Power Points from the Conference

To view the power point presentations from the Power of the Gulf conference click here: http://www.lawandinnovation.org/cli/events/agenda.php

Looking Forward: Gov. Angus King

Closing today's conference is former Governor Angus King, who is now developing his own wind power projects with a new company called Independence Wind.

He's opening with oil prices: in April he spoke at Bowdoin and marveled at $114/barrel oil. "Now it's $130 a barrel," says King (actually, it's up to $137 this afternoon). Fuel oil prices will have doubled by next winter. Big impact on individual Mainers. "Maine at $5 and $10 a gallon gasoline is uninhabitable, folks." [ed.: I don't know if I agree with this. Maine might become undriveable, but our state wasn't uninhabitable before the Model T. Our transportation bureaucracy needs to transform itself, too].

King asserts that Maine is the most oil-dependent state in the US (thanks to heating fuels plus over-reliance on motor vehicles).

In 1998, 4% of the avg. Maine family budget went to energy. King then proposed a 5 cent gas tax for road maintenance, a proposal that went down in flames thanks to resistance over price increases. Gasoline costs have increased $3 since then. Instead of paying for infrastructure, though, it's mostly going overseas: "We're funding both sides of the war on terror."

He calls for a national R&D initiative to fund offshore wind technology development.

Eisenhower re-took Europe in 9 months. "When FERC was presenting I added up all the time required for all of the permits required and I got 4.5 years," exclaims King. "I mean, come on."

As far as environmental impacts are, he encourages regulators to look to existing wind farms in Europe. By looking to existing wind farms, we should be able to create a reliable and robust regulatory framework and know impacts well enough for adaptive management.

Economic development results in Europe: 300,000 jobs created, and Vestas, a wind turbine manufacturer, is now the largest company in Denmark, King asserts.

Two recommendations:
  • Predetermine sites. Declare what sites are and are not OK for wind power development, instead of asking developers to "throw darts at a target we can't see."

  • Permit by rule. Lay out what the rules are and don't require massive applications for every project as if every one is unique. Say, "here's the noise standard, here's the standard for the footprint, etc."

King cites the TVA, a depression-era agency that now oversees 33,000 MW of (mostly hydropower) generation in the southern US. A public authority can remove financial and regulatory risks.

Serious consequences for for not acting are both human and environmental. Mainers need energy alternatives. And the climate needs relief from greenhouse gases.

But offshore wind will still take years to develop.

King ends with a quote from Abe Lincoln:

"The dogmas of a quiet past are inadequate to a stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise -- with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country."

More discussion: breaking the regulatory logjam, economic development opportunities

How do we provide incentives for offshore energy development? Can we afford it? John Kerry answers: if state govt. sets a framework and the guidance to demonstrate that renewables can be profitable, a good investment, we don't need incentives. The private market will do it on its own. Kerry is advising the Governor to create frameworks that allow private enterprises to thrive... renewable energy developers should be assured that the state's policies will support them in the long run.

Kerry also emphasizes the need to educate policymakers and entrepreneurs about the economic opportunities of energy development.

Elizabeth Butler is now standing up and expressing some frustration with the regulatory issues we've heard today. We have a "moral obligation" to develop renewables. Why, then, are we regulating these projects on an ad-hoc, project-by-project basis, just like any other project - the same way we'd regulate the construction of a Wal-Mart big-box store or a summer camp. What gives? Where's the action?

A fellow from Mass. Audubon responds: we need Legislative action, on state and federal levels. [Editor's note: is he saying that Legislators need to clear the bureaucratic logjam themselves? If so, maybe agencies like FERC, MMS, state planners, etc. should have a self-preservation interest in getting with the program and figure out their ideal, streamlined process before they're legislated out of the picture.]

The fellow from New Jersey is now talking about building the industrial base necessary to create offshore development: undersea engineering, exploration, etc. A new economic development opportunity.

