June 23, 2018
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First Wind willing to trash Maine

Gabor Degre | BDN
Gabor Degre | BDN
Turbines on Heifer Hill that are part of the Bull Hill Wind Project put up by First Wind in Township 16. The company has 19 turbines functioning in the area and has applied to the state to put up 18 more turbines nearby.
By Jonathan Carter, Special to the BDN

First Wind of Boston is now proposing a project for the western mountains — the largest industrial wind project to date.

It would stretch more than 25 miles from Bingham to Parkman. The 64, 500-foot turbines that First Wind plans for this remote stretch of the Maine woods would be highly intrusive and visible to large sections of the Appalachian Trail from the Bigelow Preserve to Katahdin, including the section of the Appalachian Trail known as the “100 mile wilderness.”

The expedited Wind Energy Act passed in 2008 by the heavily lobbied and “gifted” Legislature sets an eight-mile visual impact zone, which this string of turbines is beyond. Yet, the red flashing lights, shadow flicker and noise pollution from the bird- and bat-killing turbines will completely industrialize the region.

The project area is also designated as critical habitat needed for the Atlantic salmon restoration efforts. This project will destroy the vegetation along the banks of 34 perennial streams critical for salmon recovery.

Mainers are being taken to the cleaners by First Wind of Boston, which appears to have no concerns about the ecological impacts or the fact that these industrial wind “pig farms” are ruining the “wild” brand that defines Maine and attracts tourists, hikers and other outdoor enthusiasts.

First Wind’s application to the Maine Department of Environmental Protection states that “the purpose of the project is to create a commercially viable low impact wind energy project.”

This statement could not be further from the truth. It is common knowledge that mountaintop industrial wind is not “commercially feasible.” The subsidies from local (tax increment financing districts), state (Pine Tree zones) and federal (production tax credits) governments are the only reason industrial wind projects are economically viable.

In addition, the cost of electricity has risen and will continue to increase as a direct result of mountaintop industrial wind. When these subsidies stop, you can count on First Wind disappearing with our tax-dollar generated profits, leaving behind a severely impoverished industrialized landscape.

It is a scam being perpetrated on the people of Maine by well-funded industrial wind lobbyists and a few quasi-environmental groups who refuse to get their heads out of the sand and stop taking the “bribe money” the wind corporations enjoy handing out.

The application also states that a “wind power project like Bingham Wind Project address each of these concerns … greenhouse gases impact on the environment, climate and the health of Maine citizens.”

I disagree.

Every scientific study I have been able to review comes to exactly the opposite conclusion. Because wind is intermittent, it is necessary to back it up with conventional power plants. Since these fossil fuel plants need to be ramped up and down to accommodate the intermittency, they end up using more fuel and putting out more greenhouse gases. It is like driving in stop-and-go traffic. Vehicles use more fuel and put out more pollution due to engines running inefficiently.

When the greenhouse gases generated by construction, the consumption of large amounts of power need to run the turbines (power not from the turbines), the thousands of gallons of regularly changed lubricants, the destructive mining of rare earth metals in Mongolia, the shipment of turbines and the plastics used in the composites, this so called “clean energy” is pretty darn dirty.

Add to this the loss of forest carbon sequestration due to the clear-cutting of forests for turbine pads, roads and power lines, and mountaintop industrial wind doesn’t look so green.

Finally, First Wind claims that the Bingham Wind project is in the best interest of the “health of Maine citizens.” What about the Mainers who have had to move out of their homes because of the noise pollution or the pernicious impact of infrasound — a sound used often as a torture technique around the world?

Mainers are now being treated with antidepressants, blood pressure and insomnia medications as a direct result of industrial wind turbines, and First Wind has the gall to state that mountaintop wind power is good for the “health of Maine citizens.” It is only good for their bottom line.

One thing that I have learned over the last five years studying mountaintop industrial wind — and it was a hard fact to face — is that just because something is renewable doesn’t make it de facto clean and green.

First Wind is leaching taxpayer money to build turbines which are dividing communities, blasting off mountaintops, clearcutting forests, killing birds and bats, forcing people out of their homes, negatively impacting the health of Mainers and destroying the visual beauty of wild Maine.

These actions are antithetical to Maine values. It is truly a sad day for Maine if First Wind’s rampage of trashing Maine is allowed to continue.

Jonathan Carter is the director of the Forest Ecology Network in Lexington Township. This OpEd first appeared in the Sun Journal.

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