I would like to clarify what I said to you when we met at the Bridport legislative breakfast. You’d asked what my fear was. That was a good question, one worthy of some thought yet the time was not available to put that thought into it and respond to you in a useful way.
I see that we are at a crossroads regarding Vermont energy. We might be about to adopt a new technology that has a comparatively enormous physical foot print and that provides low grade energy while there are far better options to address those issues, that the technology will, perforce, attract more money to make it work because a course has been charted, other avenues, then, starved for money. Wind turbines can only be an add-on energy source. When there is no wind, something that happens, equivalently, 80% of the time in Vermont according Searsburg’s recorded capacity factor, our electricity must be generated by other sources. My observation is that, since the technology is new and developing and since it is far cheaper to save energy at this time and for some time to come than to generate new energy (Amory Lovins’s testimony to the VT legislature, 2007,) Vermont should pursue other avenues to meet their energy requirements disfavoring more obtrusive, ecologically damaging, contentious solutions that so divide communities as does commercial wind.
Here’s what I think will happen if we accept this energy source:
1.) VPIRG has suggested a percentage (30%, 20%) of our power be provided by wind power. Our electricity demand is growing at 1%/year, (national average is 1.7%/yr) therefore, I fear it will be argued that our wind power complement must grow accordingly so that it’s percentage of the make-up remain the same. This means that there will be continued development of our wild places for wind power. We will, then, always see, somewhere, roads being installed (see Mars Hill in ME”¦plenty of photos) there and cranes on the ridges installing turbines. There have been no guarantees that wind power development will be limited. At least there have been no answers to that question offered me by those I have asked. As I said to you in the Bridport meeting, no one has ever gotten back to me substantively about this issue. I always ask for replies and additional information about energy and commercial wind power and I have never gotten a letter back with any of my questions answered. It is as though I am being deliberately ignored and excluded from the discussion.
2.) I fear that the largest turbines available will be installed on Vermont ridgelines. Wind power is a young technology and new, larger turbines are being developed. The Searsburg turbines are 550 kW turbines. 1.5 MW turbines were next offered, then 1.8 MW then 2.3 MW for the Glebe Mt. project. Bob Charlebois (CVPS/Catamount) said (Rutland Herald) that they proposed the largest turbines available. He said that if larger ones were available, they would have proposed those. Now 5 MW turbines (600 ft. high, the rotor sweeping an area of 3 football fields) are available. Larger turbines are in development (to a theoretical limit of 20 MW.) Ridgelines require the largest turbines that can be used because only ridges are available for energy capture while in the plains the turbines are placed in an array to extract energy from across an area. Larger turbines there would only mean fewer of them. A flat area can be blanketed by turbines, more smaller ones, fewer larger ones, extracting in either case all the available wind energy. Ridges, however, yield little of what’s available area-wide, the valleys between being unavailable, so turbines must be located on the ridges and can only extract more energy by sweeping more area (larger turbines.)
3.) I fear that once some turbines are accepted, it will be argued that, “the ridges are already ruined” justifying installing more turbines. I hike (as should all of us who can) the Green Mountains. I hike partially for the spectacular views of open, wild mountains and ridges that go on to the horizon. It’s a great reason to live and hike in Vermont. Once the turbines go in we will no longer have that view. It will be, more and more, with each additional wind farm, a view of wind farms, powerlines and their access roads.
4.) I fear that extra energy from a wind farm, energy we can’t at that moment use, will be exported (as our hydro is being exported: see Vermont Commons, Number 18, Spring 2007; “The Great Hydropower Heist”) and that this will earn some money (by whatever, exotic, complex, derivative-like, contrived means: see the UPC prefiled testimony for the Sutton wind project) and become an additional advantage for wind power developers and provide an argument for the installation for more turbines. It is estimated that 6000-7000 MW of installed capacity are possible on Vermont ridgelines. Divide that number by 1.5 to see how many turbines that could mean. There is a lot of money to be made in commercial wind power in Vermont. I feel sorry for anyone who lives anywhere near a diffuse energy resource: gas field, coal field, wind, water fall.
