On March 10, the Department of Environmental Protection will conduct a public meeting on the proposed 12-turbine industrial wind project for Saddleback Ridge in Carthage.
The project, proposed by Massachusetts-based developer Patriot Renewables, involves the construction of the 12 turbines along Saddleback Ridge and will be approximately 5 miles from the popular Mt. Blue State Park.
Five miles is not a long distance visually, especially when the bright white, gyrating structures, complete with flashing red strobe lights, are nearly 425 feet tall.
The compromised views from the Webb Lake beach area and atop the popular Mount Blue, Little Jackson, Tumbledown and Bald mountains will earn Maine the enmity of the thousands of park visitors and recreational and expert mountaineers who regularly visit the four-season hiking trails.
The sacrifice of this treasured place hardly seems a fair and equitable trade-off for the construction of a $60,000 “playground” at Mt. Blue State Park, as promised by the developers.
This inequity becomes particularly apparent when one quantifies how very little the wind turbines will do for Maine; these proposed 12 turbines would add only about 10 actual megawatts of power to the 33,000-megawatt grid.
Advocates for the proliferation of industrial wind turbines across Maine’s mountain ridges cite many reasons for their championing of this dubious energy source. They justify the thousands of acres of clear-cutting, the hundreds of miles of heavy-duty roadbeds and the millions of tons of blasted mountaintops with misguided claims about the benefits of wind-generated electricity.
They claim that wind-generated electricity will “get us off of oil.” It will not. Less than 2 percent of the electricity in Maine and in the U.S. comes from oil-fired generators.
They claim wind will create hundreds of “green jobs.”
Wind developments create very few permanent jobs. Wind projects produce mostly temporary construction jobs lasting less than six months. Construction jobs are always welcome, but publicly funded construction jobs should produce necessary and useful projects, like roads, bridges and critical infrastructure.
In fact, state mandates to purchase higher-priced wind-generated electricity will lead to fewer jobs in Maine as businesses and residents leave the state for areas with lower-cost electricity.
They claim we need the electricity. The reality is that there is no shortage of electricity. Maine currently has 4,300 megawatts of electricity generation capacity, though residents use around 1,500 megawatts on average.
The experts forecast less than 1 percent annual growth in grid demand for the next decade. No urgent need exists to sacrifice Maine’s unique resources to produce a small amount of surplus electricity.
The industrial wind lobby makes claims about the potential for low-cost electricity from wind. Wind-generated electricity will not guarantee lower electricity rates. Wind industry officials themselves often state that they cannot compete with low-cost conventional electricity, which is forecast to remain inexpensive and stable for years to come.
It is disturbing that a handful of prominent environmental groups that have historically defended these wilderness areas and high mountain peaks, notably the Natural Resources Council of Maine and Maine Audubon, are complicit in this irresponsible destruction of Maine’s landscape by making deals with wind developers seeking approval for their projects.
Their support for wind power uses the rationale that wind will reduce oil use, carbon dioxide emissions, and electricity costs. However, the evidence does not confirm any of the above.
Try for a moment to imagine the cumulative impact on Maine’s landscape of thousands of 450-foot-tall, bright-white turbines, each with a bright-red flashing strobe light blinking on every clear, dark night.
Imagine the cumulative impact on the views that so many people moved here to be near, that so many come to enjoy, that countless generations of native Mainers have studiously protected.
Then remember a time when Maine could boast about our quality of place.
Rand Stowell lives in Weld and is president of Friends of Maine’s Mountains.
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