May 6, 2005

"Violating ridges"

[letter published in Burlington Free Press, May 5, 2005]

Barbara Grimes, general manager of Burlington Electric Department (Free Press, April 18), insists that there will not be a string of giant turbines from one end of the state to the other. But some proponents have said we could get 50 percent of our electricity from the wind, which would require precisely the endless string of towers that Grimes dismisses as "scare tactic."

Searsburg's 11 turbines, with a capacity equivalent to the 4 "foot-in-the-door" turbines proposed for East Haven, produce power equal to 0.2 percent of Vermont's electricity use, and it is less every year. To get to 50 percent would therefore require at least 1,000 giant new turbine assemblies, costing about $2 million each along with clearing and blasting of mountain tops and construction of new roads, substations, and high-voltage transmission lines.

And because wind-based production doesn't coincide with demand, they wouldn't even provide much electricity that we would actually use (e.g., western Denmark had to dump 84 percent of its wind production in 2003).

So, with little persuasive argument, she evokes "Vermont" values and the working landscape, as if that is not a feature everywhere that humans dwell. New Jersey has a working landscape. Vermonters old and new have worked for 100 years to restore and preserve the state's wild mountain ridges. The desire to violate them with collections of 330-foot-high steel and composite turbines -- for insignificant benefit except profits for a few -- is not what most people, wherever they come from, usually think of as "values."

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