based on energy prices.

A household's smart devices would be controlled by so-called home management systems. In the city of Mannheim, also home to an E-Energy pilot project, companies like Papendorf Software Engineering are developing related hardware and software under the "Energy Butler" label.

Energy Management and Storage

This sort of energy management -- that can switch appliances on and off depending on the amount of energy available from wind farms and solar plants -- is the main prerequisite for a power grid running largely on renewable energies. Supply and demand have to be tightly controlled to keep the grid from crashing.

Innovative energy storage systems are also intended for the system. Batteries up until now have proven too expensive and in some cases too inefficient for the task. Now scientists are looking into other ways of storing energy, and new concepts are being tested in the German port city of Cuxhafen. During peak times, the region is able to produce more than 80 percent of its needed electricity using wind turbines, but when the wind dies down, so does the capacity to supply electricity. "To make up for fluctuations," said project leader Wolfram Krause, "cold stores could be cooled more than needed or swimming pools overheated. If less electricity is available later, cooling and heating devices could be temporarily turned off until the energy buffer has been used up."

Storage solutions could also play a special role in electric cars in the future. In one E-Energy project in Germany's Harz mountains region, they serve as reserve batteries from the regional power net. If electricity supplies are low, cars not in use can also feed energy back into the grid.

Tech Giants Are Building Power Grid 2.0

If millions of small power stations are feeding the mains with a fluctuating quantity of electricity, and millions upon millions of terminal devices and home management systems are transmitting energy consumption data or receiving commands, the grid operators' systems could go haywire. The power transmission has to be continually adjusted at millisecond intervals. And it's a process that can only be achieved if it is highly automated.

That's why setting up such an intelligent power grid, that can manage this mass of data across the country, is probably the biggest challenge of the new electric age. "The deployment of all modern energy technologies will rise or fall based on the construction of a communications network that can deal with mass amounts of real-time data and transport them using Internet Protocols," said Ingo Schönberg, the head Power Plus Communications (PPC), a company that is producing such technologies. "A smart grid is the backbone of the new infrastructure."

It's also one of the most lucrative emerging business opportunities. The hitherto dominant energy giants are suddenly faced with new and formidable foes: technology groups keen on seizing control over energy supplies on the Internet. Siemens CEO Peter Löscher puts the volume of the smart grid market at €30 billion by the year 2014. In September, the company said it was planning to invest €6 billion in this area over that period.

IT giant Cisco is also eyeing the market. "We are calculating a future annual market potential of $20 billion," said Cisco SmartGrid executive Christian Feisst. He believes that within 10 years the technology will be deployable on a mass scale. And PPC's Schönberg believes that smart grids will be available in some cities in the next few years and that they will be available to the masses by the middle of the next decade. He said the first aim must be to automate as many measuring and control processes as possible in order to reduce the increasing levels of complexity. Cisco is currently conducting pilot tests of smart grids, but the company said it would like to provide an entire region with intelligent electricity by mid-2010.

As part of the government's E-Energy project, companies including Siemens, ABB and IBM are developing central system platforms that can collect all the data on decentralized energy production and consumption. The systems also calculate electricity prices based on fluctuations and pass this information back to consumers using broadband connections or by mobile radio. Together, these technologies will create an energy market place in which consumers themselves can buy and sell power.

An El Dorado for Service Providers

A market in which energy is traded according to supply and demand will provide immense opportunities for service providers and startups. Some are developing systems to predict rate fluctuations based on weather forecasts and behavioral statistics. Mobile software, e.g. iPhone-Apps, are likely to figure prominently in this sector.

Resourceful start-ups can also come up with business innovations for an energy grid 2.0, e.g. setting up social networks to help and hone ecological householding. In the US, a new generation of startups is already sounding the clarion call to an ecological revolution on the Web.

Web visionaries say the Internet has the potential to revolutionize the way we think about the environment: For one thing, it can expose waste and pollution, and pinpoint the culprits. That should give rise to a collective environmental conscience, forcing us to think more critically about how we use energy.

