May 11, 2012
Maine, Opinions

Vanishing Vacationland

By Jim Lutz, Special to the BDN, Bangor Daily News, 10 May 2012

I have been vacationing and now living in Maine since 1949. The lure of The North Woods was ingrained in me from my earliest memories. Our family came every summer from wherever we lived at the time. Alabama, Ohio, New York, Maryland, New Jersey … none of them had the draw we had to this beautiful, wild wilderness. We brought a number of families with us over the years to experience Maine, and every one of them ended up coming back again and again and some eventually retired here.

Our destination was a small lake in the Lincoln area where the last 15 miles of the road was dirt in 1949. The camp we rented was primitive … no electricity, an outhouse, no TV and a crackly transistor radio, kerosene lamps, an old-fashioned ice box (with real ice), a wood cook stove – all the amenities.

Today it is still that way, but we bought it back in 1972, and we like it that way. We grew up lying on our backs on the dock at night looking up at the trillions of stars and galaxies in the pitch dark. So did my kids, and now the grandchildren and great grandchildren.

As kids we learned about nature and the universe, Grandma read us books about the wilderness at night. We learned an independent spirit because we could go just about anywhere on the lake and still be in view of the camp. It was great for our young psyches to have the controlled freedom to explore, fish, swim, camp out on a secure island, canoe, motor boat, hike, gather berries and do all the things The Maine Woods offers.

Sad to say, I showed up at the camp in the spring of last year to find my view out the front porch of our camp, the view my recently passed Mother thought was “the best view in the whole world” (and she lived and traveled all over the world) was spoiled with 23 400-foot-tall wind generators spinning during the day, and flashing their red and white strobe lights all night. I was heartbroken. Our idyllic North Woods retreat was ruined, and for what?

The myth that wind power is a good form of “Renewable” energy is just that; A myth. The truth is, wind can not provide a reliable, dependable source of energy without enormous subsidies from the government and the power industry. The cost of production is double that of gas and coal fired generators, and three times more than hydro power. If the investors in wind power had to rely solely on the output from their generators, there would be no investment.

Regular power plants with enough energy production to provide 100 percent of the grid needs as a backup still have to be powered up 24/7. Operating these plants at reduced and intermittent power is very inefficient.

After 30 years of building wind generators, it still only amounts to less than 2 percent of our total energy production.

Europe has been at it for just as long, and in spite of the fact that they have far more generators than we do, it is still not profitable, and still is just at 2 percent of their power grid.

Much of the income for Vacationland comes from tourism, people who come

here to experience the same idyllic wilderness we did in 1949. I’m not too sure how many of them would come to see wind farms on the horizon of their “most beautiful view in the world.” Two recent pairs of bald eagles on our lake and thousands of bats are also endangered because they are attracted to the spinning blades.

It is time we make some hard decisions about who we are here in Maine.

While it is important that we find alternative ways to make power, maybe we should consider going back to the hydro power we used here for generations of Mainers. Some of the dams we still have could be upgraded to boost the output to the same amount the wind farms generate. They provide steady reliable power, unlike wind. We could really cut back the use of fossil fuels, because hydro doesn’t fluctuate. Is there anyone else out there that wants to keep the beauty of The Great North Woods?

Jim Lutz is a current resident of Bangor, whose parents retired here in the 1980s. Though he is not a lifelong resident, he considers himself a Mainer since he has been a vacationer since he was 18 months old.

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