I have visited with groups all over Vermont, from Lowell to Greensboro to Sheffield and, two weeks ago, to over 100 people in West Rutland, all concerned about industrial wind. These concerns range from aesthetic to environmental to health, to reliability and to the financial aspects.
I am very concerned about blowing the tops off our precious ridgelines and of creating interstate-size roadways up the sides of our mountains. I am concerned about projects that reward renewable energy entrepreneurs with tax subsidies and tax credits today, but saddle our children and our grandchildren with higher rates for years to come. I am concerned about a Public Service Board where many Vermonters do not feel that their voices count. Moreover, I am concerned that in return for higher costs, ratepayers get unreliable, non-baseload power that has virtually no measurable impact on reducing Vermont’s carbon emissions.
That’s why I co-sponsored an amendment in the Senate that would have placed a two year moratorium on further expansion of industrial wind, and would have required a much more detailed look at the issue.
It is abundantly clear that we simply do not need the additional generation capacity. Some argue that global climate change demands that we act, and that failure to do so continues our dependence on foreign oil. But that simply is not true. We have long-term abundant energy sources and America may be on the cusp of energy independence. With one of the cleanest energy portfolios in the country, Vermont uses virtually no oil (or coal for that matter) to meet our electric generation needs, even at peak demand.
Industrial wind has environmental impact. As one activist has pointed out “wind energy is renewable; Vermont ridgelines are not.” We must determine if the benefits of industrial wind offset the potential damage from permanent roadways up the side of our mountains, the tops of ridgelines blasted away, birds and bats killed, animal migration disrupted and storm water runoff increased. We also need to assess the claims of adverse health effects from wind turbines, and we need to assure people that their concerns have been investigated and resolved.
We need a thorough cost-benefit analysis to determine if the above-market cost for industrial wind makes sense given the limited return on investment to the ratepayer and the tiny reduction in carbon emissions that results.
Before proceeding with more industrial wind projects, we need to answer three fundamental questions: (1) What is the effect of large-scale industrial wind on our natural environment and on the people who live nearby? (2) Have we considered the cost-benefit of wind, given the generous tax preferences, to determine if we are benefiting a small group of alternative energy providers at the expense of ratepayers for years? and (3) Have we adequately modeled the true effect of job creation, balancing projections of green job growth against job loss caused by higher energy costs?
Until we have answered these questions, further excursions into ridgeline wind towers should be halted.
Randy Brock served as Vermont’s 28th state auditor. He is in his second term in the Vermont state Senate.
Prior to entering public service, Randy was executive vice president for risk oversight for Fidelity Investments, one of the world’s largest providers of financial services. He previously served as CEO of one of America’s top 25 security service companies, which he founded.
Randy served for eight years on the national board of directors of the Alzheimer’s Association. He chairs the Hodges University Foundation and is a trustee of the Vermont Historical Society and the Vermont Law School. He was appointed by President George W. Bush to the board of visitors to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and was the board’s 2010 and 2011 vice-chairman.
A Vietnam veteran, Randy left the Army as a captain in the Military Police Corps. He holds the Bronze Star Medal for meritorious service. A resident of Swanton, Randy and his wife, Andrea, have one daughter. He has been a Vermont resident for more than 40 years.
He has a bachelor’s degree from Middlebury College and a master’s degree from Yale University.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding