I own a sporting camp in the western mountains of Maine. My wife and I have run this business by ourselves since the early eighties. We raised three girls here in the shadow of the Bigelow Range. We are part of the Unorganized Territories of Maine. Zoning here is under the jurisdiction of the Land Use Regulation Commission and since part of LURC’s mandate has always been to preserve the wild character of the land, as celebrated in your September article “In the Footsteps of Thoreau,” we have taken our little paradise for granted. Now that industrial windpower has come, all that is changed.
The simple way that most of us think about wind generation is, when turbines produce a volume of electricity, the fossil fuel needed to produce the same amount of electricity is saved. During a presentation to the people in Highland, the developers said that no fossil fuel plants would be shut down because of this project. Because of the erratic nature of wind, back-up sources are always running in reserve to avoid blackouts when the wind stops. When you add to that the carbon footprint of permanent deforestation for roads, power lines, and the blasting of mountain tops for turbines, the equation becomes much more complicated. There are studies that say carbon emissions are increased by the addition of industrial wind. The proponents of “big wind” say these are exaggerated. From what I have read, there is a direct relationship between the efficiency rating of a wind turbine and the amount of fossil fuel saved. Angus King and Rob Gardiner have suggested they might achieve between 25 and 30 percent efficiency in Highland. Yet the University of Maine at Presque Isle only achieved 11 percent with their turbine.
If you put enough turbines to produce 2,700 megawatts in a single-file line across the mountains of Maine, it would be a line 300 miles long with a view shed of about 12,000 square miles. (I am being conservative.) The question is, do we want to sacrifice this wild land for industrial wind projects when there is a good possibility that they won’t change the equation and might even increase our carbon footprint? It is time for all the wind developers in Maine who have projects online to publish the statistics so that we can see whether or not we are accomplishing anything. Until we have the real numbers there should be a moratorium on all mountain-top wind development.
This is the only real wild land left for all the eastern United States and there are millions of people within driving range of this wonderful resource. Wise management of this land for outdoor recreation could be the key to the economic future of these Unorganized Territories. Before we sacrifice this one last little place, we had better take a few moments and consider the consequences.
Claybrook Mountain Lodge
Highland Plantation, Maine
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