New Report: Wind Energy Yields Major Environmental Benefits for Maine

For Immediate Release

Thanks to its current and future benefits, wind power is a key component of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan to reduce the carbon pollution fueling global warming by 17 percent by 2020. The plan calls for an expansion of renewable energy, investment in energy efficiency, and the first-ever federal limits on carbon pollution from power plants.

“Wind energy has given us a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. Pollution-free wind energy is providing cleaner and healthier air for Maine,” said Environment Maine Director Emily Figdor.

Wind Power for a Cleaner America II: Wind Energy’s Growing Benefits for Our Environment and Our Health is an update of a 2012 Environment Maine report. This year’s report analyzes 2012 data from the U.S. Department of Energy and the wind industry to quantify environmental benefits from current wind generation in Maine, as well as the additional benefits five years from now, in 2018, if wind development continues at a pace comparable to that of recent years.  The key findings for Maine include the following:

• Wind generated 884,000 megawatt-hours (MWh) of electricity in Maine in 2012—more than any other state in New England. By displacing electricity from fossil fuel-fired power plants, Maine’s wind generation avoided 534,700 metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2012.  It also avoided more than 500 tons of smog-forming nitrogen oxide emissions in 2012 and 620 tons of sulfur dioxide emissions, which form acid rain and soot. 

• Nationally, wind power capacity quadrupled in the last five years, and it was the largest source of new electricity generating capacity in the United States last year—ahead of even natural gas. In 2012, wind energy displaced 84.7 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions nationwide—equivalent to eliminating the emissions from 17.7 million cars—and saved enough water to supply the annual domestic water needs of more than one million people.

• If the recent pace of wind development continues, in 2018 the new wind generation in Maine would avoid an additional 365,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide (equivalent to eliminating the pollution from 76,000 of today’s vehicles), 200 tons of nitrogen oxides, and 480 tons of sulfur dioxide.  

“As someone who deals with asthma on a daily basis, I know all too well that air pollution can literally take my breath away. For the 150,000 Mainers who suffer from asthma just like me, wind energy is helping us breathe easier,” said Cathy Chapman of South Portland. 

Paul Williamson of the Maine Wind Industry Initiative also pointed to the economic benefits of wind energy for Maine. 

“Wind energy isn’t just good for the environment and our health, it’s Maine’s economic future,” said Williamson. “The wind industry has invested more than $1 billion in Maine over the last 10 years, putting more than 700 local Maine businesses to work across all 16 counties. That represents thousands of real jobs for local people. And the industry is poised to invest almost $2 billion new dollars in Maine during the next three years alone. Wind is Maine’s future.”

“Despite the environmental, health, and economic benefits of wind energy, Gov. Paul LePage has continued to attempt to obstruct the development of wind in Maine—in some cases with grave ramifications, such as the decision of Statoil—the equivalent of Apple or Google in the energy industry—to pull out of the state,” said Rep. Diane Russell of Portland, who serves of the Legislature’s Energy, Utilities, and Technology Committee.

Maine’s recent progress on wind is the direct result of state policies and federal incentives for wind power, but the main federal incentives for wind—the investment tax credit (ITC) and the production tax credit (PTC)—are currently set to expire at the end of 2013. Maine’s Congressional delegation has consistently supported these tax credits.

“We commend Maine’s Congressional delegation for backing pollution-free wind energy. Continuing to shift away from fossil fuels by increasing wind power will reduce air pollution, slow global warming, and protect our children’s health,” concluded Figdor. 

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Environment Maine is an environmental advocacy organization that works on behalf of its 18,000 members and supporters to preserve Maine’s open spaces, protect clean air and water, and steer the state toward a clean energy future. For more information, please visit www.environmentmaine.org