Maine Governor Paul LePage accused the University of Maine of turning on an electric motor when the wind wasn’t blowing their turbine to fool people into thinking that “wind power works.”
LePage was not joking when he made the comment to the Skowhegan Area Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday, as Mike Tipping with the Bangor Daily News reports:
Now, to add insult to injury, The University of Maine, Presque Isle — anybody here been up there to see that damn windmill in the back yard? Guess what, if it’s not blowing wind outside and they have somebody visiting the campus, they have a little electric motor that turns the blades. I’m serious. They have an electric motor so they can show people that wind power works. Unbelievable. And that’s the government that you have here in the state of Maine.
Asked about this curious claim, the University spokesperson’s first response was to literally laugh out loud. There is no motor. The project is actually a success story for the university, and for Maine. This was the first mid-sized turbine installed by a university in the state, has a 600 kilowatt capacity, and has produced 680,000 kwh worth of clean electricity in its first year. That’s $100,000 off the University of Maine at Preque Isle’s utility bill, and 572 tons of CO2 not burnedinto the atmosphere.
While the installation of the turbine had a hiccup or two, you can now track the energy produced by the turbine live here. A system like this had never been designed before, providing transparency and educational opportunities for students. And opportunities to check to see if a mystery electric motor was turning the rotors on a still day. (And no, there is no record of any secret motor activity.)
Maine’s wind potential is something to be celebrated and encouraged, not mocked. In January, the State generated 187 GWh of electricity from its wind energy sector. There are 21 major wind energy projects either installed or under development in Maine, which total 1.4 gigawatts of wind power. 195 turbines are installed and under contract. Offshore projects are being tested off the coast. The wind energy industry in Maine is growing, and is employing more and more workers — 600 during peak construction periods.
Citizens of Maine are taking steps of their own toward a clean energy future. In March, a citizen committee overturned a state decision to deny a 14-turbine project on Passadumkeag Mountain. The Commissioner had denied it because of the visual effect it would have on the area, not for any other environmental reason. Governor LePage couldn’t help but weigh in at the news: “While the initial and largely taxpayer-funded investment in wind power projects may be attractive to some, one-of-a-kind views like the ones from Saponac Pond have great value…. I am deeply disappointed in the Board of Environmental Protection’s decision.”
This is not surprising: In 2011, the new Governor tried and failed to repeal the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard.
While Governor LePage’s denial of working wind turbines is surprising, he does have a track record of bombastic statements and denying of reality. LePage said in 2010 that he didn’t know if global warming is a myth, and he fell back on denier talking points:
“I just don’t know how severe it is and I’m not sure how much we as human beings contribute to it … scientists are divided on it.”
He also said “… I am going to be the next Scott Walker in this country. Because I’m challenging the status quo.”