Essex County landowner Dan Ouimette closed his land last week, following an anti-wind vote in the United Towns and Gores that may halt any industrial wind development there. Ouimette owns thousands of acres, some of which he leased to the Seneca Mountain Wind project to host wind turbines. After property owners voted against the proposed development, Ouimette posted his land – effectively closing it to snowmobilers, hunters, hikers, etc.
A number of people are upset – including Ouimette. Wind opponents and snowmobilers accuse Ouimette, essentially, of taking his ball and going home. But Ouimette counters that the battle over wind has left his property vandalized and his peace of mind shattered.
For our part we lament the entire fight. On one hand we believe firmly in the rights of property owners and support Ouimette in his efforts first to develop, and later to close, his land. It disgusts us that people might resort to vandalism and don’t blame him for his decision, in light of his experience.
On the other hand wind development is the ultimate zoning issue. Just take a look at developments in Lowell and Sheffield. They consume the viewshed far beyond your typical development projects. It’s one of the few arenas that we believe should warrant a voice from surrounding communities.
The worst part about all of this is that communities are being torn apart by bad public policy, big government subsidies and a misguided pursuit of “green energy.”
Wind is a cash cow for developers – earning tax credits, naked subsidies, and guaranteed (fixed) consumption by ratepayers.
But wind projects distort energy markets and require such intensive energy to develop that nobody believes them to actually be “green.”
To those problems we would add a few more.
1) Vermont already has more electricity than it can use.
2) Most of the state’s carbon footprint derives from vehicles and heating our homes in winter. As such, expensive and inefficient wind projects yield no meaningful effect on aggregate carbon emissions.
3) Wind energy is notoriously intermittent and unreliable, requiring fossil-fuel powered backup plants when the wind doesn’t blow.
4) Because of well-known and understood transmission and infrastructure limitations, the New England grid operator has to limit the amount of power it can absorb from Vermont’s boutique projects. ISO New England is maxed out and has no plans to increase grid capacity to accommodate Shumlin’s oddball schemes.
5) The governor’s grand plan – calling for 90 percent renewable energy by 2050 – is not only unachievable, it will also bankrupt rate and taxpayers.
6) The science behind Shumlin’s “global warming” fanaticism is, at best, unresolved.
So despite all the lofty talk of saving the world from global warming, these renewable energy projects have always been about the money. Throw up a bunch of renewable energy projects, hustle the tax credits and subsidies, and charge ratepayers exorbitant fees for intermittent power. Communities and mountains be damned.
These projects were well-understood to be a bad fit for Vermont’s climate, make no sense economically and yield zero impact on net carbon footprint. Worse is that they are tearing far too many people apart and bringing out the worst in everyone.
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