September 9, 2015

Bitter wind: a town divided over a controversial Maine wind farm – E360 video contest winner

08 September 2015

The proposal seemed straightforward: Erect 16 wind turbines on hilltops in rural Maine and generate enough electricity to power 25,000 homes and enough tax revenue to help a struggling local government in a depressed region. But the 450-foot turbines of the Bowers Wind farm would be seen from miles away in the picturesque Grand Lake Stream area, and objections to their presence set up a conflict that pitted neighbor against neighbor.

In this nine-minute video, winner of the 2015 Yale Environment 360 Video Contest, videographer Roger Smith presents the viewpoints of the local proponents and opponents of the $100 million project. Those in favor see a revenue-generating, job-producing, green-energy boon for the region, with minimal environmental impact. Those opposed – including owners of the fishing, hunting, and tourist camps – see an eyesore that would mar Grand Lake Stream’s scenic vistas and drive away visitors.

Soon enough, class divisions emerge, with some locals who support the project saying that the camp operators and owners of vacation homes were edging out longtime residents. “We’re in a different class from them – they got money and a big camp on the lake,” says Travis Worster. “We’re just the people that used to live here.”

In 2014, while at the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies in Portland, Maine, Roger Smith investigated the reality of New England’s clean energy transition and what is at stake for local communities. This brought him to rural Maine in the dead of winter to film “Battle Over Bowers Wind.” He also worked on climate and clean energy legislation as the co-director of Clean Water Action’s Connecticut office. Smith recently relocated to Japan and is documenting towns’ efforts to incorporate clean energy into their post-Fukushima recoveries.

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