Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Wind power

Yesterday marked the ribbon-cutting ceremony for Fox Islands Wind, the three-turbine project on Vinalhaven that is designed to make Vinalhaven and North Haven self-sufficient for electricity. Lots of dignitaries turned up, including the Governor, who seems so bursting with energy for these projects that he could power one himself, and Philip Conkling of the Island Institute, one of the project partners, who made the interesting comment that the wealth of the Maine coast was built by wind. Sailing ships were indeed necessary to the development of fishing and lumbering and liming, until, as Mr. Conkling said, fossil fuels took over.
I have no problem with hyperbole at these exciting moments. It was a great day for the islands and for the future of Maine, which is admirably determined to exploit the wind and the ocean for all the green they are worth. Now Camden is starting to think seriously about a project on Ragged Mountain.
I'd just like to point out that, according to the information sheet that comes with my Central Maine Power bill every month, wind power's share of power sources for electricity currently totals 0.0%. (Hydro is 40%, nuclear 20%, gas 24%, oil 5%, coal 9%, biomass and waste burning 2%.) There's an awfully long way to go and I'd hate to see conservation efforts, which are much more efficient at reducing consumption, be sidetracked.
Then there's the esthetic side. The people of Vinalhaven seemed charmed and happy with their turbines, and I suppose that turbines on Ragged Mountain, which already has the Snow Bowl's ski lifts and a radio tower, wouldn't be overly hard to take. But to overtake fossil fuels, just how many turbines will we need? Some folks in the western mountains are already complaining.
Of course I'd rather build wind turbines than burn fossil fuels. But the prospect of a mountain top like Ragged bursting even more with tall mechanical things and sitting right next door to Coastal Mountains Land Trust's heroic efforts on Ragged and Bald to preserve and conserve is rather jarring.

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