Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Sight and Sound-- Sufficient!
The last few weeks have been incredibly intense and fast-paced, and I apologize for not posting to GAG more often. As many of you know, my family lost our beloved mother and grandmother, Ruth Dolley, on November 28th. In addition, the Friends of the Highland Mountains held a big fund-raiser/comedy/music event in Kingfield on Saturday night. And then… there was Thanksgiving—and now, we are all preparing for the upcoming holidays.
I have a lot I’d like to say. I’m sure that comes as no surprise, as I’ve never been one to sit quietly in a corner as nothing more than window dressing or eye candy. Snort!!! Oh, fine! I’m neither, but I AM a woman who likes to communicate!
Last night I attended an ‘informational meeting’ on mountaintop industrial wind sponsored by the Somerset Economic Development Corporation. I respect the mission statement of this group. Who among us doesn’t want economic development, especially when times are so tough? But this ‘informational meeting’ was not a fair dissemination of the FACTS about industrial wind. This forum was designed to peddle Big Wind in Somerset County, based on the promises of significant monetary gain to the county. Promises made by developers of Big Wind.
Jim Beatty, the president of the SEDC, openly admitted his bias. He WANTS these wind developments—in Highland, in Bingham, in Mayfield and Moscow and Caratunk and Lexington and Concord. He supports TIFs (Tax Increment Financing Agreements) for these developers. I can’t speak for Jim-- a man whom I like--but my sense is that he can’t see the forest for the wind turbines. His goal—his organization’s goal—is to spur the local economy, and short-sightedly, he believes that goal can be met by catering to wind development in our county’s most wild places.
What I don’t believe he fathoms is what the long-term effects of hundreds of miles of 400’ tall turbines atop our mountains will be. I’m not sure he and many others yet understand that our future economy is directly tied to the fact that we here in Maine have what so many other places have already—and regrettably-- sacrificed. We have unspoiled vistas. Abundant wildlife. Open land for hunting, hiking, camping, snowmobiling, skiing. We can still find places where there is no artificial light on our horizon. We can still sit in silence.
Silence. And darkness. Do you realize how rare those two things have become?
I’ve been exasperated by the fact that wind supporters have unfairly labeled opponents of industrial wind as selfish people whose only concern is for their ‘view’. That is undeserved, and it is shameless and slanted propaganda. There is so much else about this wind plan which makes it a terrible idea. In a future posting, I will go into some of those other reasons, as I have in the past.
But what if it WAS just about the look and the sound of these colossal machines? What if? Is it really so bad, to oppose them for that reason?
Knowing that Maine does not need the power that wind will produce…
Knowing that wind energy does not significantly reduce carbon emissions…
Knowing that wind turbines have been proven to emit noises which are detrimental to humans’ health when those humans are subjected to them for long periods of time…
Knowing that wind turbines do not even need to produce electricity in order for the developers to cash in-- and that up to 60% of that ‘cash’ comes from our pockets in the form of multiple types of subsidies…
Knowing that without the proposed placement of wind developments on our pristine ridges, Maine would not need the $1.4billion transmission upgrade, which will cut a 400+ mile swath through 75 Maine towns-- and which will be paid for, in large part, by every CMPC customer, regardless of whether we need or use that power…
Knowing that ‘wind power’ is being used as the catapult for installing ‘smart meters’ at every CMPC-serviced household in Maine so that our electricity usage can be monitored and regulated, and knowing that the cost of this ‘upgrade’ is ALSO being paid for by us (from American Recovery Act Stimulus funds) and that many CMPC employees (meter readers) will lose their jobs once this installation is complete….
And knowing that Maine citizens lost their right to oppose wind development due to aesthetic value, even though that very ‘value’ is what brings vacationers and retirees to Maine, and what causes many of us locals to stay…
So, let’s take all that other stuff out of the equation. Let’s suppose that I, a NIMBY of the First Order (and proud of it!) decided to oppose industrial wind due, solely, to its look and sound.
I purchased my homestead for its lovely mountain views and its solitude; for its location away from all the hustle and bustle of town or city life. My husband and I sacrificed convenience for a quiet place in the country. Many of my friends and neighbors have done the same thing.
Many of my neighbors also make a living from the land. They are guides and sporting lodge owners. They are proprietors of diners which cater to both locals, and those ‘from away’. They are real estate agents; they are workers in the tourist industry. They rent camps to hunters and snowmobilers. Some of them don’t draw a paycheck from the land, but they support their families in other ways unique to rural life. They raise farm animals. They grow vegetable gardens to feed their families, to share with others, or to sell at local farmers’ markets. In many cases their livelihoods and their lives are dependent upon the natural resources which surround us.
If you haven’t had occasion to view the types of wind turbines slated for these mountains, perhaps you can’t comprehend their massive intrusion into our landscape. These things are HUGE. Not merely big, but staggeringly immense.
Their blade sweep is more than an acre and a half in size. Picture a Boeing 747. A jet that size would fit within the area though which those blades course.
These turbines are more than TWICE as tall as Maine’s tallest skyscraper—those tall buildings confined to within city limits. LURC has a 25 foot height cap for other structures in our unorganized territories. This limit, which we average citizens must build in conformance to, is due to the adverse visual impact such structures would have in these rural areas.
Wind turbines must be lit with flashing red lights. They are so tall that they create a hazard for air traffic and therefore, must be lit. And while you may not think seeing flashing red lights above the horizon is a big deal, it is. Our area of Maine is the very last place on the eastern seaboard—except for Key West—which does not have light pollution. We enjoy dark night skies, and a view of the firmament in all its natural glory.
During two summers in the late 1990’s, we hosted a teenager from New York City as part of the Fresh Air Kids program. I don’t think I ever appreciated what we had until I saw the night sky through the eyes of a child who had never viewed the stars, or seen a comet or a meteor or a constellation.
Recently, I had to travel to Northport for an awards ceremony, and I drove to within a few miles of the three wind turbines at Beaver Ridge, Freedom. Only three turbines, but the sight of those flashing strobes was an anathema in an otherwise bucolic setting. I could only imagine what it would look like to have our ridges peppered with those, all across the state.
And then… there is the sound. The NOISE. Noise like a jet passing overhead-- but perpetual. Endless. And that doesn’t take into account those noises which cannot be picked up by our human ears, but which can be felt imperceptibly by our bodies’ systems. I have met and spoken with Maine victims of Wind Turbine Syndrome. Men whose doctors have told them: “Move. Your health is at risk!” Women who can’t sleep, can’t relax, have heart palpitations and high levels of anxiety. Our DEP does not have sound standards which are designed to protect Mainers from turbines’ unique noises. Until they do, and until they enforce those new standards, a wind turbines’ sounds will absolutely be part of the equation when debating their presence in our neighborhoods.
What I’m saying is this: If the sight and sound of industrial wind turbines WERE the only objections we Mainers had, I think that would-- and should-- be enough to stop this disastrous plan for our state. When we include all the other scientific and economic reasons why wind doesn’t ‘work’, the answer is simple.
Industrial wind developments do not belong in the state of Maine.