Last evening, my husband and I sat out under the stars at our home in rural Chenango County. We had enjoyed a glorious late-spring Sunday, riding the Goldwing through the countryside to church, then later to a picnic with friends. Warm, dry days are few and far between these days and cannot be wasted.
As the sun set, we pulled the little garden wagon behind the barn and began loading wood, first the old larger pieces and then kindling saved from fallen dead branches. Crack-crack-crack. Bill snapped branches over his knee, shortening them to fit in the fire pit. I could hear water rushing over the two waterfalls on Guilford Creek, only a hundred feet from the barn, as we made our way with the wagon down to the back deck.
“Are you going to bring the music?” Bill asked. He began to crumple paper and carefully arrange the kindling. As he lit the fire, I tuned the iPad to NRPS and we settled back in our chairs in the twilight.
So beautiful! I rested my head on the back of the chair to stare at the dark skies. Clouds had parted, revealing the North Star. Behind the Norway spruce, the moon was rising.
Buzzing caught my attention. I heard the hummingbird before I saw it approach the feeder overhead. It was the first I’d seen one, though the sugar-water level lessened each day.
“A bat!” Bill was delighted to see the little brown bat after mosquitos. “Is it too early for fireflies?” I wondered. I associate them with the Fourth of July.
We looked over the meadow that borders Guilford Lake to see fireflies dancing above the grass in the darkness. More clouds parted, revealing the Big Dipper.
But looking across that meadow, I imagined the ruin coming to Guilford … The town board is writing an extremely lenient wind law in favor of the wind energy company that states an industrial wind turbine can be placed 1,300 feet from a residence!
The horror of that realization set in! Thirteen-hundred feet from the base of the turbine to my home! Blades in excess of 180 feet spinning 180 miles per hour at the tips at a height of 675 feet overhead – blades that would be too close my home.
Massive blades creating never-ceasing thumping and swooshing! I might have to say good-bye to the little brown bats we love. Studies show that the moving blades cause a drop in pressure that makes the delicate lungs of bats suddenly expand, bursting the tissue’s blood vessels!
What happens to humans, farm animals, and wildlife when exposed to long-term infrasound? Small birds would be vaporized by the blades and the birds of prey that love to perch in the high places by the lake, could be struck and killed. We might have to say good-bye to the three American bald eagles we’ve seen in the meadow by the lake as well.
Where turbines are to be built, 40-foot-deep by 60-foot-wide pits will be blasted with dynamite – within 1,300 feet of even non-participating residents’ homes. Will the blasts crack plaster in homes, shift foundations? How far does bedrock fly when dynamited? Would blasting damage the aquifer and impact private wells?
How many hundreds of tons of concrete would be poured? How many winding, tree-lined country roads transformed city-style and straightened to accommodate 180-foot-long blades, the bus-sized nacelles (the center part of the turbine that contain the gearbox and generator), and the massive cranes that assemble them? Good-bye to country roads and forests.
Each wind turbine is an industrial factory, creating infrasound and vibrations, wind turbulence, and possible change in weather patterns. But it must also be topped with flashing lights day and night to increase its visibility.
The Guilford Town Board wants to allow 30 industrial wind turbines to be built. This project will require collection and transfer stations, battery storage facility, maintenance facility and miles of interconnection wires (under and above ground). That’s 5,000 acres of mountain-top beauty gone.
And ice throw! Ice build-up on the massive blades can send huge ice projectiles flying at high speeds for a quarter of a mile. That is 20 feet farther than the 1,300 foot set-back from residences!
Yes, I thought of these things as we watched the logs burn and embers fly. Bill shut off the music and we listened to the quiet. The waterfalls rushed and bubbled. Coyotes sang to each other. Bats and fireflies flitted in the air. The clip-clop of an Amish buggy returning home late in the evening brought delight.
This half-wild landscape with wild creatures we cherish, the forests, farms, and winding, tree-lined country roads are the reason we chose to retire in Guilford. I do not want to lose this!
So much is at stake and I’m not sure all my neighbors realize what might happen. Even neighbors with leases or good-neighbor agreements will have no say after the Big Build begins. They may be unhappy with how their land is used, or even have health issues. But they will have to remain silent.
We don’t need 675-foot high industrial wind turbines within 1,300 feet of residences in Guilford. These are not the cute Dutch windmills people imagine.
Guilford residents will not have a vote in whether this happens. We will not have free electricity. We will not get a tax break.
If the turbines catch on fire, the fire department will just have to stand by. They are too high – 65 feet taller than the Corning Tower, the tallest building in New York State outside of New York City – and too close! …
Out-of-state energy companies are in negotiation with many communities in upstate New York, offering financial gain to some landowners that will bring heartbreak to others. Please don’t think it won’t happen in your backyard. Be informed and remember that New York is a home-rule state. You have a right to speak up!
Will it be good-bye to my dark night skies, full of constellations and wonder? I’m praying it’s not.
By Debra Walker Pratt
Guilford, New York
Editor’s note: By Debra Walker Pratt is a former Altamont resident.