Chris Sauer, Ocean Renewable Power Co.: People invest in startups when there's a clear path to commercialization. His company abandoned a project in Florida's Gulf Stream b/c of regulatory uncertainty with MMS. Also, Maine has a unique opportunity re: tidal power... no one has yet developed a commercial tidal turbine yet. It could happen here, [and Sauer's company is working on it] and Maine could potentially become an exporter of technology and equipment.

Regional renewable power opportunities and transmission grid

Here's that image from John Kerry's presentation this morning. This is a map of renewable power sources and potential sources, and high-voltage regional transmission lines. Click to enlarge:

Maine is a tabula rasa sitting in the middle of all these resources. Improved transmission infrastructure could put us in the middle of things, with cheaper electric rates and cleaner power sources.


Afternoon discussion:

A woman stands up and talks about her film documentary project, which is following the development of tidal power here in Maine. She and a following speaker talk about the importance of education, the value and importance of renewable energy development.

A fellow from Vinalhaven's Fox Island Electric Cooperative speaks up: they're developing 4-5 MW nameplate capacity to power the islands. He notes that Hull has no NIMBY problems; Vinalhaven has minimal NIMBY problems because wind will diminish power rates significantly (the islands currently rely on expensive-to-maintain undersea cables, so transmission costs are nearly twice the cost of the electricity itself). Here's a research paper on the viability of utility wind power on the Fox Islands from the Renewable Energy Research Laboratory.

Another speaker suggests that developers sort through Maine communities according to who has the highest electric rates: go there first. People chuckle, but I think there's real validity in this sentiment.

Someone else stands up and cites everything said about regulation and public trust - the private sector is also an important institution, and he urged power developers to listen to the public - both neighbors and the public institutions in government.

A developer/fisherman working on an offshore project in New Jersey is talking about the need for regulatory consensus. In NJ, commercial fishermen opposed offshore wind at first, then engaged in a two-year dialogue; now, the same fishermen are engaged in the development proposal. [ed: pretty neat story; I'd read about this in the Wall Street Journal's excellent Environmental Capital blog a few days ago.]

Q and A: Politics and Outreach

One audience member brought up a point about energy units - nameplate capacity of wind power projects versus actual production of megawatt-hours (which depends on the wind blowing, for wind turbines). Of course, one of the strong arguments for offshore wind power is that turbines generate at or near their nameplate capacity for a greater proportion of the time.

Q: How should a power developer approach a community?
A: Three different panelists generally endorse reaching out to all members of the community first. Don't come in with an aura of invincibility, or of inevitability. Invite participation.

Q: An observation that Hull's two projects were developed by the town, without outside developers.
John Meschino: Wind power began with an experimental project at the high school. Then the municipal power company installed two utility-scale turbines that now generate about 10% of the town's power. Both turbines paid for with town money. The current project is much larger and thus will require outside financing.

Conflicts and Solutions: Politics and Fisheries

David Etnier of Maine's Dept. of Marine Resources opens his talk with a recollection of the proposal to site an LNG terminal in his hometown of Harpswell: "it started out divisive, became acrimonious, and on the day of the special election there were bomb threats called in to the polling place." Process is important; having "big amounts of money on the table brings out the worst in people."

He's also talking about the state's process in siting and approving leases for aquaculture projects - another relatively new phenomenon that required a new regulatory framework. He seconds Deerin Babb-Brott's comments on the importance of earning the public trust.

Will Hopkins, of the Cobscook Bay Resource Center in Eastport, focused on strengthening communtiy-based approaches to resource management. His organization includes the primary spokesman opposing LNG development in Passamaquoddy Bay, as well as the main proponent for the project from the tribe. "It got quite heated" in board meetings: the board recalled the extremely divisive Pittston oil refinery debate 30 years ago, and resolved that the organization would neither support or oppose the project, but provide good information on ecology and economic development in the area.

In eastern Maine, a recent study by the the Electric Power Research Institute estimated the potential for as much as a gigawatt of electricity. Besides Sauer's Ocean Renewable Power Co. (heard from earlier today), there are other proposals in the works as well: here's a 2006 Working Waterfront article on the EPRI study and another tidal power proposal.

