- The Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has proposed new rules and launched a formal proceeding to bring wind energy development in line with requirements of the state's 2008 Wind Energy Act.
- Officials say the new rules largely codify what is already standard practice, with a few exceptions, and are not expected to have a large fiscal impact. Proposed rules take unto account impacts on natural scenery, shadow flicker and public safety. The rules also require project developers show the project will have real benefits.
- Among the changes, wind energy developers will need to present a power purchase agreement or other evidence the project's output is in demand. Previously, DEP officials did not generally review project economics.
Since Maine passed its Wind Energy Act in 2008, the DEP says it has "gained valuable experience in the processing of applications under the law." The proposed rule is designed to incorporate those lessons, and provide formal guidance to the DEP when making decisions. Two previous pre-rulemaking drafts were passed in July 2016 and January 2017.
DEP held public workshops on the draft rule, saying that given the strong positions on either side of wind issues, the department "did not attempt to reach consensus. However, the Department has attempted to improve the
draft rule based on the comments received."
Among changes, wind developers will no longer be able to credit the potential future salvage value of project
components against the costs of decommissioning.
"The speculative nature of salvage values twenty years in the future makes it problematic to account for these in the financial assurance equation," DEP said in a summary of the rule. The proposed rule also increases the required minimum safety setback for wind turbines, which may require a developer to "reconfigure a project, reduce the size, or to acquire title or easements over additional land."
New rules would also require the project developer to show what impact the project would have on electric rates. There are more than 200 wind turbines in Maine either completed or under construction. Total wind development investment in the state to date exceeds $1 billion, according to the Maine Renewable Energy Association.