6.) I fear that extra wind power energy production will be used to displace not fossil fuels but hydro, a clean energy source. Hydro will be used as a wedge to force wind power onto our ridgelines because the hydro is available for wind to displace. This guarantees wind power developers their windfall profits at the express expense of the ecological health of our mountains, the open ridges and recreational areas which will no longer be available to Vermonters and her visitors.
7.) I fear that Snake Mountain – where I hiked today, into a quiet, natural environment, with no thumping turbine blades whirling overhead, no plowed, four season roads, no chain-link fences keeping me off the summit – will eventually host wind turbines – If the ridgelines, why not Snake Mountain and other mountains in the Champlain Valley? After all, it seems to be all just a matter of money.
8.) I fear (as suggested above) that each wind farm installed means one less recreational resource … at a time, by the way, when we are realizing how important recreation is, for both mental and physical health. GMP tells me (private conversation, summer 2006) that no one is allowed on the mountains on which the 11 Zond, 550 kW (~1/2 MW) turbines stand.
9.) I fear that the next time we “need more energy,” more turbines will go in. The argument will be that wind turbines have already been accepted as a legitimate part of our energy mix, and, therefore, increased demand must mean more turbines. Then, of course, the turbines will be larger.
Related question: if we are going to say, no to more wind power development at some point, when and why will that decision be delivered? If then, when we will be undoubtedly needing more power, why not now?
10.) I fear that I will never hear back from anyone to whom I have written on this issue, that writing letters and testifying to committees were pointless, that the real leverage lies elsewhere, that deals may have been made years ago behind closed doors.
11.) I fear that the installation of commercial turbines on Vermont ridgelines will change Vermont to a place where sensibilities that honor open space and natural beauty will fade and be replaced by a population unaware of such values. Such a lack of awareness follows the development of our culture, away from the arts and music as is seen in our schools, replaced by a focus on technological development and an acquisitive, consumer life-style drugged by material things. I fear Vermont will become a place such as that I came from, Long Island, or places I have seen like New Jersey. Imagine hunting, hiking in the mountains and coming to the fences or even coming around a hillock or out of a draw on a beautiful day to hear wind machines thumping somewhere overhead. They can be heard for over a mile. Their low frequencies travel far and pervade the aural environment and that will change everything. No one is talking about the heard environment, just the visual one.
12.) I fear that development for wind power on Vermont ridgelines will also bring in sprawl, which, according to The Vermont Forum on Sprawl, is the result of the extension of infrastructure, especially, good roads (turbines require four season roads that are kept in good condition and plowed through the winter) and power (turbine’s powerlines are a two way connection to the grid.) In not hearing back from anyone these last two years, I have, of course, have not heard any reason why such sprawl will not follow the turbine installations.
13.) I fear that I and people like me – who came to Vermont specifically because of her physical beauty, the wild and open landscapes especially of her mountains which I access in all seasons for my recreation and which I see and embrace daily as a spiritual resource – are being considered second-class, acceptably sacrificed for the profits of the few corporations and individuals who stand to make money from the commercial wind power schemes. I fear I have been excluded from Vermont’s energy and commercial wind power issue.
A baker’s dozen.
As always, I look forward to hearing from you regarding this letter. I wish to learn more about wind power and energy in Vermont. Anything you tell me about the process–about wind power in Vermont, about energy in Vermont, about whether or not my letters have been worth writing, or that they have been and will be ignored (because all legislators are swamped and can not receive information from the public) (I must find another avenue to be effective,) that I have been mislead and my letters are full of falsehoods, or are true and valuable and that my input is essential, whatever–I need to hear and will receive most appreciatively.
Presently I am researching the claim that wind power, an extremely variable and intermittent energy source, reduces CO2 emissions on a grid that relies for its base load power on traditional generation.