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Wind towers could end up to be Shumlin’s shame

It has been with serious concern that I have followed the ongoing discussion about the wind turbines that are sprouting up like mushrooms in our area. Anyone who knows me well knows that conservation and preservation have been a way of life for me for many years. I have a deep and abiding love for this state which has been my home all of my life. I feel a deep sense of obligation to be a good steward of the land so that coming generations can enjoy the beauty that I have seen. I have followed the debate and read all of the materials that have come my way and have come to some troubling realizations:

1.) The phrases “the duration of their production” and “the production life” have caught my attention on several occasions and it appears to me that these enormous structures are only productive for 12 to 20 years. Then what? It seems that after blowing off the tops of our mountains and forever altering habitat for man and beast that we will be stuck with these rusting dinosaurs forever.

2.) The very size of these structures is quite overwhelming and seems quite out of character with the areas in which they are being placed and are not in keeping with their surroundings so close to the residential areas of our towns and villages. Congratulations to Burke Mountain for being sensitive to peoples’ concerns and erecting a turbine more in keeping with the area.

3.) One has to wonder what kind of gale force wind is going to be needed to turn the blades even once. While there are industrial wind farms in the Midwest, the land on the prairies is vast and open and much more suitable for wind energy production. Our abundant forests do not lend themselves to uninterrupted air flow. Sweden has wind turbines in the ocean, where they are able to capture wind unimpeded and maximize energy production.

4.) We need to thoughtfully and honestly look at all forms of energy production in order to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and make ourselves less vulnerable and dependent on other countries. There are going to be shortcomings on all of them but some are more efficient and productive than others. Very little has been said about hydro power. Every village and small town in our colonial state had its own hydro source for grinding grain and later for generating power. Some towns and individuals, even in our own area, have successfully revived this as an energy source for their homes and villages. Winooski built a hydro generating plant on the river there and successfully included a fish ladder to help the fish move up the river for spawning. Even though nuclear energy is a difficult topic we need to evaluate it for what it is – the cheapest form of domestic energy production that we have. France produces over 80 percent of their energy from nuclear generation. Maybe we have missed something that would make it safer and more comfortable for all of us. Japan’s difficulty a year ago was caused by the tsunami which interrupted the plant’s ability to cool the reactor. Can we learn how to make it safer and reliable?

5.) Power generation needs to be close to the area where it will be used. If Chittenden County needs more power then it should be produced in that area. How about a wind turbine in Lake Champlain? If Jay Peak needs more power then it should be produced nearer to the mountain so that we don’t have to pay for transmission line upgrades that run the length and width of the state. How about a wind turbine on Jay Peak for a tourist attraction? The wind is always blowing on the mountain.

6.) The tremendous push to “beat the clock,” the amount of money thrown at our towns and villages to appease concerns and quiet discontent, have made me uneasy from the start. I guess these large companies and the Governor feel that if they give us enough money we will go along with anything.

There is something about these projects that just doesn’t feel right. It would seem to me that any project that turns neighbors against each other, makes people sick from noise, flickering or just plain worry can’t be Vermonters’ way of doing things. We need to think long and hard about what is happening and the serious and lasting implications involved before we proceed any further. The Governor wants to have wind turbines throughout the entire state so he can be known as the “Green Governor.” This may end up being “Shumlin’s shame” instead. We can’t put the mountains back in 20 years. They will be destroyed forever. Vermonters have always been able to work together and solve problems and respect each other in the process, but this doesn’t seem to be happening. There has been a breakdown of communication and there will be no winners and a lot of hard feelings in the end if it continues this way. The “I want it and so I’m going to do it no matter what you think or feel” approach just doesn’t work for us. We are better than that and we need to find that better way as friends and neighbors – please. The future of our beautiful state depends on it.

Maureen Fountain