The Vermont Public Interest Research Group and the Vermont chapter of the Sierra Club support ridgeline wind. That’s disappointing. No informed person could imagine that several dozens of wind turbines in Vermont will alter a massive, global problem that involves the habits and aspirations of millions and the policies of nations, and on which time is running out. Vermont wind is to global warming what a Band-Aid is to a hemorrhage.
But if these projects can’t help globally they can certainly harm locally. Loss of historic viewsheds is the least of it. Ridgeline wind destroys aquatic and terrestrial habitat, kills birds and endangered species of bats, and creates the potential for disastrous runoff events in major storms. Catchment basins designed to overflow are inherently subject to erosive failure when installed on steep gradients, for which they are unsuited. What will VPIRG and the Vermont chapter say when failure occurs and tons of rubble is flushed into wetlands and headwater streams?
As to wind versus nuclear, any suggestion that Vermont wind can offset nuclear is simply fictitious. Wind power currently constitutes only about 3.17 percent of total U.S. electricity production. If all the built and proposed Vermont wind projects were online, their output would be a small percentage of that 3.17 percent. Not only is the slender output of Vermont wind unable to offset nuclear, climate scientists say that nuclear must be factored into the global energy mix, with a great many plants built, and soon, if greenhouse gas emissions are to be substantially reduced. Such is the scale of the crises; such is the sorry fix we find ourselves in. It is a frightening truth that must be candidly acknowledged, not hidden behind misleading bromides about the value of local solar panels and wind turbines.
I’d hope that VPIRG and the Vermont chapter of the Sierra Club would become better informed about the downside of ridgeline wind and, internally, ask some tough questions. Who benefits? The people of Vermont? The environment of Vermont? The global environment, to any discernible extent? Is ridgeline wind genuinely about what’s good for the planet, or is it about big money and the influence of big money? Is it about altruism, or profits? Where does the money come from, and where does it go?