AUGUSTA, Maine — While government, private and educational entities work in earnest to bring large-scale wind turbines to Maine, a newly formed group of concerned residents says the promises being made to Maine people are too good to be true.
Wind turbines can be as loud as an airliner, as ugly as an oil derrick and as damaging to the environment as a clear-cut, according to members of the Citizens Task Force on Wind Power. They also emit a jaw-rattling hum and obnoxious knocking noises that no one would want to live near, according to Steve Thurston, co-chairman of the task force.
“These things make people sick,” he said after a press conference Monday where he and several others spent an hour criticizing wind energy. “The noise they make drives people crazy.”
Thurston and others predict that if wind turbines become widely used in Maine under guidelines contained in a law passed in 2008 by the Legislature, they would trigger much more drastic consequences than offending people who live near them. Because they’re so expensive to build and generate such a small amount of elec-tricity, operating them could actually drive up the cost of electricity while eliminating jobs at other electricity generating facilities, according to Thurston and others.
Jonathan Carter, the leader of the Forest Ecology Network and former gubernatorial candidate, echoed many of the claims made by others. Most troubling to Carter is that tens of thousands of acres of forest would have to be cleared to make way for turbine farms and the power lines they would feed.
“This is nothing more than industrial wind mountaintop removal,” said Carter. “Global warming is a catastrophic crisis, but the solution is not to destroy the pristine character of the Maine mountains.”
Wind power proponents, who include everyone from Gov. John Baldacci to University of Maine researchers to a slew of entrepreneurs, have been billing wind power as a partial antidote to Maine’s dependence on foreign oil. David Farmer, Baldacci’s deputy chief of staff, stood by that position Monday.
“Anytime you have new ideas or proposals, you’re going to have people opposed,” said Farmer. “That’s why we’ve gone through a careful process. We don’t condone putting [wind turbines] up anywhere at any time. We believe our plan is sound. We wouldn’t do it if we didn’t think it was good for the state.”
Jeremy Payne, executive director of the Maine Renewable Energy Association, said in written comments that it’s no mistake that a recent poll by the firm Critical Insights showed that 90 percent of Mainers support wind power.
“The Maine Renewable Energy Association firmly believes the state’s regulatory system protects the public health of the people and the wildlife of Maine,” said Payne. “We are fortunate that Maine is well positioned to take advantage of its natural renewable resources.”
Despite those claims, members of the Citizens Task Force on Wind Power, which formed Nov. 1, are unconvinced. Thurston said he and other members would bring their opposition to any debate about wind power anywhere in Maine. He said they’re also planning a series of meetings with legislators.
“The Maine people have been sold a bill of goods,” said Thurston. “We want to become a resource to any town considering this.”