Sunday, November 30, 2014

A Maine Gazetteer: Wind power

I have come to be quite skeptical of the way wind power is being sold. I’ve come to agree with much of what Jonathan Carter, executive director of the Forest Ecology Network, now believes about mountaintop wind power, after decades of touting it:
No fossil-fuel power plant has ever been closed because of wind power, and probably never will, given the unreliability and intermittent nature of wind.
Indeed, reserve plants may need to be built to provide back-up if dependence on wind grows.
Fossil-fuel plants need to be cycled down when wind capacity is high, thus increasing their already poor efficiency ratings and actually increasing CO2 emission.
Mountaintops must be cleared of trees, roads built, power lines installed, thus removing carbon-sequestering forests and increasing emissions.
Electricity produced by wind costs 2-3 times as much as conventional power.
There are also huge subsidies from tax dollars, the main reason wind farms are being built today.
Wind farms produce a few temporary jobs but almost no permanent ones.
Home values drop in the vicinity of a turbine.
Ill effects of noise, low-frequency sound waves, and “shadow flicker,” and the economic impact on tourism, have not been completely studied.
Finally, what about esthetic values, not just for tourism and the effect on pristine mountains, but for themselves?  Is it worth it?
       Maine is exactly where we should be having the debate. Take Monhegan, for example, where gritty artists George Bellows and Edward Hopper might have enjoyed huge metal beasts but perhaps not more ethereal Jamie Wyeth and Rockwell Kent, where thousands of people seek tranquility and escape from electricity. How would the artists and nature lovers coming to this natural heaven on earth deal with an artificial thing standing 400 feet tall, gently roaring? Would they take their easels and money belts elsewhere? Or would they, we, all accept that this is the price of progress? Maine trades on its beauty and undefiled landscapes as much as anywhere on earth; are we just going to roll over to the demands of the grid? What few people question is the need for all these machines in the first place.

Excerpted from Saving Maine: A Personal Gazetteer
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