Balancing wind farms, the view

Posted Oct. 31, 2010, at 6:53 p.m.

The euphemisms of pro-wind developers at the Sept. 22 Land Use Regulation Commission hearing to add Kossuth Township to the expedited wind development zone highlight disturbing political and financial alliances that scar Maine landscapes. First Wind, which needs federal stimulus money for it’s projects, proposes to build turbines in the view shed of the beautiful Downeast Chain of Lakes.

First Wind declared to LURC that the Downeast Lakes would not be compromised with its development. Yet, its petition does not reference strong evidence of economic and ecological drawbacks to wind development. The burden of proof should rest with First Wind to provide rigorous evidence that its projects won’t harm ru-ral communities, mountaintop ecosystems and birds.

First Wind uses shortsighted Baldacci administration regulations that grease the skids for wind developers to erect energetically inefficient, money-losing wind farms over cherished Maine’s landscapes. Wind development in Maine has contributed to $2.5 trillion in debt amassed by the Obama administration.

Environmental and civic groups often support wind projects because developers such as First Wind give them pre-permitting donations to ensure their support. At the Sept. 22 meeting, Maine Audubon, Natural Resources Council of Maine and Baskahegan Land Co. capitulated to First Wind’s petition to expand the haphazard expedited wind development zone. Maine Audubon received donations from First Wind, and thus ignored the fact that wind turbines kill huge numbers of birds. Pro-industry American Wind Energy Association reports that each megawatt of installed wind-power kills between one and six birds annually. The U.S. had 25,000 megawatts of wind turbines by 2009, and no fines to wind developers for roughly 100,000 annual bird deaths.

How long will this capitulation continue? The departing governor wants wind energy development on 25,000 to 50,000 acres of priceless Maine mountaintops. Mainers need look no further than Mars Hill to see what “green” development really looks like.

Roger Milliken of Baskahegan Land Co. testified at the meeting. Baskahegan stands to make lease money from First Wind, so I wasn’t surprised to hear Milliken’s slant. But I was surprised by his reasons, for Baskahegan’s record was once heralded for how timberlands could be managed sustainably. Milliken cited Appalachian coal mines and the BP spill as reasons for wind turbines.

Yet he failed to divulge the rest of the tale. First Wind claims that wind development would help the economy sound similar to Appalachian coal miners trying to keep employment they already have. Wind farms require only one permanent job for every 10 megawatts of installation. No turbine parts are constructed in the state.

Increasing domestic wind production won’t reverse climate change. American coal is being exported to China, to whom we owe debt — amassed in part to finance wind energy. Coal we do not burn China will, and global carbon emissions will be the same with or without energetically inefficient wind development. Due to in-consistent and inefficient production, wind turbines need 100 percent backup from energy sources such as coal.

In the Rangeleys, Baldacci recently declared, “It’s all about that view. That view says ‘Maine. It gives people an inspiration, and it’s going to be that way forever.” His statements seemed unusually paradoxical coming from a man aggressively courting wind developers including First Wind and Iberdrola.

I wondered how Maine reached this precipice, where developers and politicians permanently scar beautiful Maine landscapes. It seemed a strange twist for a state that once had prided itself on financially sound, aesthetically pleasing development, and even outlawed billboards decades ago.

I was reminded of Baldacci’s comments after the hearing, when I climbed atop a wild Maine mountain. The slate gray skies of autumn seemed to pull brilliant fall colors to far reaches of the horizon. Gazing upon miles of lakes and forests, I too concluded that “it’s all about that view.” And thanks to Baldacci, the future of that view is uncertain.

Paul Rudershausen is a marine scientist. He owns three small woodlots in Carroll Plantation and lives in North Carolina.

Similar articles:

ADVERTISEMENT | Grow your business
ADVERTISEMENT | Grow your business