Experts Sound Warning: German Nuclear Comeback Spells Bad News for Wind Power (10/13/2009),1518,654857,00.html
The Future of Energy: A Power Station in Your Basement (09/07/2009),1518,647435,00.html
Leaders In Alternative Energy: Germany Turns On World's Biggest Solar Power Project (08/20/2009),1518,643961,00.html
Sea Power: Germany's First Offshore Wind Park Goes Online (08/13/2009),1518,642243,00.html
The World from Berlin: Desertec Solar Project 'an Encouraging Economic Sign' (06/17/2009),1518,630948,00.html
Energy from North Africa: Massive European Solar Project Set for Launch (06/16/2009),1518,630699,00.html
Offshore Wind Farms: A Green Revolution off Germany's Coast (07/24/2008),1518,567622,00.html
Harnessing the Saharan Sun: Is Desert Solar Power the Solution to Europe's Energy Crisis? (04/30/2008),1518,550544,00.html

All Rights Reserved
Reproduction only allowed with the permission of SPIEGELnet Gmb

Superfreakonomics on climate, part 1

Ralph Krugman
October 17, 2009, 9:55 AM

OK, I’m working my way through the climate chapter — and the first five pages, by themselves, are enough to discredit the whole thing. Why? Because they grossly misrepresent other peoples’ research, in both climate science and economics.

The chapter opens with the “global cooling” story — the claim that 30 years ago there was a scientific consensus that the planet was cooling, comparable to the current consensus that it’s warming.

Um, no. Real Climate has the takedown. What you had in the 70s was a few scientists advancing the cooling hypothesis, and a few popular media stories hyping their suggestions. To the extent that there was a consensus, it was that there wasn’t much evidence for anything, and more research was needed.

What you have today is a massive research program involving thousands of scientists and many peer-reviewed publications, with all major international bodies agreeing that man-made global warming is real. You can, if you insist, dismiss it all as a gigantic hoax or whatever — but it’s nothing like the isolated 70s speculations about cooling.

And then we come to a bit of economics. The book asks

Do the future benefits from cutting emissions outweigh the costs of doing so? Or are we better off waiting to cut emissions later — or even, perhaps, polluting at will and just learning to live in a hotter world?

The economist Martin Weitzman analyzed the best available climate models and concluded that the future holds a 5 percent chance of a terrible-case scenario ..
Yikes. I read Weitzman’s paper, and have corresponded with him on the subject — and it’s making exactly the opposite of the point they’re implying it makes. Weitzman’s argument is that uncertainty about the extent of global warming makes the case for drastic action stronger, not weaker. And here’s what he says about the timing of action:

The conventional economic advice of spending modestly on abatement now but gradually ramping up expenditures over time is an extreme lower bound on what is reasonable rather than a best estimate of what is reasonable.
Again, we’re not even getting into substance — just the basic issue of representing correctly what other people said.

Administrative note: I’m going to block comments here, because I know it will be overwhelmed.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Foreign groups eye Maine’s wind potential

A recent trade mission could lead to $18 million in sales and contracts, a group says.

October 15, 2009

AUGUSTA — At least two foreign business groups plan to visit Maine to explore wind power investment possibilities, following the governor's trade mission to Spain, Germany and Norway last month.

StatoilHydro is expected in mid-November. The Norwegian energy giant has the only deep-water wind turbine off its coast, and it has an agreement with the University of Maine to explore the feasibility of putting such a turbine in the Gulf of Maine.

StatoilHydro officials want to further the agreement with the university while in Maine, and they plan to tour companies that might be involved in making and erecting such a turbine.

A Spanish investment group plans to visit Maine in late fall or early winter to look at the potential for onshore wind farms in the state, said Janine Bisaillon-Cary, director of the Maine International Trade Center.

She spoke to about 16 businesspeople who went on the trade mission and gathered Wednesday at the Blaine House to discuss what they had accomplished on the mission and their plans for the future.

Bisaillon-Cary said companies on the trade mission, which was focused on wind power, are projecting about $18 million in potential contracts and sales generated by the trip — more than double any other trade mission.

The companies included Bath Iron Works, Cianbro Corp., Reed & Reed Construction, James W. Sewall Co., Larkin Enterprises, Sullivan & Merritt, Sargent Corp., Central Maine Power Co. and Sprague Energy.

On Wednesday, officials from those companies and organizations compared notes and suggested next steps.

Paul Williamson of the Maine Composites Alliance said he is exploring training options for Mainers in the wind field.

He met with a German group that is testing a floating offshore wind platform and may have interest in working with Maine on a similar model.

