Maine ranked 8th in growth of wind-power capacity in 2016, federal reports say

Source: By Portland Press Herald • Posted: Thursday, August 10, 2017

Maine ranked eighth nationwide in annual installed wind-power capacity for 2016, with 288 megawatts of utility-scale wind added last year, and 10th nationwide in the percentage of in-state generation of electricity from wind power, with nearly 14 percent, according to new U.S. Department of Energy reports.

Maine is also home to the proposed 12-megawatt Aqua Ventus offshore wind project, the agency noted. The pilot floating wind farm, off Monhegan Island, has received funding from a program for demonstrating advanced technologies.

The rankings are contained in Energy Department reports released Tuesday for land-based, utility-sized projects, offshore proposals and small-scale projects, such as those at homes and farms.

The reports are being released during a period of uncertainty about continued support for renewable energy under the Trump administration, but also when New England states – notably Massachusetts – are seeking large amounts of wind power to meet renewable power goals. Some large wind projects that could supply Massachusetts are in Maine.

The reports demonstrate continued growth in wind energy, the agency said, with America’s wind industry adding more than 8,200 megawatts of capacity last year, representing 27 percent of all additions. In 2016, wind supplied about 6 percent of U.S. electricity. Fourteen states, including Maine, now get more than 10 percent of their electricity from wind.

“The wind industry continues to install significant amounts of new capacity, and supplied about 6 percent of total U.S. electricity in 2016,” said Daniel Simmons, acting assistant secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. “As our reports explain, a combination of federal subsidies, state mandates and technological advancements continue to help drive new wind-capacity additions.”

But the reports also highlight the role of financial incentives, noting: “Recent and projected near-term growth is supported by the industry’s primary federal incentive – the production tax credit – as well as myriad state-level policies. … At the same time, the prospects for growth beyond the current (tax credit) cycle remain uncertain, given declining federal tax support, expectations for low natural gas prices and modest electricity demand growth.”