2015-05-08 / Letters

Solar power is not the way to go

To the editor:

My wife and I recently indulged our wanderlust and used the occasion of our 10th wedding anniversary to visit my grandmother’s ancestral homeland of Germany. We were shocked to see to what level the German government had embraced so-called renewable energy sources. The skyline in just about every direction was dotted with giant windmills, most of them sitting dormant, and most homes had large solar panel arrays on their roofs and in their yards. The sight of this modern technology in such a pastoral alpine setting was, to say the least, a little jarring.

A green energy skeptic, I decided to research how successful this nationwide attempt was. Not surprising, it was a total disaster. Germany’s economics minister and vice chancellor to Angela Merkel, Sigmar Gabriel, announced in a speech in 2014 that Germany’s transformation to renewable energy, known locally as “Energiewende,” is “on the verge of failure.” The project has cost billions of euros and is on the doorstep of insolvency. Now we learn that our illustrious leadership in South Portland is considering a multi-million dollar project to develop a solar farm at the transfer station on Highland Avenue. The old saying goes that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

The city of Saco purchased and installed a massive wind turbine in 2007 for $270,000 on the promise that it would provide about $12,000 of free electricity a year for 10 years (for the less mathematically inclined, those numbers don’t add up). A local newspaper reported in 2010 that it never even came close to reaching those levels of efficiency, and within two years had broken, basically for good. The company that sold it to the city then declared bankruptcy, and the former CEO of the company offered to buy back the windmill at a $100,000-plus loss for the city.

There is no reason to believe that solar would be any different. As recently as last year, Sentry writer Duke Harrington pointed out that without funding from the state, the solar farm project would not be viable. Translation: would not provide enough savings to justify its existence. Green energy projects have a dismal record of over promising and under delivering. This wouldn’t be so onerous, if it weren’t for the fact that the city expects taxpayers to cover the shortfall in their science experiment writ large.

I can get a potato to run an LED light for about a month; maybe the state should fund a multi-million dollar potato-cell battery array for our town. At least my potato lights will work when it’s cloudy.

Devin T. Robinson South Portland

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