Sunday, April 26, 2009

Moore’s Law and the Law of More

NY Times

April 26, 2009


It is not an exaggeration to say that the team that President Obama appointed to promote his green agenda is nothing short of outstanding — a great combination of scientists and policy makers committed to building an energy economy that is efficient, clean and secure. Now there is only one vacancy left for him to fill. And it’s one that only he can fill: Green President. Is he ready to do that job with the passion and fight that will be required to transform America’s energy future? Hope so. Not sure yet.

Have no doubt, the president is off to a terrific start: His stimulus package will provide an incredible boost for all forms of renewable energy. The energy bill being drafted by House Democrats Henry Waxman and Ed Markey contains unprecedented incentives for energy efficiency and clean-tech innovation. And the ruling from Mr. Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency saying that carbon dioxide is a pollutant that threatens public health was courageous and historic.

But while all of that is hugely important, we must not fool ourselves, as we have done for so many years: Price matters. Without a fixed, long-term, durable price on carbon, none of the Obama clean-tech initiatives will achieve the scale needed to have an impact on climate change or make America the leader it must be in the next great industrial revolution: E.T., or energy technology. At this stage, I’d settle for any carbon price mechanism — cap and trade, fee-bates, carbon tax and/or gasoline tax — as long as it real and provides consumers and investors a long-term incentive to shift to clean cars, appliances and buildings.

Bob Lutz, a vice chairman at General Motors, offers a useful example of why price matters. When Congress demands that Detroit make smaller, lighter, better mileage vehicles, but then refuses to put a higher price on carbon — like with a gasoline tax — so more consumers will want to buy these smaller cars, said Lutz, it is the equivalent of ordering all American shirtmakers to make only size smalls while never asking the American people to go on a diet. You’re not going to sell a lot of size smalls.

Have no doubt: From right-wing tea parties to coal states to manufacturers, there is going to be a no-holds-barred campaign to kill any carbon price signal, including cap and trade. A vast army of lobbyists is already working against it. Only President Obama can blunt this. Only he has the platform for framing and elevating the issue properly and taking it to the American people with the passion and clarity needed to move the country. It will take more than one speech.

Here’s one way to start: “My fellow Americans, I want to speak to you about a new economic law. You’ve heard of Moore’s Law in information technology. I’d like to speak to you about the ‘Law of More’ in energy technology. Americans, Indians, Chinese, Africans, we all want more — more comfort in our homes, more mobility in our lives, more technologies with which to innovate. But there is only one way all 6.3 billion of us can have more and not make this an unlivable planet, and that is by living our lives and running our businesses in more sustainable ways and properly accounting for it.

“Right now we’re paying a huge price — a tax — for everyone trying to achieve more in an unsustainable way. But the ‘More Tax’ is not imposed by the U.S. government. It is a tax imposed by the market and will continue rising indefinitely as more and more people want more and more stuff. It will steadily drive up gasoline prices, home heating prices and factory electricity prices. But because this ‘More Tax’ is set by the market and not the government, many opponents contend that there’s nothing to be done: ‘Oh, $4.50 a gallon gasoline — that’s just the market at work. We can’t do anything about that.’ And then all that tax money out of your pocket goes to enrich oil companies and petro-dictators.

“My proposal is that today we fix a durable price on carbon-based fossil fuels, but set it to begin only in 2011, after we’re out of this recession. Every home builder, air-conditioning manufacturer, gasoline refiner, carmaker will know that it’s coming and will, I believe, immediately look for ways to profit from and invest in more energy efficient systems. Yes, the cost of gasoline or kilowatt hours will rise in the short term. But in the long term, your actual bills and expenses will go down because your car, appliances and factory will become steadily more productive and give you more power for less energy.

“I call it the ‘Carbon Tax Cut.’ You won’t receive the dividend in the first week or month, but you will get it soon, and it will be a permanent tax cut, a gift that will keep on giving.

“So those are our choices, folks — an escalating ‘More Tax’ forever, premised on immediate gratification and short-term thinking, or a ‘Carbon Tax Cut’ forever, which is exactly what you’ll get from establishing a carbon price signal that shapes the market in favor of American interests and not those of our adversaries and competitors. If you’re with me, write your member of Congress and senator today.”

