November 15, 2006

Reply to letter from UPC Vermont Wind

To the Editor:

Around Halloween, Leila LaRosa, the local face for UPC Vermont Wind, sent a letter to Sheffield and Sutton residents. UPC wants to erect 16 420-feet-high wind turbines, their blades each sweeping a vertical area of 1.9 acres, on ridges between Sutton and Sheffield and overlooking Crystal Lake in Barton. The letter was an attempt to refute worries about such industrialization of otherwise protected ridges and to assert that the project's value is worth the sacrifice.

"They ... ARE effective and they DO reduce our dependence on oil, gas and fossil fuels."

Effective? The only measure of success the industry presents is that they are built. They have never been able to show that wind energy on the grid actually reduces the use of other fuels. This is not surprising, because the variable, intermittent, and unpredictable wind energy only makes the rest of the grid work harder to balance it.

The letter insists that UPC will not limit access to the project area. They need to publicize the leases if anyone is to believe them. All the leases I've seen are indeed restrictive and make the landowner a caretaker to the wind company's control of the land.

The letter takes issue with the charge that miles of new roads will have to be built by saying that, yes, miles, of new roads will have to be built: 5.5 miles of them. These won't be logging tracks but heavy-duty roads that can bear 50- or 60-ton loads and accomodate 160-ft trailers. What will be the effect on the watershed? Flooding and erosion are likely. "Revegetation" is far from restoration, and in fact the roads would have to be kept usable for delivering new rotor blades and gearboxes, which fail quite frequently.

On taxpayer subsidies, The letter cites (very incorrectly) only one subsidy, the 1.9-cent per kWh production tax credit. There are also 5-year double declining accelerated depreciation and the ratepayer-supported market for renewable energy credits. In all, federal subsidies generally cover two-thirds of the developer's cost, and state subsidies may cover another 10%. Crucially, the subsidies do not require evidence of a reduction of other fuels, that is, an actual benefit to justify moving so much public money into private bank accounts.

As for the humble UPC company, who are its investors? What is their connection to the UPC Group of Italy?

On problems from low-frequency noise generated by giant wind turbines, the letter is exactly backwards. It is the denial of problems that is being challenged by the scientific community. The U.K. Noise Association and the French Academy of Medicine recommend that large wind turbines be no closer than one mile from any residence.

In addition, the audible noise will be at an unacceptable level for a rural environment. And the noise won't stop at night, when it will be carried farther.

At the same time that the letter tries to deny such negative impacts, it tries to divert attention to worse problems with other sources of energy, such as coal and nuclear. Nobody denies those serious problems. But it is a wind facility being proposed for Sheffield and Sutton. And wind energy does not reduce the use of other sources. It is not a choice between wind and something worse. Wind's negatives simply add to the negatives we already live with, and none are reduced.

UPC admonishes the people protecting their communities from a massive building project of doubtful value and obvious costs for "spreading misinformation." Again, they have it backwards. Misinformation is UPC's game.

wind power, wind energy, wind farms, wind turbines, environment, environmentalism, Vermont