Opponents of industrial wind on Vermont ridgelines have been erroneously categorized by some currently elected officials as “naysayers” who are not properly concerned about global warming issues. Although examples abound in Vermont, other states and Europe of the limited positive and overwhelming negative effects of ill-placed industrial wind projects, private wind developers and their political partners try to affect popular opinion with exaggerated, belittling comments that further cloud the facts for voters in search of the truth on this crucial contemporary issue.
Let it be clear – the opposition is not toward the appropriate development of industrial wind (or other sensible renewable energy initiatives). Rather, they are opposed to the unreasonable expansion of massive wind turbine projects on pristine Vermont ridgelines that leave a huge carbon footprint with very limited benefits. Many industrial wind opponents are well-informed environmentalists of some sort. Many have solar panels or small windmills on their properties and/or live completely off-grid, powered exclusively by renewable energy. Some are fairly radical environmentalists who have been involved with other environmental causes. Other opponents are more conservative and conventional in their lifestyles, but prudent, unselfish Vermonters who try to conserve in practical, common-sense ways. These citizens feel a sense of stewardship of the land and neighborhoods to protect them for future generations from industrial wind and other unjustifiable projects.
Is the private business and political pressure to join the industrial wind bandwagon so much that we are willing to minimize the immediate and long-term consequences to communities and ridgelines in our state? By comparison, various data indicate that solar power is much more practical and efficient than wind power, and within this decade will eclipse industrial wind in cost and output efficiencies with minimal effects on the existing environment.
Citizens should review the existing literature to gain a more precise understanding of the facts on industrial wind and other renewable energy issues. For example, Lyndon State College physicist Dr. Ben Luce’s thorough research concludes that solar orchards on a total collection area of 1 percent (approx. 11,000) of Vermont’s 1.2 million acres of farmland (20 percent of the state) could produce the equivalent of Vermont’s entire energy consumption needs. By comparison, 50 entire mountain systems would have to be dramatically altered to achieve the equivalent with industrial wind (http://www.slideshare.net/lukassnelling/why-wind-energy-is-wrong-for-vermont).
The current plans for industrial wind proliferation in Vermont elicit several important considerations. What if:
• The energy opposition groups have expended in their efforts had been used to build local sustainable solutions?
• Instead of working to convince our local select boards to say “no” to industrial wind, we could be working as a community with our local boards to discuss and plan for real meaningful solutions?
• All of the money that our federal government is using to subsidize industrial wind was instead allocated to grants to allow homeowners to install solar hot water heaters on their homes?
• Instead of making obscene profits artificially on a subsidized industrial wind program, corporations would form to actually make affordable, small-scale and locally produced renewable energy systems?
So much energy and intellect has been consumed on an issue that is really a distraction from more meaningful solutions. Industrial wind projects (proposed and in progress) in this region will not make a significant difference in carbon emissions. Small-scale solar hot water heaters in thousands of homes that would otherwise use fossil fuels to heat hot water in the warmer months would make a difference. Moreover, this technology would do so without developing new land, harming historic areas, or creating the controversy and community divisiveness that are all consequences of industrial wind projects on our wondrous ridgelines and to the “unspoiled, beautiful mountains” brand of Vermont.