Sunday, April 12, 2009

(No) Drill, Baby, Drill

NY Times

Published: April 11, 2009

Sailing down Costa Rica’s Tempisque River on an eco-tour, I watched a crocodile devour a brown bass with one gulp. It took only a few seconds. The croc’s head emerged from the muddy waters near the bank with the footlong fish writhing in its jaws. He crunched it a couple of times with razor-sharp teeth and then, with just the slightest flip of his snout, swallowed the fish whole. Never saw that before.

These days, visitors can still see amazing biodiversity all over Costa Rica — more than 25 percent of the country is protected area — thanks to a unique system it set up to preserve its cornucopia of plants and animals. Many countries could learn a lot from this system.

More than any nation I’ve ever visited, Costa Rica is insisting that economic growth and environmentalism work together. It has created a holistic strategy to think about growth, one that demands that everything gets counted. So if a chemical factory sells tons of fertilizer but pollutes a river — or a farm sells bananas but destroys a carbon-absorbing and species-preserving forest — this is not honest growth. You have to pay for using nature. It is called “payment for environmental services” — nobody gets to treat climate, water, coral, fish and forests as free anymore.

The process began in the 1990s when Costa Rica, which sits at the intersection of two continents and two oceans, came to fully appreciate its incredible bounty of biodiversity — and that its economic future lay in protecting it. So it did something no country has ever done: It put energy, environment, mines and water all under one minister.

“In Costa Rica, the minister of environment sets the policy for energy, mines, water and natural resources,” explained Carlos M. Rodríguez, who served in that post from 2002 to 2006. In most countries, he noted, “ministers of environment are marginalized.” They are viewed as people who try to lock things away, not as people who create value. Their job is to fight energy ministers who just want to drill for cheap oil.

But when Costa Rica put one minister in charge of energy and environment, “it created a very different way of thinking about how to solve problems,” said Rodríguez, now a regional vice president for Conservation International. “The environment sector was able to influence the energy choices by saying: ‘Look, if you want cheap energy, the cheapest energy in the long-run is renewable energy. So let’s not think just about the next six months; let’s think out 25 years.’ ”

As a result, Costa Rica hugely invested in hydro-electric power, wind and geo-thermal, and today it gets more than 95 percent of its energy from these renewables. In 1985, it was 50 percent hydro, 50 percent oil. More interesting, Costa Rica discovered its own oil five years ago but decided to ban drilling — so as not to pollute its politics or environment! What country bans oil drilling?

Rodríguez also helped to pioneer the idea that in a country like Costa Rica, dependent on tourism and agriculture, the services provided by ecosystems were important drivers of growth and had to be paid for. Right now, most countries fail to account for the “externalities” of various economic activities. So when a factory, farmer or power plant pollutes the air or the river, destroys a wetland, depletes a fish stock or silts a river — making the water no longer usable — that cost is never added to your electric bill or to the price of your shoes.

Costa Rica took the view that landowners who keep their forests intact and their rivers clean should be paid, because the forests maintained the watersheds and kept the rivers free of silt — and that benefited dam owners, fishermen, farmers and eco-tour companies downstream. The forests also absorbed carbon.

To pay for these environmental services, in 1997 Costa Rica imposed a tax on carbon emissions — 3.5 percent of the market value of fossil fuels — which goes into a national forest fund to pay indigenous communities for protecting the forests around them. And the country imposed a water tax whereby major water users — hydro-electric dams, farmers and drinking water providers — had to pay villagers upstream to keep their rivers pristine. “We now have 7,000 beneficiaries of water and carbon taxes,” said Rodríguez. “It has become a major source of income for poor people. It has also enabled Costa Rica to actually reverse deforestation. We now have twice the amount of forest as 20 years ago.”