Last but not least is John Meschino, a lobsterman from Hull, MA. They had their own LNG proposal recently - Meschino's daughter, chair of the board of selectmen, wrote to the developers and told them that if they could prove why their town needed them, they would open discussions. "The developers never came back," he says with some satisfaction. No bomb threats necessary. Pictured below: one of Hull's turbines with the Boston skyline beyond.

Hull has its own power company, which generates its own power with two onshore wind turbines. With research and feasibility study support from the state, Hull is now considering four additional ocean-based turbines, 1.5 miles east of Nantasket Beach. Here's a Globe article on the proposal. As a lobsterman, Meschino wonders about the effects of electromagnetic fields from ocean transmission lines on groundfish like lobsters.

Q&A - Conflicts and Solutions

Question: Might a sustained marketing effort convince people that turbines are beautiful as sustainable sources of energy?
Pete D.: Some will find them beautiful, others will find them threatening no matter what. A broad middle can be educated. Most importantly, people need to be aware of the problems of the status quo: exporting harm and air pollution to midwest coal power plants, Virginian Appalachian mountains, etcetera.

Question: Need to identify specific places, before the developer comes in, to say "this is where it's acceptable." Local cost and a global benefit [ed: which too frequently stymies these projects, since the minority harmed is much more vocal than the global majority who benefits: the tragedy of the commons problem].

Pete D.: Took a step towards this with the Gov. Task Force. In the ocean, it's potentially possible. Even in state expedited areas, conflicts will flare up.

Conflicts and Solutions: Birds, Carbon

After lunch, the panel discussion will docus on environmental risks and mitigation for offshore renewable projects. What role can collaborative community-based planning play?

First up is Stewart Fefer of the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Bird concentration areas, flyways, and seasonal nesting or breeding areas are of particular concern. Thousands of offshore surveys have been conducted in the Gulf of Maine thanks to interest in past decades in offshore oil exploration.

Over lunch I was able to download some images from the morning's presentations. Here's the previously-mentioned map of bird flight paths before and after an offshore wind project:

Fefer points out that birds' avoidance of turbines may be problematic if turbines block bird migration corridors.

Fefer's final recommendations to developers: Avoid bird concentration areas and mitigate by addressing other challenges to bird populations: overfishing of birds' food supplies, collisions between birds and ships, extirpation, etcetera.

Next up is Pete Didisheim of the Natural Resources Council of Maine. He's talking about the need to keep the big picture in mind - our obsolete energy infrastructure, our carbon emissions crisis, air toxins from coal burning - in addition to the consideration of little-picture impacts caused by construction of wind or ocean turbines.

NRCM: We need as much low-carbon generation as possible to lower the overall impact. Wind power is part of the solution.

Eight projects in the pipeline for Maine: two permitted and about to begin construction (Stetson and Kibby Mountain). Successful projects have mitigation strategies: Stetson appeased fishing guides by protecting a local watershed and contributing to a land trust; Kibby Mt. agreed to protect sensitive alpine zones nearby.

They're opening it up for questions after those two questions ... please comment if you'd like to participate from wherever you are.

Maine Task Force on Wind Power: Alec Giffen

Alec Giffin, of Governor Baldacci's Task Force on Wind Power, is now speaking of his experience as a forester on that task force. He also alludes to the problems of old regulatory structures being applied to renewable energy development: he notes that Maine's Land Use Regulation Commission, which has presided over most of Maine's wind-power siting debates so far, created its zoning regulations decades before wind power existed.

Several problems: Existing regulations require all wind power projects (which typically go on top of mountain ridges) must "fit harmoniously with the natural environment."

If in the jurisdiction of the Land Use Regulation Commission, the planning board for Maine's unincorporated forestlands, the development district has to be "equally protective" of resources as conservation areas.

These regulations introduced tremendous unpredictability and uncertainty to wind power developers seeking permits. The task force, convened to make Maine a leader in wind power development, sought to update the state's regulations to allow for expedited permitting.

Read the Task Force's report here:

The Legislature passed an implementation policy for the task force's recommendations almost unanimously this past winter.

Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act Office: Deerin Babb-Brott

Deerin Babb-Brott of Massachusetts's Environmental Policy Office is up next. He grew up down the road in Camden.

