In a poem by Robert Frost, the following words were made famous: “Good Fences Make Good Neighbors.”
But as one wind developer honestly admitted, “Wind turbines do not make good neighbors.” Indeed, as Eleanor Tillinghast of Green Berkshires Inc. noted in her research, “As has been demonstrated in other parts of the United States and abroad, wind power plans can have significant negative impacts on visual aesthetics, tourism, property values, public roads, public safety, and quality of life for people living both close and at a distance from the developments.”
Furthermore, the financial benefits that might be hoped for by employment opportunities from such commercial ventures are negligible. For the most part, the work force for such projects, instead of local people, typically consists of temporary hires possessing specialized skills that come from other regions, states, or even out of the country.
In a talk given in Stratton to the Friends of the Boundary Mountains during July, Dain Trafton summarized his concerns about the $270 million project that TransCanada Energy has proposed for wind development on Kibby Mountain north of the village of Eustis. Noting that somewhere between 150 and 250 temporary jobs may be created during the construction phase, if approved by LURC, only “10 or more” permanent jobs are projected. Of this number, there is no assurance that these jobs will go to current residents of Stratton or Eustis. Moreover, even though the town of Eustis may receive some sort of community tax benefit package for a few years, actual reductions in property owners’ tax bills are likely to be small if any.
Instead, a foreign based corporation, TransCanada, will be the primary beneficiary by making millions of dollars in profits and tax credits for generating energy that may cost more in the long run. In return, I’ve been told that the top of one of the most beautiful mountain ranges in Maine if not in all of New England will be shaved to make way for 44 wind turbines each hundreds of feet tall. These turbines are to be strung along some 13 miles of peaks and ridges with 26 miles of roads. The project will require more than 20 miles of transmission lines, with lights on top the whirling turbines, polluting the night sky with a hazy orange glow for miles around.
Allowing the western mountaintops of Maine to become industrialized havens of wind power to achieve what are likely to be relatively small energy gains, given ever increasing energy demands, is simply a bad economic bargain. The fact that such a plan is being considered is indicative of the kind of greed and arrogant attitudes toward the rest of nature that is causing many of our current problems. Rather than focusing on policies, laws, and new patterns of behavior that promote conservation, the human appetite for energy seems to grow exponentially. Meanwhile, other species of animals and plants are dying at an alarming rate as we continue to destroy their natural habitats.
Hopefully, LURC will continue to enforce the kind of policies designed to protect landscapes and endangered life forms at the higher elevations of our mountains. Changing its regulations to allow for wind farm development in such precious and sensitive areas runs counter to this goal.
By David Maxwell
6 September 2007
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