As we debate a new energy future, we need to remember that nature provides this incredible range of economic services — from carbon-fixation to water filtration to natural beauty for tourism. If government policies don’t recognize those services and pay the people who sustain nature’s ability to provide them, things go haywire. We end up impoverishing both nature and people. Worse, we start racking up a bill in the form of climate-changing greenhouse gases, petro-dictatorships and bio-diversity loss that gets charged on our kids’ Visa cards to be paid by them later. Well, later is over. Later is when it will be too late.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Oil Giants Loath to Follow Obama’s Green Lead

NY Times

April 8, 2009


The Obama administration wants to reduce oil consumption, increase renewable energy supplies and cut carbon dioxide emissions in the most ambitious transformation of energy policy in a generation.

But the world’s oil giants are not convinced that it will work. Even as Washington goes into a frenzy over energy, many of the oil companies are staying on the sidelines, balking at investing in new technologies favored by the president, or even straying from commitments they had already made.

Royal Dutch Shell said last month that it would freeze its research and investments in wind, solar and hydrogen power, and focus its alternative energy efforts on biofuels. The company had already sold much of its solar business and pulled out of a project last year to build the largest offshore wind farm, near London.

BP, a company that has spent nine years saying it was moving “beyond petroleum,” has been getting back to petroleum since 2007, paring back its renewable program. And American oil companies, which all along have been more skeptical of alternative energy than their European counterparts, are studiously ignoring the new messages coming from Washington.

“In my view, nothing has really changed,” Rex W. Tillerson, the chief executive of Exxon Mobil, said after the election of President Obama.

“We don’t oppose alternative energy sources and the development of those. But to hang the future of the country’s energy on those alternatives alone belies reality of their size and scale.”

The administration wants to spend $150 billion over the next decade to create what it calls “a clean energy future.” Its plan would aim to diversify the nation’s energy sources by encouraging more renewables, and it would reduce oil consumption and cut carbon emissions from fossil fuels.

The oil companies have frequently run advertisements expressing their interest in new forms of energy, but their actual investments have belied the marketing claims. The great bulk of their investments goes to traditional petroleum resources, including carbon-intensive energy sources like tar sands and natural gas from shale, while alternative investments account for a tiny fraction of their spending. So far, that has changed little under the Obama administration.

“The scale of their alternative investments is so mind-numbingly small that it’s hard to find them,” said Nathanael Greene, a senior policy analyst at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “These companies don’t feel they have to be on the leading edge of this stuff.”

Perhaps not surprisingly, most investments in alternative sources of energy are coming from pockets other than those of the oil companies.

In the last 15 years, the top five oil companies have spent around $5 billion to develop sources of renewable energy, according to Michael Eckhart, president of the American Council on Renewable Energy, an industry trade group. This represents only 10 percent of the roughly $50 billion funneled into the clean-energy sector by venture capital funds and corporate investors during that period, he said.

“Big Oil does not consider renewable energy to be a mainstream business,” Mr. Eckhart said. “It’s a side business for them.”

Shell, for example, said it spent $1.7 billion since 2004 on alternative projects. That amount is dwarfed by the $87 billion it spent over the same period on its oil and gas projects around the world. This year, the company’s overall capital spending is set at $31 billion, most of it for the development of fossil fuels.

Industry executives contend that comparing investments in oil and gas projects with their research efforts in the renewable field is misleading. They say that while renewable fuels are needed, they are still at an early stage of development, and petroleum will remain the dominant source of energy for decades.

In its long-term forecast, Exxon says that by 2050, hydrocarbons — including oil, gas, and coal — will account for 80 percent of the world’s energy supplies, about the same as today.

“Renewable energy is very real,” David J. O’Reilly, the chief executive of Chevron, said in a speech in New York last November. “We need it. It will be an essential part of the future I envision. But it’s not realistic to suppose we can replace conventional energy in a timeframe that some suggest.”

Chevron has spent about $3.2 billion since 2002 on “renewable and alternative energy and energy efficiency services,” according to Alexander Yelland, a spokesman. It plans to spend $2.7 billion in the three years through 2011 on a variety of projects, including a business that helps improve energy efficiency for companies and government agencies, he said.

Despite Washington’s newfound green enthusiasm, industry executives argue that replacing any significant part of the fossil fuel business will take decades, at best. Just to keep up with growth in demand for conventional sources of energy, producers will need to invest more than $1 trillion each year from now to 2030, according to the International Energy Agency.