He begins with two points:

Regulations need context.

This is not about science and technology, but about public trust.

I suspect that the latter point might have grown out of his state's experience with Cape Wind. The former, I hope, is a reference to some bureaucrats' and activists' tendency to lose the big-picture value of renewable projects: sure, a wind turbine might disturb a few square meters of ocean floor, but it's also displacing the need to burn tons of fossil fuels somewhere else upwind from us. I'm reminded of people here in Maine who treat land-based wind power projects as though they were equivalent to Wal-Mart stores, and protest the projects based on the fact that wind turbine construction requires the removal of some trees and the reconstruction of some logging roads.

He notes that MA has resolved differences and gained the public's trust for two new liquefied LNG terminals, thanks to extraordinary mitigation measures. Wind power projects have not successfully gained the public trust, even though most would probably agree that wind power is environmentally preferable to burning natural gas.

Gov. Patrick signed the MA Oceans Act of 2008 a few weeks ago: a comprehensive plan for state waters management, support renewable energy development, and balance natural resource preservation with traditional and new uses. A plan will be drafted by summer 2009, with final plan scheduled to be complete by Dec. 31, 2009.

NOAA and Fisheries presentation

Now someone from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is pinch-hitting a presentation about marine fisheries regulations. He begins with a slide with seven or eight different laws that govern NOAA's evaluation of marine power projects.

He says that his agency's main need in evaluating ocean energy projects is more information on how renewable energy projects affect marine environments. He repeats a recurring theme from these agencies: we're still learning how to regulate these kinds of projects.

The big, overarching regulation is NEPA, the National Environmental Policy Act. NEPA typically requires an Environmenal Assessment or Impact Statement for major projects in the federal government's jurisdiction.

NEPA requires the collection of good baseline data, along with an evaluation of all the probable effects and impacts that a project will have. These might include invasive species, noise, or alteration of hydrology, temperature, or salinity.

"[In] our review of the Cape Wind project... we didn't have a tremendous number of concerns about that project. Offshore wind projects may be a rather benign activity in terms of impact on fisheries. But we don't know what kind of impacts they'll have once they're built. We'll see once they're in the water."

"Quality data needs to be collected before, during and after project installation."

FERC presentation

Now it's FERC's turn to present, with Kristen Murphy here from Washington, DC to represent the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. She points out the fact that FERC licenses hydropower projects, which include wave generators and tidal turbines, but not wind turbines.

She's describing FERC's permitting and license process now. Steel yourself for some hardcore bureaucracy: first FERC offers a preliminary permit for feasibility studies and to let the project developers move forward with financing, etc. Then, presuming all the t's are crossed and the i's are dotted, FERC issues a final permit authorizing construction. You also need an operating license, as with hydro dams, which are renewed every 30-50 years.

No license is required for experimental, short-term studies that don't transmit into the grid. The Roosevelt Island tidal power project in the East River satisfied these criteria during its testing phase, so no license was needed.

As with MMS, FERC is still trying to figure out its position and authority re: wave and tidal energy projects. They're also very open to collaboration with the industry (says Murphy the FERC employee).

Here's FERC's white paper on FERC's hydrokinetic pilot project licensing.

MMS presentation

Maureen Bornholdt manages the federal government's Minerals Management Service's alternative energy program. She's discussing the agency's interim policy on offshore renewable energy development. MMS typically leases federal offshore waters for oil and gas development; recent interest in offshore renewable technology has led MMS to adopt a new, interim policy to govern short-term leases for renewable energy projects. When a comprehensive long-term policy is finalized, MMS will offer longer-term commercial leases for offshore projects.

MMS has also designated offshore regions as priority areas for offshore renewable energy research, and has already received applications for 16 projects in those waters. The closest one to us in Maine is in the Cape Cod channel, where tidal currents may make underwater tidal current turbines commercially feasible.

Bornholdt emphasizes that their agency is expediting the process to approve a finalized policy.

