WESTON – Judy Cleaves has a refreshingly candid and informal air about her and likes how the wind industry has helped her lodging business, two reasons the 66-year-old retired schoolteacher is part of a national pro-wind publicity campaign, its organizers said Wednesday.
The former owner of the First Settler’s Lodge on Route 1 is the unpaid star of a 1½-minute video at the website for the American Wind Energy Association, powerofwind.com. In it she extols the Stetson Mountain industrial wind site’s positive impact on her business.
Cleaves, who hasn’t yet seen the video and doesn’t plan to, said she was glad to participate. Though the boost provided by the construction workers was temporary, it did help her to sell her business and retire in December, she said.
“One of my big things is I am so tired of us spending money on foreign oil. I know wind is not the end-all or be-all, but it is part of the solution,” Cleaves said Wednesday. “I know it’s expensive, but so is oil and so is sending our troops where they are. We are in a couple wars that we might not be in if we were not dependent on oil.”
The AWEA campaign so far features a Utah tire store owner whose shop is powered by wind energy, a former government worker from Iowa taking classes in the Wind Energy and Turbine Technology Program at Iowa Lakes Community College and an Iowa farmer who leases part of his land to an industrial wind-energy site.
The campaign has included Capitol Hill subway ads in Washington, D.C., and online banner ads on leading political and energy websites, Facebook and Google. It’s important for the wind industry to get a pro-wind message to the public to combat anti-wind propaganda, disinformation floated by misguided citizens and advocates for traditional energy sources, said Peter Kelley, a vice president of public affairs at American Wind Energy Association.
“We are looking for people who have some tie to a wind farm itself because of serving its workers or being in proximity to it,” Kelley said of Cleaves’ selection, “and not just anybody. About 89 percent of the people in this country say they support wind energy, but most of those 89 percent don’t live near a wind farm. We actually wanted to go find people who did.”
Brad Blake, a spokesman for the Citizens Task Force on Wind Power, a group of 14 anti-wind organizations formed by Maine residents, hasn’t seen Cleaves’ ad, but dismisses AWEA as the wind industry’s propaganda mouthpiece. He prefers, he said, an anti-wind energy website, windaction.org, and his own group’s site, windtaskforce.org.
“Everybody who makes money from this [wind energy] will support it, but the money comes from taxpayer subsidies,” Blake said Wednesday. “Particularly what is heinous about this is that they [wind-energy developers] will get back 30 percent of their construction costs [in tax credits] as soon as they finish for a type of energy that is virtually useless to us.”
Loaded with reams of data, the competing websites show how controversial wind-energy has become and how Maine is one of its battlefields. Maine has 266 megawatts of installed wind power and ranks 23rd in the nation, said Kelley, whose national trade association represents 2,500 wind power project developers, equipment suppliers and others in the wind industry. Texas, with 10,085 megawatts, is America’s top wind-energy producer.
Cleaves, who said she is open-minded on alternative energy questions, wants to see less argument and more solutions.
“We all have a right to our opinion. People have a right to say they don’t like something, but I would like to see them come up with alternatives. Let me have some options,” she said. “Every source of energy has its issues, but they all have their piece of the puzzle.”
Kelley said his organization’s campaign is important, especially as pollution-free wind energy continues to work its way into the nation’s energy grid, while Blake said his group, too, is making inroads.
A state legislative committee will begin considering 13 wind-energy bills, 11 of which Blake’s group supports, when it meets in Augusta on Monday and Tuesday, April 25-26. Though his group has yet to win any of its courtroom battles, the number of bills is a sign, Blake said, of the anti-wind movement’s growing impact.
Three years ago, when wind energy was virtually unknown in Maine, the state’s expedited wind law, which fast-tracks industrial-scale wind projects, passed with virtually no debate, he said.
“We are working very diligently to bring this issue to the attention of the public,” Blake said. “We hate to think that it will take hundreds of wind turbines going up in areas around the state, after it’s too late to stop them, for the public to wake up and realize that we are ruining the quality of place in the state of Maine.”
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