Wind Power Generates Electricity and Opposition



As towering wind turbines sprout across the landscape, opposition has sprung up as well. Many complaints, especially in early projects built near town and homes, come from abutters and neighbors. Some living close to turbines contend that the noise and vibration is disruptive and causes health problems. The spinning blades are said to be a threat to migrating birds and bats.

In the Berkshires, in western Massachusetts, where Reed & Reed built a 10-turbine wind farm last year, opponents complain that the big machines despoil scenic vistas and the roads that lead to the towers threaten wildlife.

And wherever objections arise, projects may put environmental activists in the position of opposing a source of clean and renewable energy.

“We all care about greenhouse gases, but there are some sites that just aren’t going to work,” said Sally Stockwell, conservation director for Maine Audubon. “We have to weigh both the ecological and environmental impacts of each project to find a balance.”

One of the state’s leading environmental groups, Maine Audubon has been critical of wind farms. Audubon contends that some towers would disrupt key wildlife habitat and that the associated roads can cause unacceptable erosion. Such objections caused Maine regulators to reject one proposed project that would have put turbines near Sugarloaf Mountain, in the northwest part of the state.

But opposition isn’t always aimed at scuttling projects. Audubon has helped convince developers to redesign wind farms to mitigate the impact on wildlife. TransCanada moved several towers in the first phase of its Kibby Mountain project, for example, because the original sites affected nesting habitat for the endangered Bicknell’s thrush.

Stockwell said Audubon does support wind energy in concept, but maintains siting is critical, as is a long-range view. “So far we’ve seen a lot of applications from developers for individual projects that make sense to them,” she said. “We don’t see anybody taking a holistic look at where we’re headed.”
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  • On September 5, 2010, Arthur Qwenk wrote:
    Please remember that we do not use oil for electricity
    generation in Maine. Nationwide oil creates less than 2% of our electricity. Small
    turbines and solar panels that provide direct accessory power to property owners makes a
    ton of sense, especially if the property owner can convert the energy from these into heat.
    After all, heating is where we use oil. 80% of Maine homes heat with oil. Grid-scale wind
    power does nothing to reduce that. In Quebec, society is much more electrified. Almost
    70% of homes there heat with electricity. Why? Because oil is more expensice up there,
    and because of HydroQuebec. HQ is a Provincial creation intended to provide cheap
    abundant power to natives. It has done that for about half a century. While Maine has
    about 4200 megawatts of electric generating capacity, Quebec has ten times that amount.
    And their customers pay half to two thirds what we pay per kWh. So can Maine electrify
    also? What if we have access to affordable and reliable plug-in cars and electric heating
    systems? We would reduce oil consumptuion for sure. Of course we would triple or
    quadruple our electric usage. Here's the rub: While HQ produces reliable, dispatchable
    (always there when you flip the switch) electricty at +100% efficiency for as little as 2
    cents per kwh, grid-scale wind projects produce fickle trickles of electricity at 25%
    efficiency for as much as 20 cents per kWh. So if we quadruple our consumption of a
    commodity, why would we simultaneously acquire that commodity from the most
    expensive source? Peel beneath the surface of Industrial Wind and you see that its
    massive impacts far outweigh its meager benefits. It is unnecessary, unreliable,
    unaffordable, and unsustainable. So why trash Maine for it?