Richard Larkin of Larkin Enterprises said he had identified a lack of skilled, trained technicians to maintain turbines. The trade mission solidified that observation, said Larkin, who is working with Northern Maine Community College to develop a program to train workers for jobs here and around the world.

Steve Levesque, director of the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority, which is seeking to redevelop the soon-to-be-closed Brunswick Naval Air Station, said he met with companies in hopes of attracting investment or businesses to the base. He was particularly interested in an industrial park the group toured in Bremerhaven, Germany, that was geared to wind power companies.

"It really became pretty clear to us we can replicate what they've done in Bremerhaven in the Brunswick area," he said.

To begin producing wind turbine tower structures, a shipyard like BIW would need minor capital investments and space to work, said Andrew Bond, director of labor and business planning. Baldacci said he'd want to know about any help the state could give BIW in the financial or policy arenas.

While the state must cut about $200 million to balance its budget, it also must continue to make strategic investments in its future, said Baldacci.

John Henshaw, executive director of the Maine Port Authority, said the visit showed the need for areas around Maine's ports that could store huge turbine pieces. The state may want to explore buying industrial parcels in key locations, he said.

Parker Hadlock of Cianbro wasn't on the trip, but he has been exploring wind power through the governor's Ocean Energy Task Force. He said that the federal government must come up with a national policy on wind power. Until it does, foreign companies will see U.S. investment as risky, he said.

Hadlock pushed the need for an umbrella organization to pull along university research, industry and government in support of offshore wind power. Baldacci suggested that such a group should be industry-led.

Maine is in a position to become a leader in offshore wind power, said Baldacci, and it needs to seize the opportunity.

"You have to have energy to exist, to do business, to live," he said. "I'm not going to resign Maine to being on the receiving end. I want us to be on the ownership side."

Staff Writer Matt Wickenheiser can be contacted at 791-6316 or at

Houlton OKs lease to Bangor pellet firm

By Jen Lynds
BDN Staff

HOULTON, Maine — Town councilors approved a lease with a new pellet manufacturing business on Tuesday evening that could bring up to 40 new jobs to the area.

Councilors voted 5-0 in favor of the lease, which was negotiated between the town and Aroostook Renewable Energy, a group of partners doing business as Aroostook Pellets.

The businessmen from the Bangor area will pay $240 a month to lease a parcel of land at the Houlton International Airport Industrial Park, where they plan to construct a building.

Town Manager Douglas Hazlett told councilors the group has not started building, but has secured the majority of the financing needed for the project.

Some residents attending the meeting had questions about the project, asking for background on the company and expressing a desire to see the business come to fruition. Hazlett assured them the town was optimistic the business would be constructed and would open. Once operational, it could bring up to 40 new jobs to the area, he said.

Hazlett said the business could not buy the land because the town and the Federal Aviation Administration own it, thus it can be leased but not sold.

The town also has taken steps to assure the project will come to fruition.

If the business does not construct the facility in a year or if the financing falls through, the town can terminate the lease. The town also reserved the right to terminate the lease at any time with 90 days’ notice.

Council Chairman Paul Cleary was enthusiastic about the project, classifying it as a major win for the municipality.

“This could possibly create up to 40 jobs,” he said, adding that it also would establish a new business in town.

A company profile indicates that Andrew Durkovich is the primary contact for the business, but he could not be reached for comment Thursday afternoon regarding when construction might begin.


Lawyer fighting wind power

Green candidate for governor supports alternative energy

By Nick Sambides Jr.
BDN Staff

Though Lynne Williams supports alternative energy production and doesn’t oppose the use of windmills to create it, she is fighting wind power in Maine just about every way she can.

A Bar Harbor attorney representing the Friends of Lincoln Lakes, Williams is pursuing two appeals of decisions that, if reaffirmed, would help clear the way for an industrial wind site on Rollins Mountain ridgelines in Burlington, Lee, Lincoln and Winn.

As a Maine Green Independent Party candidate for governor in 2010, Williams called last month for Maine Attorney General Janet Mills to create a code of conduct for wind operators and a governmental committee to monitor compliance. Williams also wanted Mills to investigate whether wind companies in Maine had violated any ethics statutes.

Williams opposes a flawed and hurried process, not the concept of industrial wind power, she said.

“Unlike some attorneys, I never represent someone that has different values from me, so I agree 100 percent with my clients,” Williams said Thursday of Friends of Lincoln Lakes. “This issue is way too important for us to be rushing through it.”

