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Wind energy is far from free

To be enamored of the idea of wind power, as I am, places me in a historically long line of civilizations, communities and individuals, especially currently.

I’m naturally attracted to the notion of free, perpetual energy. As a boy, I drew farm windmills and my father talked of inventing a perpetual-motion machine. I realize the energy of spinning blades/machines can produce electricity and I find the moving sculptural forms themselves attractive.

Is industrial wind our conscience-saving silver bullet? Can it help cure our insatiable appetite for energy and reduce CO2 simultaneously?

To the contrary, I submit that the collective “worldwide we,” including governments at all levels, environmental organizations, prestigious institutions and places of scholarship “have been had.” I was also leaning for a while!

As the billboard in Pittsfield now says, I can also say with the utmost confidence, “Industrial wind power is a sWINDle; not clean, not green, not cheap.” What has come to deeply frustrate and even haunt me is the fact that industrial-scale wind is so very far from being free!

Industrial wind is promulgated by so many understated, misstated, and denied disastrous impacts. Daily it appears to be proving to exaggerate, not aid, the CO2 problem. The turbines necessarily claim our most precious elevated and visible landscapes. On our ridge lines, I do not appreciate them, especially when they are out of context and out of scale, as they would be here on western MA ridges. Being the tallest structures between Boston and Albany on our highest ridges is for me simply out of context and out of scale.

It has often been true for me that I might agree energetically with a particular lofty goal, living more sustainably and less consumptively, for example, but I end up in disagreement with details of the proposed means of achieving that particular goal. this is true again with industrial-scale wind power.

As an obvious analogy, these out-sized turbines necessarily – because of position, visibility and size – become representative symbols for our current society. They are not, however, the modest-sized and broadly representative religious or commemorative symbols we most often think of on mountaintops. Rather, they are modern day Iwo Jima profiles that represent a warlike conquering and control fo our most fragile and unique landscapes.

Should we begin to count the ways industrial wind is not free?

1.) 200 times the subsidies (our dollars) of any other energy source.

2.) Disruption to long-protected and most-cherished landscapes.

3.) Necessity for nearly 100 percent redundant polluting backup energy.

4.) Disruption of the earth worldwide to secure materials to construct.

5.) Doesn’t include the CO2 debt that it takes to make, deliver and maintain.

6.) Animal, bird and bat impacts.

7.) Serious health/noise impacts.

8.) Diminishing by scale contrast the grandeur of our landscapes.

9.) Diminishing our sense of ourselves.

10.) Reduced private land and property value, thus community taxing.

11.) Dividing community members.

12.) Doesn’t account for the sequestered CO2 released from forests.

13.) Flicker and wind throw for large areas.

14.) Safety distraction impacts on roads and intersections.

15.) Segmentation of natural habitat.

16.) If WESRA (Wind Energy Siting Reform Act) legislation is passed, it places 200 years of democratic self-regulation into question, stealing our moral authority.

17.) More rapidly accelerating electric bills across the state.

18.) Your addition?

Industrial wind is far from being free!

Walt Cudnohufsky is an Ashfield landscape architect and land/community planner.