Vermonters must decide if it is worth destroying their exquisite mountains for symbolism -- because the giant wind turbines being proposed for the ridgelines won't produce much power.
Vermonters must decide if it is worth destroying their exquisite
mountains for symbolism – because the giant wind turbines being
proposed for the ridgelines won’t produce much power.
To wind advocates, a 30-story-high turbine on a mountaintop symbolizes
independence and clean energy, the emblem of a green state.
The reality is the amount of electricity produced by wind towers – even
giant ones and lots of them – is paltry in the larger energy picture.
Even with the vast stretches of wind turbines in such states as
California and Texas, wind generates only about 0.4 percent of the
In Vermont, which relies on its natural, unspoiled beauty for thousands
of jobs and its very identity, preservation of the state’s remarkable
landscape has to win out over the trickle of power that would be
generated by strobe-lighted turbines on our high peaks.
Vermont uses 6 million megawatt-hours of electricity every year. IBM,
Vermont’s largest private employer, uses 475,000 megawatt hours annually
and customers of Burlington Electric Department use 370,000 megawatt-hours.
The four 330-foot-tall turbines being proposed for East Mountain in the
Northeast Kingdom would produce about 19,300 megawatt hours, according
to developer Mathew Rubin. That would be about 4 percent of IBM’s annual
electrical needs and 0.3 percent of the state’s needs.
The East Haven Windfarm proposal is for a relatively small
“demonstration project.” But even if the state were to cover its ridges
with more than 270 turbines, as advocated by some environmental groups,
wind power would still only supply about 15 percent of the state’s
electricity. It is not worth it.
The idea of harnessing the wind to provide electricity has its appeal.
Farms not long ago relied on individual windmills, and small-scale
turbines have their place in Vermont today. But the intrusive monoliths
that would be thrust on the Northeast Kingdom and other sites around the
state are way out of scale. Wind power has the potential to overwhelm
Tuesday, a Public Service Board hearing resumes into Rubin’s East
Mountain project. This is an important inquiry, the first to deal with a
commercial wind development since Vermont’s only wind project was built
in 1997 in Searsburg near Bennington. Developers, eager to move forward
with at least 100 high-elevation turbines, are watching closely.
It is a technical hearing, but the big questions about aesthetics and
the impact on the environment and wildlife hang over the hearing room.
These are questions that must be answered for the people of Vermont.
Tourists from around the world come to this state to experience the
environment and escape industry and sameness. Turbines on our mountains
would take that away.
Perhaps we don’t appreciate what we have. Perhaps we should look to
other places that have already lost their landscape to giant wind turbines.
In an article entitled “Welsh Wind Monsters,” published in July in
Ninnau, the North American Welsh Newspaper, author Dr. John R.
Etherington writes that the United Kingdom has more than 1,000 wind
turbines which generate 0.4 percent of the electricity, and more than
one-third of the turbines are in his home – tiny, mountainous Wales.
With the permission of the author, here is an excerpt: “Wales was an
early target of U.K. wind power. … These early assaults on the
landscape succeeded because few people realized just how aesthetically
destructive the machines would be.
“It is not just their enormous size, but their continual twitching as
hilltop crucifixions. They draw the eye with morbid fascination, even
from many miles away. On a sunlit day they glint and flicker and on a
gray day, in closer views, gigantic blades swoop down out of the
mountain mist arousing those adrenal responses that protected our
ancestors from leaping predators. They are distinctly unpleasant machines.”
We still have the chance to spare Vermont. Wind turbines on our
mountaintops – instead of being a symbol of green – would remind us
daily of the state’s disgraceful lack of foresight, a careless
abandonment of the people’s long-held resolve to protect Vermont from
reckless development and wrong-headed ideas in the name of progress.
Let’s refuse to allow giant wind turbines on our ridgelines.
A Public Service Board hearing into East Haven Windfarm’s proposed
development resumes Tuesday at 1 p.m. at the Public Service Board
Hearing Room, Third Floor, Chittenden Bank Building, 112 State St.,
Montpelier. For more editorials and stories on wind power, go to
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