She suggested Mills model Maine’s system on a similar, voluntary code established by New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. Under that code, wind companies are banned from hiring municipal employees or their relatives; refuse confidential information from municipal officers; post on their Web sites the names of all municipal officers who have financial stakes in their companies; and file all wind easements and leases with county clerks.

Williams’ proposal didn’t gain much traction with Mills. Kate Simmons, a spokeswoman with the Attorney General’s Office, says that Mills’ office is “not aware of any allegations of impropriety made against any wind power developers.”

“In order to create any code of ethics, the office would need to be directed by the appropriate regulatory body to do so,” Simmons said. “Maine already has many statutes regarding conflict of interest on the books to protect citizens from improprieties.”

A group of Lincoln-area landowners or leaseholders, the Friends group has appealed in Superior Court a Department of Environmental Protection permit for First Wind of Massachusetts to build 40 11/2-megawatt wind turbines on the ridgelines.

The group’s second court action protests the Lincoln Board of Appeals refusal to hear the group’s appeal of a permit the Lincoln Planning Board issued to the proposed $130 million wind farm. As of Thursday, both appeals were pending, Williams said.

The DEP appeal is the first in Maine of a permit granted for an industrial wind-to-energy site. The project lacks only an approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and financial backing that would pay for its construction, First Wind officials have said.

Proponents have praised First Wind as a conscientious creator of wind power, saying the Lincoln Lakes project would create as much as 60 megawatts of pollution-free electricity in peak winds.

The Friends group contends that the turbines will lower land values and threaten human and animal health with light flicker and low-decibel sound and vibrations, disrupt the pastoral nature of Rollins and generate a fraction of their capacity.

In its first hearing since 2005, the planning appeals board ruled 4-2 on Jan. 8 that the friends group had no right to appeal the planning board’s Dec. 1 decision approving First Wind’s project because the group was legally incorporated Dec. 31 but filed its appeal on Dec. 15. Group members called the town’s review process chaotic and deeply flawed.

Under its regulations, the board “decides whether the applicant has a right to appear before the Board,” the regulation states. With the group’s existence in question — and no group members’ names on the group’s incorporation papers — the board felt it had to reject hearing the group’s complaint, the panel’s chairman has said.

Williams argued that group members defined themselves adequately just by being there. Group members also were recognized at Town Council and planning and appeals board meetings, and in minutes and e-mails the appeals board had, Williams said.

Given that the judge reviewing the appeals board case recently issued a ruling on another Williams case that began when the Friends group first filed its appeal, Williams has hopes that the appeals board case ruling would be issued soon, she said. But that would mean only that the planning board permit appeal would go back to the appeals board or Superior Court, she said.

“It could be the middle of next year before everything is resolved,” Williams said. “Things are not moving quickly in any court. There’s a shortage of personnel and shortage of judges, and they can’t replace them because of the [state] hiring freeze.”

UM center awarded $8M grant to develop 3 offshore turbines


By Jessica Bloch
BDN Staff


ORONO, Maine — A University of Maine-led research and development effort to explore deepwater offshore wind power in the Gulf of Maine received an $8 million boost Thursday, with up to $5 million more possibly on the way.

The Department of Energy announced Thursday afternoon it has awarded a 38-member consortium led by UMaine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center an $8 million grant to develop and deploy three small-scale deepwater offshore wind turbines that will float on composite platforms off the coasts of Maine and New Hampshire.

Click here for a list of consortium participants.

Two of the turbine models, which could all be in place in the next two years, will be located in one as-yet undetermined site in the Gulf of Maine. The third model will be located at the Maine-New Hampshire border. Researchers will use the models to develop lightweight composite platforms with the eventual goal of a large-scale floating wind farm in the Gulf of Maine, which would be the first of its kind in the world.

“This puts Maine in the drivers’ seat of deepwater offshore technology in the country,” UMaine professor Habib Dagher, the director of the Advanced Structures and Composites Center, said Thursday. “The fact that the Department of Energy has selected us provides a catalyst for industry in the state to work with us to help achieve this goal. It’s a bright day for Maine [and] a bright day for the future of Maine.”

The $8 million could grow to $13 million for the Advanced Structures and Composites Center if President Barack Obama signs an energy and water budget bill the Senate passed 80-17 Thursday afternoon and the House approved earlier. The bill includes a $5 million appropriation for the UMaine center secured by U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, a member of the Senate Appropriation Committee.

