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Wind Power: Are we losing the Vermont we know and love?

In small towns, there is a wonderful sense of community and trust. We depend on our neighbors. We come through for each other – just think about how neighbors responded during Tropical Storm Irene. No one stopped to think about the other’s politics or whether they were a second homeowner or a permanent resident. Everyone pitched in to get the job done.

But Vermont’s small towns are being threatened by a frenzy of development activity from huge energy generation projects in the name of the environment.

One of Vermont’s largest landowners, a company that owns the Stiles Brook Forest that spans the boundary between the historic towns of Grafton and Windham, has invited one of the world’s largest foreign energy companies to build an industrial wind project there. If developed, it would become Vermont’s largest industrial wind project with more than 700 homes within three miles of the skyscraper-sized turbines – by far closer to more homes than any other wind project in Vermont.

We’ve done our research. We’ve learned that wind energy does not reduce carbon emissions. Those claims are false. Wind energy projects destroy natural resources. Many environmentalists have raised concerns about destruction of otherwise undisturbed areas and the deaths of birds and bats.

Furthermore, wind energy is not cost effective; it has negative economic impacts on tourism and property sales. Surrounding towns are affected with no benefit to them. It provides few, if any, permanent jobs for Vermonters. It pits neighbor against neighbor, and the permitting process is undemocratic. The trail of Vermonters suffering from negative health effects, and even abandonment of their homes, is a disgrace to the system.

Vermont’s carbon footprint of electricity consumption is puny. The top three sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the state are transportation, heating, and agriculture.

So why are we destroying the very mountaintops and beauty that Vermont is known for all over the world?

Well, maybe it’s because there’s more big money for utilities, developers, and equipment manufacturers in large-scale electricity generation and transmission projects than there is in working on our heating or transportation footprints.

Corporate interests have lobbied hard to persuade Vermonters that electricity’s 5 percent is more important than the other 95 percent of our carbon footprint. Elected officials and the state’s biggest “environmental” groups have helped whip the public into accepting that destroying our mountains by building turbines on them will reverse climate change and prevent another Tropical Storm Irene.

That’s a misleading statement. We’re not fooled. When industrial wind is proclaimed renewable – yes, it does get power from the wind; however, it’s a fallacy to think the process is affordable or clean.

Think about all of the materials, including rare earth elements, plus manpower, machines, and transportation that it takes to harness wind. And, once wind turbines are up and running, they don’t run all of the time. The process is intermittent, and there is no way to store the power when a turbine is running but not needed. Wind power requires backup, and that backup is fossil fuels. Germany, a country that dove into renewables, has found it is using more, not fewer, fossil fuels due to the required commitment to renewables. Turbines only run at 25 to 40 percent efficiency compared to other energy sources that run at about 80 percent.

Why would we destroy the very essence of our villages and our ridgelines for energy that, in the long term, really doesn’t work?

We are asking Meadowsend Timberlands to be a good neighbor and think hard about what you are doing to protect your legacy. We know you are a respected company. We know you have conserved acres of forestland in New Hampshire and Vermont. Instead of destroying acres of the Stiles Brook Forest here in Grafton and Windham, think about us, your neighbors, and the lasting effect this project will have on our lives, our land, our towns, our mountains, our wildlife, our visitors, our children, our health, our well-being, and our future – and for what?

Anna Vesely Pilette and Carol Lind are the co-directors of Grafton Woodlands Group. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of the Brattleboro Reformer.