“Many of these companies see the world is changing,” said Daniel Yergin, the chairman of Cambridge Energy Research Associates and a historian of the industry. “But the challenge for a very large company is to get critical scale. People tend to forget the scale of the energy business.”

The world consumes about 85 million barrels of oil a day. The United States alone would require six times its arable land — and 75 percent of the world’s cultivated land — to supply its needs with ethanol made from corn, according to calculations by Vaclav Smil, an energy expert at the University of Manitoba.

More realistic, and modest, targets are proving tough to reach. Congress’s ethanol mandate, which requires oil companies to use 36 billion gallons of ethanol by 2020, cannot be achieved, experts say, without major technological advances that are still years away.

To increase supplies, most companies are looking to tar sands in Canada or converting coal or natural gas into liquid fuels, technologies that emit far more carbon dioxide than conventional oil does.

Shell, a major investor in Alberta in Canada, says that traditional oil supplies will not be enough to meet the growth in the world’s energy needs over the next half-century. In 2007, BP invested in Canadian tar sands, prompting criticism that it was “recarbonizing” itself.

John M. Deutch, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a former director of central intelligence, said there was little point in criticizing oil companies without first establishing federal rules that set a price on carbon dioxide emissions. Once that happens, he said, companies will adapt their strategies.

“What role will oil companies play in the future in alternatives to conventional hydrocarbon? The correct answer is nobody knows,” Mr. Deutch said. “The important thing is for the government to establish a carbon policy. You can be absolutely confident that oil companies will pursue that, as will any other companies.”

One area where companies are increasingly focused is the development of liquid fuels from plants. BP said it would soon build a demonstration plant in Florida for a type of ethanol made from plant material; Shell has worked with several firms since 2002 to develop ethanol from nonfood crops. Last year, it signed agreements with six companies, including one in Brazil, and decided to drop its other renewable efforts to focus solely on biofuels.

“Biofuels feels closest to our core business,” said Darci Sinclair, a company spokeswoman.

Other areas also hold significant promise for the industry, like technologies to capture carbon dioxide emissions and store them underground, and energy-efficiency programs, especially in the transportation sector. Exxon, long the most skeptical of the oil companies toward alternative energy investments, is working on long-term programs to improve fuel economy and reduce emissions.

In the end, many analysts say they believe that oil companies are waiting for a winning technology to emerge. Alan Shaw, the chief executive of Codexis, a biotechnology company in Silicon Valley that works with Shell, said oil companies were not blind to the new political reality but they were also in the business of making a profit.

“Don’t lose heart with Big Oil,” Mr. Shaw said. “They aren’t at a point where they are ready to invest yet, but they are getting there. I think in the next 10 years, they will invest hundreds of times more than they have in the past 10 years.”

Experts discuss solar energy in Unity

Bangor Daily News

By George Chappell
BDN Staff

UNITY, Maine — Eighty-six percent of houses in Maine do not meet minimum housing efficiency standards, a state energy official told about 50 people gathered for a discussion of solar thermal energy at the Unity Community Center on Monday evening.

“Maine has the oldest housing stock in the nation, and the highest dependency on foreign oil. A lot of the houses are not insulated, and most are underinsulated,” Richard Fortier, commercial energy auditor and program manager for Efficiency Maine’s solar rebate program, told the group. He was citing a recent energy efficiency survey of homes in Maine.

“This state is in a lot of trouble, energywise,” Fortier said.

Efficiency Maine is a program intended to address the issue of energy efficiency in Maine homes by promoting the more efficient use of electricity, helping Maine residents and businesses reduce energy costs and improving Maine's environment, according to the program’s Web site. It is funded by electricity consumers and ad-ministered by the Maine Public Utilities Commission.

For more than two hours Monday night Fortier and Bob Hussey, president of Solar Tech Inc. in Waterville, gave details and answered questions on the use of solar thermal energy for hot water, solar air for heating and solar photovoltaic as a power source.

A few in the audience already had installed their systems and had come looking for refinements.

“This was a savvy audience,” Hussey said after the meeting, “more savvy than most.”