The $5 million would go toward establishing a UMaine-based national center for deepwater offshore wind research and development. Part of the allocation would also go toward the development of the models.

Dagher, a longtime advocate for Maine to be the site of future research and development of deepwater offshore wind facilities, has equated the Gulf of Maine’s wind capacity to that of Saudi Arabia for oil production.

Dagher, who testified last summer about wind energy in front of Congress’ Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, has estimated Maine has the potential to produce about 130 gigawatts of power in deep water — 60 to 900 meters deep — within 50 nautical miles of the coast.

By comparison, the entire U.S. coastline has about 1,500 gigawatts of offshore wind potential in waters deeper than 60 meters within 50 nautical miles of its shores, Dagher has said.The Department of Energy has a stated goal of achieving 20 percent of the nation’s electricity from wind power by the year 2030. Gov. John Baldacci said Thursday Maine’s goal is to generate 5 gigawatts of power by 2030.

Dagher said 1 gigawatt is roughly equivalent to the energy output of one nuclear power plant. Five gigawatts of power, which is 3 percent of the energy potential of the Gulf of Maine within 50 miles of shore, would be enough to attract roughly $20 billion in related investment, according to Dagher.The Department of Energy grant is also expected to lead to job growth in Maine, Dagher said. Initially, UMaine will hire students, scientists and some faculty for research, development, production and deployment of the technology.

However, with an estimated $20 billion in investment, Dagher said estimates are that the project could create up to 15,600 jobs — if the entire project from creation to implementation occurs in Maine. Even if half of the project ends up outside Maine, Dagher added, it would still mean several thousand jobs.

U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu said Thursday during a conference call that the wind power initiatives are part of “a new industrial revolution” that will reduce independence on foreign energy sources and keep America competitive.

“The world is beginning to take hold of this and many countries are moving in this direction,” Chu said. “The country, and Maine in particular, has enormous promise for wind energy.”

The consortium will be called the University of Maine DeepCwind Deepwater Offshore Wind Consortium.

The Department of Energy grant money, along with some of the anticipated $5 million congressional appropriation, will go toward the design and deployment of two 10-kilowatt and one 100-kilowatt floating offshore turbine prototypes.

The 100-kilowatt model will be roughly one-third the size of a standard 300-foot high turbine, while the 10-kilowatt models will be about one-fourth the standard 80- to 100-foot size.One 10-kilowatt turbine will be located at an offshore test site in the Isle of Shoals near the Maine-New Hampshire border.

The other 10-kilowatt turbine and the 100-kilowatt turbine will be located at one of seven Maine areas currently being considered for five offshore wind turbine sites, one of which will be operated by UMaine. The potential sites include areas off Cutler and Jonesport in Washington County, south of Isle au Haut, and near Matini-cus, Monhegan, Damariscove and Boon islands. Damariscove is off Boothbay Harbor and Boon Island is off Cape Neddick in York County.

The projects will not go forward without local approval.

Dagher has said the turbines would be far enough offshore so they could not be seen from land.

With the grant money, the Advanced Structures and Composites Center and other consortium members intend to experiment with designs for floating platforms by evaluating options for durable, light hybrid composite materials, the manufacturability of the platforms, and deployment logistics.

The grant also will fund educational initiatives such as a model Master of Science Degree in Renewable Energy and the Environment, with a focus on deepwater wind energy, and a new undergraduate minor in deepwater wind energy.

The DOE announcement came about 4½ months after a June meeting among Dagher, Chu and the Maine congressional delegation. The Maine group requested $20 million in federal economic stimulus funds for a wind research center.

Collins said Thursday she wasn’t disappointed in receiving less than half of the requested funding from the Department of Energy.

“There’s no disappointment at all, because the $8 million will be supplemented by the $5 million that I secured through the appropriations process, and the state has also pledged funding,” she said. “So the combination should be very close, or even exceed the $20 million.”

Dagher said the state will vote next June on a $6 million bond to develop offshore wind test sites.

Late last month, Baldacci traveled to Europe with a group of business leaders to meet with wind power industry representatives there in an effort to attract more interest in the state. The group came back with an agreement with StatoilHydro, a Norwegian firm, to explore the possibility of using the firm’s offshore turbines in the Gulf of Maine.The UMaine grant, which was awarded as part of a competition among other university consortia, was announced along with $8 million DOE grants for on-shore wind-power projects at the University of Minnesota and the Illinois Institute of Technology.

