In a Feb 28 BDN OpEd, Paul Williamson extolled “Maine’s obligation to wind power.” He got one thing right: “Wind energy is highly visible.” And that is precisely why inland wind power is not a good investment for Maine.
Maine has an equal obligation to its scenic resources. According to a Maine State Planning Office report from 2006, Maine’s largest industry is tourism, generating 140,000 jobs and over $10 billion in sales of goods and services. Sightseeing is the largest attraction for visitors, far exceeding the national average. Tourists come for our wilderness-like areas, large fishing lakes and scenic byways, including the Appalachian Trail.
In 2006 the state commissioned the Brookings Institution to create an action plan for promoting Maine’s sustainable prosperity and quality places. In “Charting Maine’s Future,” the authors noted: “As the search for quality places grows in importance, Maine possesses a globally known ‘brand’ built on images of livable communities, stunning scenery, and great recreational opportunities.”
Just two years later, driven by special-interest politics, the 2008 Wind Energy Act created expedited permitting of grid-scale wind projects. Wind turbines, more than 500-feet tall, began affecting viewsheds and scenic resources and creating irreparable environmental changes as rural landscapes were cleared for turbine platforms, access roads and transmission line upgrades to reach distant population centers.
Which vision produces real economic benefit for Maine: acres of wind turbines producing renewable energy credits for urban centers in southern New England or Maine’s special “brand” of scenic resources? The choice seems pretty clear to me.
Donald E. Moore
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