October 20, 2004

Can you say NIMBY?

A story in today's Burlington Free Press ("Winds of controversy blow in Shelburne," by Matt Crawford) describes the wealthy Vermont community of Shelburne's opposition to a small wind turbine that Jon Fishman wants to put up at his home.
'At the heart of the Shelburne discussion is how a 116-foot-high wind tower that resident Jon Fishman wants to build on his secluded Quaker Smith Point property will fit in with the surrounding lakeshore scenery.

'Fishman, the drummer of the defunct rock band Phish, wants to build a 10-kilowatt turbine to provide electricity to his home. He says one big reason he splurged on the 18-acre lot on the Lake Champlain shore is because it's perfectly suited for renewable energy like wind and solar power.

'Shelburne town officials and neighbors have raised flags of concern about Fishman's vision for a turbine.'
One of the troubled citizens is Bruce Lisman, who is building a house about a mile away. Lisman is a director of Vermont's largest utility, Central Vermont Public Service, whose subsidiary Catamount Energy is involved in large wind projects throughout the U.S. and in Europe, including the 27-turbine 48,600-kilowatt project proposed for Glebe Mountain in Londonderry, Vermont.

Residents around Glebe Mountain oppose the installation of the 387-foot-high turbines, each 131-foot blade chopping one and a quarter acres of air, along with the lights and noise, clearing of forest, new roads, concrete foundations, transformers, and power lines required. By the time the developers actually apply for a permit, they will possibly have upgraded their plan to even larger models. The opponents of thus industrializing our ridgelines are derided as NIMBYs, concerned only with keeping their views pristine. Their concern for the wild mountain habitat is mocked as shortsighted because global warming and acid rain do even more damage (though even the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change admits that wind power has little to contribute towards mitigating those problems). Supporters of the project even call the giant industrial assemblies beautiful and question the aesthetic development of its opponents (see, e.g., the earlier post "Wind turbines = Nazi flag"; also see earlier post about the NIMBY charge).

Now Bruce Lisman "is uncomfortable about what a wind turbine on the shores of Lake Champlain would look like" -- a single home-sized turbine with 11-foot blades. Like George Bush's argument that we have to send people to Iraq to be killed so we don't get killed here, Lisman's magical thinking seems to be that we need to build giant power plants on far-away (from him) ridges so he doesn't have to see even one puny turbine anywhere near his back yard.