Bangor Daily News reporters Kevin Miller and Bill Trotter contributed to this report


Tours of wind power project offered

By Donna M. Perry, Staff Writer
Published: Oct 15, 2009 5:21 am

KIBBY TOWNSHIP — TransCanada Corp. will hold a grand opening celebration of its Kibby Wind Power Project for invited guests only on Friday.

However, there will be a chance for members of the public to get a tour as well at another time, project spokesman Tobey Williamson said Wednesday.

To set up a tour of the site, people may call 1-877-943-3367.

Nearly half of the project's 44 wind turbines are now operational, providing clean energy to the New England power grid, according to a news release.

The $320 million, 132 megawatt Kibby Wind Power Project is the largest wind power development in New England, according to the company.

It is providing renewable electricity for the equivalent of 50,000 average-sized Maine homes, a release stated.

TransCanada plans to have half of the 44 turbines in service this year, with the remaining turbines going on line in 2010.

TransCanada has spent more than $75 million in U.S. dollars on materials, labor and services in Maine, with nearly $6 million spent in Franklin County, the release states. The project has also supported approximately 300 construction jobs, 90 percent of which have gone to Maine residents. Eight people, mostly from Franklin County, now have full-time jobs maintaining the turbines and overseeing local operations, the release stated.

First half of Kibby wind project powers up today

State officials will mark completion of 22 of 44 windmills, the largest project in New England.

By GLENN ADAMS The Associated Press
October 16, 2009

AUGUSTA — Power generation from winds blowing across Maine will increase today when Gov. John Baldacci helps to start up the first half of the Kibby Mountain wind-power project in the state's western mountains.

Baldacci will join other state and local government officials and builders of TransCanada's project at the remote site in Franklin County. The ceremony will mark completion of the first 22 windmills and the start of their production of power, which will flow to Central Maine Power Co. and through its interconnections to the New England grid.

The second 22 windmills in the project on nearby Kibby Ridge are scheduled to be done by next August or September, said Corey Goulet, vice president of energy projects for the Calgary, Alberta-based TransCanada. The portion of the project to be dedicated today will provide the equivalent average energy needs for 25,000 homes.

When all 44 windmills are complete, the Kibby wind farm will provide twice that power and be New England's largest wind power project. It has an overall cost of $320 million, said Goulet.

In addition to developing wind, hydro, gas-fired and nuclear power facilities, TransCanada has gas transmission pipelines all over the North America and is building an oil pipeline from Canada to the Gulf Coast.

"I have never seen so much interest as I have in the state of Maine in wind projects and renewable energy in general," Goulet said Thursday.

Maine already has major operating wind farms, in Mars Hill and Stetson Mountain, both owned by FirstWind of Newton, Mass. Expansion of the Stetson project in eastern Maine is under way, and construction of a project near Rumford in western Maine, whose principals include former Gov. Angus King, is in progress.

State regulators have approved plans for FirstWind's Rollins wind-power project in northern Maine, and several other projects are in earlier stages of planning.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Angus King to speak at chamber workshop

Published: Oct 09, 2009 9:31 am

LEWISTON — Former Gov. Angus King will be the featured speaker at a workshop titled Surviving the Energy Crisis: How to Save Money, sponsored by the Androscoggin Valley Chamber of Commerce. It will be held Oct. 22 from 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Bates College Dining Commons, Central Avenue.

The workshop is listed as a practical, energy efficiency workshop for businesses and other organizations. Registration is $25 for members, $45 for nonmembers, and includes a continental breakfast, lunch and conference materials. All participants will also receive a free copy of the Natural Resources Council of Maine's 54-page manual, "A Guide to Energy Efficiency for Maine Businesses."

The workshop begins at 7:30 a.m. with check-in and continental breakfast. The keynote address by King follows at 8 a.m. The agenda continues at 8:45 a.m. with the panel, Businesses Share Energy Saving Ideas; 10 a.m. panel, Financing Energy Improvements, and 11 a.m. panel, Alternative Energy Sources.

Lunch will be at noon with discussion topics: How to involve employees, ventilation considerations, how to get started/prioritizing, free/low-cost things, energy use at home, alternative energy sources and financing improvements.