Open Thread - Submit your questions and comments

If you're reading from your office or home and you have any questions or issues you'd like to bring up, submit them in the comments here and I'll do my best to pass them along to today's panelists (and I'll post the responses in the comments here as well).

The next two panels will focus on the regulatory environment, with representatives from state and federal government agencies, then a panel on "conflicts and solutions" after lunch, with panelists from NRCM, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the Dept. of Marine Resources, and from the fisheries industry.

Fire away!

More renewable energy blogs

More links of interest while we take our first break this morning:

Economic Development

A second panel question asked about the jobs impact in rural Washington County.

Sauer points out that in rural communities, adding a few new construction or maintenance jobs can have the same relative impact as hundreds of jobs in greater Portland. This new investment and activity helps maintain Eastport's social fabric and instills a sense of economic opportunity.

Mandelstam: European wind industry businesspeople have told him that as soon as the US adopts a consistent and regular policy for offshore wind development, then European companies will invest in and build new projects, providing potentially thousands of local fabrication and marine construction jobs.

Governor for the Day?

A question for the previous three presenters: given that an energy emergency exists, and we have a "moral authority" for this kind of economic development, what would you do to make it happen, if you were governor for a day?

Mandelstam: Bring people together. Decide whether we're going to have turbines near shore? If there's a crisis, are we willing to have turbines visible from our islands? Think about and agree whether we can allow and approve (with streamlined permitting) ocean-based turbines. Also force negotiations to get power companies to contract to purchase clean power, without subsidy.

Sauer: Agrees with Peter. Brings up other stakeholders as well: the fishing industry. Also address transmission issues - investing in the grid, bringing in system operators and delivery companies.

Sean: If I were governor, I would have a cabinet-level position for new and emerging technologies, and a task force (including the previously-mentioned stakeholders), applying the principles of adaptive management to find solutions and get projects in the water.

Chris Sauer, Ocean Renewable Power Co.

Sauer is developing two tidal power projects in western Maine with Ocean Renewable Power. He cites excellent relationships with the local community, the Passamaquoddy Tribe, and the economic development potential (which is particularly important is rural eastern Maine - Washington Co. is Maine's poorest county).

Sauer also refers to the complications of regulation. Most significantly, he says, the complicated regulatory framework creates uncertainty for investors, and makes venture capital funding especially difficult to acquire. Ocean Renewable Power, as a tidal power development company, is involved in both technological research and development (refining new tidal technology) and in developing commercial power projects in the Bay of Fundy.

He also thanks and cites the helpfulness and collaboration received from Maine's DEP and the Army Corps of Engineers. "We were able to obtain permits in record time."

Sauer closed his presentation with a video of his company's first tidal turbine in Eastport.

Sean O'Neill, Ocean Renewable Energy Coalition

O'Neill covers some similar points - ocean power's proximity to consumers, the complexity of regulations. His major point was about the twin agency mandates of FERC and MMS (the Minerals Management Service), both of which have jurisdiction over ocean energy development. Both agencies would like to help develop offshore power, but having both involved complicates regulatory hurdles significantly and generates considerable uncertainty.


Peter Mandelstam, Bluewater Wind

Mendelstam works for Bluewater Wind, a company working on developing an offshore project 11 miles off the coast of Delaware. He notes the increasing acceptance and respect his company is getting from the larger energy industry.

Peter kicks things off with a densely-packed slide of text - all of the regulatory hurdles and permits necessary to complete an offshore project. He says this isn't necessarily a problem - in the end, all of these studies will prove the worthiness of an offshore project. But the vetting process could stand to be streamlined.

He also put up a striking slide - can't find the picture on the web, unfortunately - of bird flight paths before and after an offshore wind project in Denmark. Before, flight paths were random and scattered throughout the monitoring area. After, birds' paths followed diagonal paths through the wind farm. "Birds aren't stupid," says Mandelstam. They know how to avoid turbines. He cites studies that find fewer than 1 bird strike per turbine per year. More important than individual birds, though, is the viability of entire bird populations at risk thanks to climate change, mercury, and other fossil-fuel externalities.

His proposed project in Chesapeake Bay could have a $200 million -plus direct economic impact for Delaware workers.