September 7, 2010
Opinions, Vermont

Commercial wind power’s role in Vermont

Jeff Elliott, Environmental Biologist, Lancaster, NH, 8/23/10,

This industrial development will destroy some very unique habitats, communities, species, and races of an archipelago of sky islands.

The general public lacks an understanding of the ecology, conservation biology, and biology of these systems. This dearth of understanding and knowledge of these particular sky islands begs their protection especially from these projects until through scientific review is completed.

The proposed mountaintop development will challenge species; degrade ecological settings such as critical and/or fragile wildlife habitats and unique communities. An estimated forty mammalian and avian (non-plant, non-fungi, non-insect) species depend on these sky islands of Northern New England, with another one hundred frequenting them.

The states and federal governmental agents approval of these projects constitutes a “Taking” of endangered species to include but limited to; American Martin (Martes americana), Canada Lynx (Lynx canadensis) Bicknell’s Thrush (Catharus bicknelli), American Three-Toed Woodpecker (Picoides dorsalis), Spruce Grouse (Dendragapus canadensis), and Bay-Breasted Warbler (Dendroica castanea).

Beyond the individual species concerns these sky islands represent unique communities who’s structure has been developing for 11,000 years of isolation. Each mountaintop and ridgeline has its own unique features, a product of its geophysiology, its size, and its isolation.

We have recognized these unique habitats and gone to great lengths to protect them through legislation to defend them from development and deforestation. We have spent many millions in purchasing or developing public-private agreements to defend contiguous habitats. Many of these conservation projects have sky islands in their cores that are threatened by industrial wind projects.

Ironically, one of the threats of Global Warming and climatic shift is the very real challenge to these communities. What we are trying to protect we are destroying. We are concerned with what climatic shift will do to our culture and heritage. What will happen to our wonderful landscapes? And to mitigate this we are destroying them. Northern New England has an economy that demands our protecting the Northern Forest.

Several related issues:

– These industrial wind farms are uneconomical. Without huge government funded guarantees to Wall Street firms these marginal projects would not be considered. Many (if not most) of these sites have marginal wind power potential and can only be considered for industrial development because of the sweat deals being offered by the State and Federal governments. The risk is artificially low. Without every generating any electricity the fat-cats have made out. The few jobs related to maintaining these are not local jobs. As we have found in Northern New Hampshire, even the preparation construction is being contracted to an out-of-region (Michigan?) firm.

– The transmission from these remote sites is a huge challenge. Expansion of the transmission lines has fallen on the local consumers and not the industrial wind developers. The inconsistency and unreliability of wind demands increased back-up facilities that must not, and of course would not, run idle. This increased production capacity will further discourage conservation. If we build it, they will come. And if we increase electricity production, we will use it.

– Alternatives are not being considered. Alternative sites that are not ecologically or culturally unique should be fully developed, and there is plenty in the West and Mid-west. We’re so myopic about wind development, we are not looking at alternatives such as tidal and ocean currents. We could be purchasing hydrogen from Quebec Hydro, or better yet, hydrogen generated at geothermal plants. We’re not developing solar furnaces that can heat to 5000 degrees. We’re not using existing technologies and we’re not funding research into future alternatives.

– If this were about carbon emissions we would have a 55mph seed limit, a VAT on gas-guzzlers, a base price on gasoline of about $4.00/gal, and restrictions of air travel. We don’t even have timers on our televisions.

– When the Department of the Interior gave its approval for ‘the Cape Wind’ project of Cape Cod a lot of us snickered that the rich will have to do their part and look at wind turbines on their horizon. We should have alarm bells warning us that even the oligarchy of Camelot couldn’t beat this. The people, even the very rich people have lost control of our communities to these Wall Street developers and their trustafarian spokespersons.

– An arbitrary goal has been set to have every region become carbon neutral, or energy independent. Northern New England has been an energy source for a long time. We generate a lot of what is considered carbon neutral or Green energy in the form of (river trashing) hydroelectric. And there are many biomass plants that consume our forests. Contrasting the electrical generation of The North Country (especially northern New Hampshire and Maine) with our local energy consumption and one realizes that we already are carbon neutral. We reached this goal many years ago. Now The North Country is being asked to sacrifice our region’s natural history and further disrupt the tourism economic base. This region generates more ‘Green’ energy them we consume. We don’t have a coal-fired plant to replace. We all need to cleanup our act, but our region is not an energy sink. We’re already a Green energy source.

We are not being NIMBY. The urban regions to the south of us are being SEBY (Somebody Else’s Backyard).

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