At 1:30 p.m. there will be a panel titled Saving Energy/$$$ at Home.

For more information or to register, call the Chamber at 783-2249 or online at:

Open house shines light on Rockland solar power company

By Stephen Betts
The Herald Gazette Associate Editor

ROCKLAND (Oct 9): An idea that started a few years ago in a garage in Rockport has gained the attention of the state.

GSInc. received an $11,400 grant last week from the Maine Technology Institute, a private, nonprofit agency paid for by the state. The grant will assist the company in its plans to manufacture solar manifolds at its plant at 12 Moran Drive in the Industrial Park.

GSInc., which produces EOS solar collectors, employs seven people. The goal is for the company to hire six to eight more people, said Steve Stinson, the company's sales and marketing director.

The company manufactures solar collectors that use insulated glass vacuum tubes to heat water.

The company plans to add the manufacture of its solar manifolds.

The company is the product of Stinson and Nate Greenleaf, the director of research and development. The two came up with the proposal for the company in their garage in Rockport about two-and-a-half years ago.

Stinson was the owner of a convenience store in Rockport. Greenleaf had 15 years of experience in the heating, ventilation and air conditioning industry. With a background in alternative energy, Greenleaf approached Stinson with a concept.

Greenleaf said full scale production should start in three weeks.

The company's Web site notes that the traditional solar industry has failed to go mainstream over the course of the last 30 years.

"We believe that this is due in part to their inability to deliver traditional designs and products that can easily be implemented by plumbing and heating tradesmen," according to the Web site. "GS Inc. has employed these tradesmen to design products and systems that will easily integrate with existing practices. These products are then sold through traditional supply chains and are installed by their peers. The result is a mainstream product that is installed by trained professionals, that virtually anybody can afford."

The system consists of an 80-gallon solar preheat tank that feeds an instant-on tankless hot water heater. This design provides all the domestic hot water needs for the convenience store in Rockport, including the full service kitchen and deli.

The Herald Gazette Associate Editor Stephen Betts can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by e-mail at

Highland Plantation residents learn more about $250 million wind farm project

By Terry Karkos, Staff Writer
Published: Oct 10, 2009 2:21 am

HIGHLAND PLANTATION — A $250 million project to erect 48 wind turbines on four peaks in Somerset County was outlined at a meeting of about 30 people Thursday night.

Because Highland Plantation is considered an unorganized territory, Independence Wind principals Angus King and Robert Gardiner are expected to file an application for permits for their plan with Maine's Land Use Regulation Commission by early November.

The 120- to 130-megawatt turbines are proposed for Stewart and Witham mountains and Briggs and Burnt peaks. They would be lined up single-file and southeasterly along the high land. The area is east of the Bigelow Range and Carrabassett Valley in Franklin County.

In Roxbury, Independence Wind and business partner Wagner Forest Management Ltd. of Lyme, N.H., formed Record Hill Wind LLC to build 22 2.5-megawatt turbines atop Partridge Peak, Flathead Mountain and part of Record Hill. Construction on that $120 million project is under way.

"So, we've bitten off a lot and we're chewing right now," Gardiner said.

In Highland Plantation, King and Gardiner's company partnered with Wagner to form Highland Plantation LLC.

Gardiner said he and King have been talking with Highland Plantation residents and officials about the project for 18 months.

The turbines would be installed during the summer of 2011 on Wagner land, Gardiner said Friday afternoon at his Cumberland Foreside home. Roadwork and foundation work for the turbines would be started next summer.

Due to the project's proximity to the National Park Service's Appalachian Trail, which crosses Roundtop Mountain (elevation 2,240 feet) to the north of Stewart Mountain (elevation 2,673 feet), Gardiner said they've also been talking with officials from the Maine Appalachian Trail Club.

The club maintains the national trail from the east side of Route 26 in Newry to the northern terminus atop Mount Katahdin in Baxter State Park.

He said that only a few turbines will be visible from Bigelow's Avery Peak, elevation 4,088 feet.

"You've really got to get up high to see this project," Gardiner said, due to wooded terrain. "Most of the turbines are beyond the (NPS) eight-mile limit for visual impact."

Appalachian Trail hikers heading west from Long Falls Dam Road and topping the first open ledges of Little Bigelow Mountain, which is 4½ miles from the nearest turbine planned for Stewart Mountain, will see a few turbines.

