Do not make up facts
To the Editor:
I am writing in response to Penny Gray’s letter from March 30th. I wanted to correct a few of her glaring misstatements of “fact” and respond to her concerns about the effect of wind projects on tourism in Maine.
Yes, I am from Massachusetts, which I didn't think was a secret (I do have MA plates on my car). I realize that makes me forever an outsider to some Mainers, but I do spend a lot of time in Maine and pay income taxes to Maine. And while I understand Ms. Gray’s fears that Maine’s tourism industry will be ruined, her concerns are not supported by studies done in other countries (UK, Australia) which show that wind turbines are not likely to have a negative impact on tourism.
One 2008 Scottish tourism study found that 75% of people interviewed felt that wind farms had a positive (39%) or neutral (36%) impact on the landscape, compared to the 25% of people who felt they were negative. Of those who were negative, only a small portion indicated they would change their intentions of revisiting the area.
Since the survey only measured attitudes of current tourists, it did not account for any increase in visits due to new tourists who are interested in renewable energy, which is a distinct possibility given the overall favorability of wind power in the general public. Interestingly, survey respondents whose main activity was walking/hillwalking – where the landscape was a major part of their experience – were actually more positive (45% vs. 39%) and less negative (19% vs. 25%) than the general survey population.
Concerns about the impact of wind turbines on the rural landscapes are common but often exaggerated. For example, a survey conducted before and after construction of wind turbines at the 11-turbine Searsburg Wind Facility in Vermont demonstrated a higher level of support after the project was built (4.47 on a 5 point scale), than before (3.95 on a 5 point scale). While these studies were not conducted in Maine, they were conducted in areas known for their tourism and natural beauty like Maine.
Within Maine, support for wind power remains high. A 2010 survey of 500 Mainers indicates broad support for wind power in Maine: 88% statewide and 83% in rural counties where wind power development is likely to occur. So, while I respect Ms. Gray’s concerns about the possible impact on tourism, they should be balanced against the evidence from places with more turbines where tourism has not been negatively impacted. And given the continuing high levels of support for wind power within and outside of Maine, it seems unlikely that the presence of twelve wind turbines on Saddleback Ridge will negatively impact tourism in the region.
Now for the misstatements:
1. Ms. Gray says that Patriot Renewables was granted an “enormous TIF” by the Town of Carthage. This is entirely false. While the town has considered the benefits of a TIF to fund local improvements, no credit enhancement agreement has been made between Patriot and the town.
2. Ms. Gray’s insinuation that Cashman is to be blamed for the cost overruns and problems with the Big Dig project in Boston is a serious accusation, and one that I take great offense to. I have worked for the Jay Cashman companies for 23 of the 42 years that Cashman has been in business. Cashman has been involved in major construction projects around the country, and Cashman and its affiliates have done work in every state in the US. Yes, Jay Cashman, Inc. was one of over 100 contractors involved in the Big Dig project, but work done by Cashman has never been called into question. In fact, insurers selected Cashman to complete multiple Big Dig contracts after the largest contractor went bankrupt. There is absolutely no basis for Ms. Gray’s statement.
3. The Saddleback Ridge Wind project in Carthage would not be the first wind project our company has built. Jay Cashman, Inc. erected a single turbine at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy and was the general contractor for the construction of the 3-turbine Beaver Ridge Wind project in Freedom. This is the same role Cashman expects to play for the Saddleback Ridge Wind project.
4. At the recent DEP meeting in Dixfield, there were indeed several project supporters that were “waiting in the wings” to speak; unfortunately they were not given an opportunity to speak because two sign-up sheets were “misplaced”.
5. Finally, Ms. Gray seems to think that we are going to put up the turbines and declare bankruptcy. That, frankly, is ridiculous. This project is financed on a long-term basis, and any federal tax credits (including their expiration date) will be determined for before the project becomes operational, and financing will be adjusted accordingly.
In addition, our cash flow depends on the wind, which does not vary by more than 10-15% from year to year, so wind projects are actually less likely to go bankrupt than most kinds of businesses. On top of that, even though the turbines are expected to operate for 20–25 years, we have proposed to begin funding a decommissioning account during the first year of operation, and to fully fund this account by year 13 of project operation. And the Maine DEP will have full access to this account if we fail to perform our decommissioning obligation.
There is nothing wrong with sharing your opinion, but please do not make up “facts.”
Patriot Renewables, LLC