Fortier said Efficiency Maine is going to look at energy efficiency for fossil fuels — gas, propane and oil — and electricity and develop programs to help commercial and industrial users to help them reduce costs.

The Maine State Housing Authority takes care of low-cost housing energy needs to make homes more efficient, he said.

“Maine State Housing has dealt with everybody of low income, and left everyone else to their own devices,” Fortier said. “We’ll be working on programs that will help weatherize homes for people in the middle and upper income stratas.”

Efficiency Maine also plans to train business leaders how to operate efficiently, he said of the proposed two-pronged attempt to reduce energy costs in a community.

“Everybody wants wind [power] or geothermal,” Fortier said. “Geothermal, solar and wind power solutions have been around for many years, but they present many snags unless someone really understands the industry.”

He said solar energy is the most cost-effective energy for the investment.

Hussey talked about the ratings and sizes of solar panels and urged people to have an energy audit to understand the payback period of an investment.

“The larger the panel you have, the less cost per panel for energy,” he said.

Hussey explained that there are two kinds of panels: the evacuated tube panel, which is more effective but twice as expensive as the other kind, the more common flat-plate panel that usually rests on a roof.

Urging people to shop around for the best and most effective panels and contractors, he referred the audience to a solar rating and certification organization at

Hussey recommended looking at two other Web sites for information and ideas:, Home Power Magazine, and, Mother Jones Magazine, for tips on solar energy construction.

Tess Woods, executive director of Unity Barnraisers, also provided background information on the community’s concerns for efficient fuel use. The group began “Neighbor Warming Neighbor” last fall, in which more than 60 volunteers weatherized 34 homes and provided weatherization materials for another 32 homes, Woods said.

George Chappell may be reached at 236-4598 or at

Entrepreneur: Solar better than plan for power lines

Sun Journal

By Scott Taylor , Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 8, 2009

LEWISTON - Solar power could be an alternative to Central Maine Power Co.'s proposed $1.5 billion expansion program, councilors were told Tuesday

Energy consultant Mark Isaacson of Competitive Energy Solutions in Portland outlined his plan for a distributed solar grid that could supply electrical power to Lewiston during peak times - just like CMP's expansion program.

The difference, Isaacson said, is that solar energy makes sense for the future.

"The (CMP) power reliability program is based on 1960s assumptions and technology," Isaacson said. "But a lot has changed and those assumptions are outdated."

According to Isaacson, communities in Central Maine would get electrical solar panels at sites around their communities. Each farm site would be able to generate up to two megawatts of electrical power, and up to 500 megawatts for the entire community.

That electrical power would be used to bolster the existing electrical grid during high demand periods, especially during hot summer days when people are using air conditioners.

"What we find is that the high electrical demand periods and the high solar electrical generation periods are about the same time - when the sun is hottest," Isaacson said.

Each community solar grid would have smaller natural gas or propane powered generators as a backup. Together, it would make CMP's Maine Power Reliability Program unnecessary, he said.

CMP's proposal calls for upgrading a nearly 40-year-old swath of power lines. The lines start south in Eliot and pass through central Maine in Litchfield, Monmouth, Leeds, Greene, Lewiston and a corner of Auburn at the Durham line. They stop in Orrington, where they connect to lines from Canada.

It's designed to make sure there is enough electricity for Central Maine's growing communities, Isaacson said.

He vowed to beat CMP's price, saying the solar grid utility would agree to sell electricity for three cents per kilowatt-hour. The market rate is currently between eight and 12 cents per kilowatt-hour.

Tuesday's presentation was one of several Isaacson is making to cities, towns and businesses in the area. He hopes to take the proposal to the Maine Public Utilities Commission later this year.

Councilors were skeptical, especially of the price.

"I just find it hard to believe that you would be able to sell us electricity below the market rate," Councilor Bob Reed said. "I'm an accountant, and something about this just doesn't make sense."

Show Us The Ball

NY Times



Published: April 7, 2009

I am really encouraged by President Obama’s commitment to clean energy and combating climate change. I just have three worries: whether he has the right policies, the right politics and the right official to sell his program to the country. Other than that, things look great!

