Infighting among so-called green or environmental groups is not something you see every day.
To our recollection, the plight of the spotted owl in the Pacific Northwest, or the American bald eagle of the Alaskan coast after the Exxon Valdez spill of 1989, served as a rallying cry for environmentalists. It was easy for these folks to fight against what they believed to be a very tangible enemy.
But wind power, however, divides the green camp when the conversation turns to renewable energy.
On one side there are environmentalists who believe that wind power is the way to reverse global warming and pollution from coal-fired and nuclear power plants, respectively.
On the other, there are those who believe wind towers will cause irreparable harm to the bird, bat and mammalian population that lives, hibernates and hunts near wind towers.
Both groups have valid concerns.
The issue will be raised in Manchester on Nov. 28, at 7:30 p.m., in the Town Hall. That’s because Endless Energy Corp. of Yarmouth, Maine, wants to build five 390-foot wind turbines on the ridgeline of Little Equinox Mountain. Several biologists from the state and Endless Energy will discuss the project’s ecological issues with the Planning Commission at a public hearing Monday.
Much of the discussion will focus on the Indiana bat and the Eastern small-footed bat, which are endangered species, and also live and hibernate in southwestern Vermont.
Harley Lee, president of Endless Energy, said his company has been studying to see whether bats are chirping at the height of the five proposed turbines.
Lee’s consultant, D. Scott Reynolds, a biologist with North East Ecological Services, has found that most bats aren’t anywhere near where Endless Energy wants to put the turbines.
But, the fact remains that no one knows why bats fly into turbines. Is it the sound of the blades whooshing through the air? Does the sound disorient the bats’ nervous systems? Are bugs attracted to the lights that are often found on turbines? Are the bats after the bugs that have splattered on the turbine blades?
Lee says that his microphone tower had no lights on it. Hence, no bugs were attracted to it. Would there be bats chirping their little snouts off if there were lights on it during the testing? Maybe. Again, no one knows.
Lee said that – to his recollection – there hasn’t been any conclusive evidence to show whether the lights have an effect on bat presence or not.
Some wind farms, though, have killed thousands of bats. Others have no effect.
In many ways, it’s anyone’s guess. Endless Energy, for its part, is at least trying to scientifically prove whether the towers would have an effect or not.
However, we’d like to see Endless Energy conduct a similar bat presence study with lights present on the test tower. Additionally, the test should be conducted throughout the four seasons, when bugs are both present and absent in the vicinity of the towers.
We believe there has been enough human intrusion into the animal and plant world already. We are also in favor of green energy. In light of these two lines of thinking, and rather than do battle with pro-environment organizations, let us say that we want wind power, but we want to see it implemented with the least impact possible.
If it does come down to making a choice, bats or humans, obviously we are going to choose humans. But in choosing humans, we also are counting on human ingenuity to preserve and protect our fellow tenants on the earth. True enough, it’s a fine line, a razor’s edge. But if we don’t walk this particular path, then we all will end up walking on a paved sidewalk in a concrete jungle, instead of in a world where – in some places – things grow green.