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DOE Releases Study of U.S. Wind Power Potential: Maine has highest wind potential in New England

Alert
03.03.2010

The Department of Energy (DOE) has released an updated estimate of the potential for U.S. wind-generated electricity by state. As of 2009, total U.S. electricity generation from all sources was about 4 million gigawatt hours ("gWh"). The DOE study found that the contiguous 48 states have the potential to generate up to 37 million gigawatt hours annually, tripling previous estimates.

As noted by the DOE, this new study (which was performed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and AWS Truewind) reflects the technology advances since the previous 1993 study. Wind resources development in Maine should be boosted by DOE's conclusion that Maine has the highest generation potential in New England (33,779 gWh); although each of the New England states have substantial untapped potential. One critical area of improvement is the height of new towers. Wind speed increases with height, meaning that taller towers are capable of capturing more energy and generating more power. Since the 1993 study, which predicted average wind speeds at 50 meters (the height of most wind turbine towers at the time), the new study maps show average wind speeds at a height of 80 meters.

Wind Opportunities in New England:

The good news for communities and private energy developers is that real opportunities exist to develop projects in Maine and New England.

· Community-based Wind Projects: Preti Flaherty was instrumental in drafting and helping to pass legislation making small local wind projects known as "community wind" possible. Maine now has several community wind projects in operation, including the Beaver Ridge Wind project in Freedom, Maine, and the Fox Island Wind project in Vinalhaven, Maine. Preti Flaherty assisted Beaver Ridge in successfully dealing with zoning, abutter, and land access issues, allowing it to commence operation in November, 2008. Preti Flaherty assisted Fox Islands Electric Cooperative in successfully obtaining Maine Public Utilities Commission approvals and negotiating various commercial agreements relating to the project. The project is now generating enough power for two islands, saving residents nearly 15-20% on electricity costs. Better yet, any extra energy generated is sold back to the grid, generating additional revenue for the towns.

· Commercial Scale Wind Projects: Preti Flaherty also played a leadership role in drafting and helping to pass legislation setting high targets for wind production in Maine. The State of Maine has established goals of 2,000 megawatts of installed wind capacity by 2015 and 3,000 megawatts by 2020. To achieve these ambitious goals, significant additional commercial projects will need to be identified and developed, including onshore and offshore projects. Preti Flaherty has assisted a number of developers with various aspects of their projects, including environmental and land use, zoning, entity formation and structuring, financing, energy regulatory, and grid interconnection issues. Most recently, Preti attorneys successfully defended a challenge to the award by the Maine Public Utilities Commission of a long term power purchase contract to First Wind's Rollins Wind Project.

Resources:

Wind Resource Maps by State: The DOE's study also includes wind resource maps for the United States and for the contiguous 48 states that show the predicted average wind speeds at an 80-meter height. The maps are designed to provide policymakers and project developers with accurate information about wind resource in their areas and across the nation. The maps are available here.

Getting Started with Permitting and Development: Preti Flaherty's Energy, Environmental, and Climate Strategy Groups have assisted numerous developers and communities with the development of large and small scale wind and renewable energy projects. We have been involved in the permitting and development of hundreds of megawatts of renewable energy projects, including hydro, peat, biomass and high efficiency multi-fuel cogeneration in a dozen states. Developers should also understand the provisions of the federal stimulus law and anticipated new federal renewable energy legislation. Preti attorneys stand ready to assist prospective developers with all legal issues relating to wind project development, environmental and land use, zoning, entity formation and structuring, financing, energy regulatory, and grid interconnection issues.

Questions?

We welcome your questions on renewable energy project development or other energy related issues. Attorneys Steven Hudson and Andrew Landry are available at shudson@preti.com or alandry@preti.com or by phone at 207.623.5300.



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DOE Study on Wind Generation Potential