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.”