Last week, House Democrats, with administration support, introduced a 600-page draft bill on energy and climate. At the center of it is a plan to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions through a complicated cap-and-trade system. These people have the very best of intentions, but I wish they would step back and ask again: Can cap-and-trade pass? Will it really work? And is it the best strategy, with all the bureaucracy it will require to monitor, auction emissions permits and manage the trading?

Advocates of cap-and-trade argue that it is preferable to a simple carbon tax because it fixes a national cap on carbon emissions and it “hides the ball” — it doesn’t use the word “tax” — even though it amounts to one. So it can get through Congress. That was true as long as no one thought cap-and-trade could ever pass, but now that it might under Mr. Obama, opponents are not playing hide the ball anymore.

In the past two weeks, you could hear a chorus of Republicans, coal-state Democrats, right-wing think tanks and enviro-skeptics all singing the same tune: “Cap-and-trade is a tax. Obama is going to raise your taxes and sacrifice U.S. jobs to combat this global-warming charade, which many scientists think is nonsense. Worse, cap-and-trade will be managed by Wall Street. If you liked credit-default swaps, you’re going to love carbon-offset swaps.”

Some of the refrains from this song have a very catchy appeal. They could easily kill this effort. So, if the Obama team cares about the “ends” of a stronger America and a more livable planet, as much as the “means,” I hope it will consider an alternative strategy, message and messenger.

STRATEGY Since the opponents of cap-and-trade are going to pillory it as a tax anyway, why not go for the real thing — a simple, transparent, economy-wide carbon tax?

Representative John B. Larson, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, has circulated a draft bill that would impose “a per-unit tax on the carbon-dioxide content of fossil fuels, beginning at a rate of $15 per metric ton of CO2 and increasing by $10 each year.” The bill sets a goal, rather than a cap, on emissions at 80 percent below 2005 levels by 2050, and if the goal for the first five years is not met, the tax automatically increases by an additional $5 per metric ton. The bill implements a fee on carbon-intensive imports, as well, to press China to follow suit. Larson would use most of the income to reduce people’s payroll taxes: We tax your carbon sins and un-tax your payroll wins.

People get that — and simplicity matters. Americans will be willing to pay a tax for their children to be less threatened, breathe cleaner air and live in a more sustainable world with a stronger America. They are much less likely to support a firm in London trading offsets from an electric bill in Boston with a derivatives firm in New York in order to help fund an aluminum smelter in Beijing, which is what cap-and-trade is all about. People won’t support what they can’t explain.

MESSAGE Climate change is a real threat to a healthy planet Earth — the only home we have. But because the worst effects are in the future, many Americans have more immediate concerns. That is why our energy policy should be focused around “American renewal,” not mitigating climate change.

We need a price on carbon because it will stimulate massive innovation in the next great global industry — E.T. — energy technology. In a warming world with huge population growth, clean power systems are going to be in huge demand. The scientific research and innovation needed for America to dominate E.T. the way it did I.T. could be the foundation for a second American industrial revolution, plus it would tip the whole planet onto a greener path. So American economic renewal is the goal, but mitigating climate change would be the great byproduct.

MESSENGER The Obama administration’s carbon tax spokesman — the one who should sell this to the country — should be the president’s national security adviser, Gen. James Jones, not the environmentalists. The imposing former head of the Marine Corps could make a powerful case that a carbon tax is vitally necessary to stimulate investments in the clean technologies that would enable the U.S. to dominate E.T., while also shifting consumers to buy these new, more efficient and cleaner power systems, homes and cars.

He could make the case that the country with the most powerful clean-technology industry in the 21st century will have the most energy security, national security, economic security, healthy environment, innovative companies and global respect. That country must be America. So let’s stop hiding the ball and have a strategy, message and messenger that tell it like it is — and make it so.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Wind power generates interest in Sumner

By Tom Standard , Special to the Sun Journal
Friday, April 3, 2009

SUMNER - A standing-room-only crowd voted Tuesday night to support studying possible development of a wind farm on Mollyockett Mountain.

The Wind Power Committee, chaired by Selectman Mark Silber, and representatives from Kean Project Engineering Inc. of Turner answered questions from about 40 residents.

