Saturday, December 03, 2005

Save Our Ridgelines!

Announcing the website of Vermonters with Vision, an affiliation of groups and individuals "dedicated to education and advocacy regarding the impact of industrial wind power on the economics, natural resources, and health of Vermont."

We oppose the construction of industrial wind power turbines on Vermont's ridgelines.
  1. The energy benefits are minimal.
  2. The addition of noise, light, and visual pollution is unacceptable.
  3. The negative impact to the land and to wildlife is significant.
  4. The harm to Vermont's rural character far outweighs vaguely promised pay-offs to affected towns and individuals.

1. Even the developers claim that the giant machines will produce only around 30% of their capacity over a year. The Searsburg machines are down to about 21%. Because of the cubic relation between wind speed and output, they produce above their average rate only a third of the time. The Searsburg facility produces nothing, not even a trickle, more than a third of the time. Even when generating power, the output is variable, so it cannot reliably replace other sources on the grid and only causes "spinning reserve" plants to switch between generation and standby, in which status they still burn fuel. Windy areas are sacrificed to development not to provide energy but to generate "green credits" for lucrative sale elsewhere. See "The Low Benefit of Industrial Wind" for more information.

2. They are 330-410 feet tall to the top of the blade area (which sweeps 1-1.5 acres), must be lit day and night, and when the wind is blowing spin and turn noisily. They are not discreet presences but call attention to themselves, particularly on a mountaintop. See "Wind Power Facts" for more information.

3. Besides acres of clearance and blasting of foundations for thousands of tons of rebar and concrete, they require new or upgraded roads and high-capacity transmission lines. Such construction will affect water flow and quality and cause erosion and flooding, as has been documented in Meyersdale, Pennsylvania. Besides reducing and fragmenting forest habitat, the vibration of the machines drives away wildlife, as noted on Backbone Mountain, West Virginia. The turning blades are deadly to bats and birds.

4. Financial benefits, i.e., pay-offs, to others are completely up to the developer, who -- incredibly for a lessee -- writes the contract. Property owners are severely limited in what they can do with their land, even to the extent of who they allow on it. They become caretakers for the wind company. Land that might have been open would be closed to public use. As a project is later sold to national or international investors, payments are likely to be curtailed and taxes contested. The potential legal burden on towns is huge. Construction jobs, the more specialized of which will be filled by workers from elsewhere, are short term. Permanent jobs amount to 1-2 people per 20 MW capacity, again typically filled from elsewhere. Any business that depends on recreation and tourism traffic is likely to suffer, as will neighboring property values. Long after new technology makes giant wind turbines obsolete, or after they are abandoned because of diminishing returns (as in Altamont Pass, Calif., Princeton, Mass., and South Point, Hawaii), property owners and towns will be stuck with the mess.

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