"But they will not have that big of a scenic distraction," Gardiner said.

The closest camps located within a mile of the Highland project are owned by Greg Perkins and Dan Bell.

On Thursday, Gardiner said there was no opposition to the project, but Perkins, who attended Thursday night's meeting, said by e-mail on Friday morning that he and two others are against it.

"Maybe two or three more on the fence, and the rest can't wait for the development to take place in order to lower their taxes," Perkins said.

He criticized Gardiner for not advising him or Bell about the meeting, but Gardiner said it wasn't his place to do that.

Gardiner said Highland officials notified every voting resident by letter, but it isn't clear if camp owners are considered voting residents, because Highland officials were not available Friday.

Issues discussed Thursday night included wind subsidies; jobs; threatened and endangered species such as the northern bog lemming, a salamander, Bicknell's Thrush and the Roaring Brook mayfly; bald eagles; project financing; and tangible benefits like free electricity.

As with the Roxbury project, Gardiner said a possibility exists for jobs for area workers, but only for small chunks of money.

He said that of the four threatened or endangered species, the project won't affect lemmings or salamanders because they live only in ridge bogs and those areas are being purposely avoided.

Gardiner said their survey found no Bicknell's Thrushes atop the ridges, the mayfly is only in one stream that the access road crosses, and the closest eagles are about eight miles away.

Gardiner also said they can't yet discuss financing until they get permits, but they are open to discussing possible tangible benefits.

PUC OKs First Wind contract to supply CMP, Bangor Hydro

By Nick Sambides Jr.
BDN Staff

A subsidiary of the state’s largest wind power manufacturer will get Maine’s first long-term electricity supply contract for its proposed 60-megawatt Rollins Mountain project in Penobscot County, officials said this week.

The Maine Public Utilities Commission unanimously approved awarding the 20-year contract to First Wind Holding LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Evergreen Wind Power III LLC, on Wednesday, state officials said.

While a state permit allowing construction of the project, which has yet to attract investors, has been appealed by a group opposing the wind farm, proponents are optimistic that the contract will help secure investors in the project.

“This is good news for ratepayers and renewable energy development in Maine,” commission Chairwoman Sharon Reishus said in a statement.

“The First Wind contract makes it possible for Maine ratepayers to gain energy supply cost benefits from a renewable energy resource, and the company gets the financial assurance the contract provides to become fully operational,” Reishus added.

The contract is the first long-term deal approved since the state restructured its electric utilities in 2000. The state Legislature gave the commission authority in 2006 to create long-term electric generation contracts in order to bring cost benefits to Maine ratepayers, officials said.

Those contracts were supposed to lower electricity supply costs for Maine consumers, increase renewable capacity, hedge against market prices of electricity, offset costs resulting from new transmission and provide a lower cost alternative to new transmission investment.

The commission directed Central Maine Power Co. and Bangor Hydro-Electric Co. to share the contract in an 80-20 split with CMP securing the larger portion, officials said. The decision will be final with completion of the written order.

While First Wind has been awarded the contract, a state permit allowing the Rollins Wind project — a proposed 40-turbine, $130 million industrial wind site for the Rollins Mountain ridgelines in Burlington, Lee, Lincoln and Winn — is being appealed in Superior Court by the Friends of Lincoln Lakes, a residents’ group.

Moreover, the project lacks an investor to pay for its construction. The project has no set construction or start-up date and might not occur at all if the Friends group wins its appeal, said John Lamontagne, First Wind’s spokesman.

“The contract is triggered by the commissioning of the project,” Lamontagne said Wednesday.

However, the securing of the contract will help First Wind draw investors to the project, he said.

“It allows us to secure project financing because of the certainty of the sale of the power once the project is built,” Lamontagne said.

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection issued First Wind of Massachusetts a permit for the Rollins Mountain project in April. Individual towns and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have also issued permits.

Proponents have praised First Wind as a conscientious creator of wind power, saying the Lincoln Lakes project would create as much as 60 megawatts of pollution-free electricity in peak winds.

The Friends group contends that the turbines would lower land values and threaten human and animal health with light flicker and low-decibel sound, disrupt the pastoral nature of Rollins and typically generate a fraction of their capacity.

The group argued its case to the DEP, but the agency largely dismissed the complaints for lack of evidence.

It would typically take nine months to a year to build a project like the one proposed for Rollins Mountain, Lamontagne said.