The meeting was called to gauge the community's attitude toward a possible wind power installation. Silber pointed out that if there is significant opposition to the project, there is no point in the committee and Kean investing more effort and money into the study.

After the discussion, all but one attendee voted in favor of the committee continuing its study of the project. Since the site under study is on town-owned, tax-acquired property, no action can be taken without a formal town meeting, Silber said.

Kean President Kirk Nadeau stressed that his company was interested in a project that has wide community support and would not proceed if there were opposition from residents close enough to see and hear the turbines. He said he is hoping that at least 50 percent and possibly 100 percent of the funds would come from Maine investors.

Questions centered on financing, expected revenue, noise and visual impact.

The project, consisting of three wind turbines with a maximum combined output of 4.9 megawatts, is expected to cost about $8 million and require $1.6 million in cash with the remainder financed.

The base plan is for Kean to do the feasibility study, design, build, operate and maintain the wind farm. Financing and ownership can be through a newly formed limited liability corporation, town ownership or several other options. With available incentives, the payback is expected to be five to seven years.

Depending on the option approved by the town, the town would receive rent, royalties or taxes. If a private company owns the turbines, the taxes would reduce the Sumner tax rate by more than $1 per $1,000 of assessed property.

Nadeau said the noise from the turbines at the nearest home would be less than the normal background noise in a rural community such as Sumner. Noise decreases rapidly with distance from the source, so few, if any residents, should hear the turbines in their homes, he said.

He said that the power generated by the turbines could be greatly increased by placing them on top of the mountain. However, to reduce their visual impact, the hubs will be located below the ridgeline with only the thin blades rising above it. There will be one red strobe light mounted on the center hub.

Silber said he was pleased with the turnout, and the committee will continue studying the project.

Expert touts renewable energy

Bangor Daily News
April 3, 2009

By Jessica Bloch
BDN Staff

BANGOR — There is hope that eventually consumers will rely on renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power, but it will take an increase in research and development funding and a faster way to develop consumer-ready products, a solar-power expert said Thursday during a University of Maine-sponsored conference on energy.

Larry Kazmerski, director of the National Center for Photovoltaics at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo., gave the keynote address to about 200 people at the daylong Haskell Energy Conference at the Hilton Garden Inn.

“There’s no doubt that there’s going to be a lot of money going into renewable energy technology over these next couple of years,” Kazmerski said. “With the stimulus package already out there, those investments are already starting. Part of the [national economy] recovery is based on investment in renewable energy.”

The conference is named after Robert N. Haskell, a 1925 University of Maine graduate who was former president and chairman of the board of Bangor Hydro-Electric Co. He also served in the Maine Senate and Maine House of Representatives.

Kazmerski was a member of the UMaine electrical engineering faculty in the 1970s. During his time at UMaine Kazmerski did groundbreaking research in thin-film photovoltaics for solar panels. Photovoltaic solar panels are designed to absorb sunlight and convert it into usable energy.

He touched on the history and current status of solar power, which is a $35 billion business worldwide. Solar-power companies and interest in solar power was more prevalent in China, Japan and Germany, but the U.S. is starting to catch up.

If solar power is to make a real dent in the energy market, however, R&D funding levels must be increased. In addition, the time gap between lab discovery and consumer-ready product is too long, Kazmerski said.

“It just takes too long right now for almost all the renewables to have some advancement,” he said. “In many cases, it’s 12 to 15 years and we just cannot have that time span between what might happen here in a lab at the University of Maine and when [the product] becomes commercial.”

UMaine also released Thursday a white paper supporting the implementation of a Maine Smart Grid, or MSG, which is an effort to modernize electricity transmission and encourage economic development. All the major Maine electric utility companies, including Central Maine Power Co., Bangor Hydro-Electric Co., Maine Public Service Co. and Eastern Maine Electric Cooperative have announced their intention to participate.

UMaine is seeking funding for development of a Maine Smart Grid Center for research and technical training.

Other speakers Thursday addressed Maine’s role in renewable energy issues in New England, and advances in wind energy and tidal energy.