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Down the Road

Wind towers, not flying saucers
By Milt Gross
Apr 21, 2010 - 12:25:48 PM

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Freedom Wind Towers
Dick Fecteau, the volunteer overseer of a section of Appalachian Trail that crosses the Bigelow Range in the Bigelow Preserve, said the flashing, spinning, intense red lights were lit for five seconds, then off for five seconds and dominated the night sky from where he stood on a mountain trail one night.

They weren't flying saucers. They were wind towers, planned to save us from pollution caused by fossil-fuel-powered electric generation.

An unbuilt wind-tower farm in the Highland Mountains southeast of Bigelow would be located on five mountains and hills, reaching along eight miles of ridgelines, and be composed of 48 wind towers that would stand over 400 feet tall with up to 35 flashing lights, said Tony Barrett of the Maine Appalachian Trail Club's standing committee on wind power.

It would be the largest wind farm in Maine, Barrett continued at the MATC annual meeting in Farmington on April 10.

But the Maine Appalachian Trail Club does not oppose wind towers. "The MATC recognizes the need to develop wind power as a renewable energy source. However, this need must be balanced against the recreational, scenic, natural, and cultural resources of the Appalachian Trail in Maine," states MATC's Policy on Wind Power Development along the Appalachian Trail in Maine. "Careful siting of wind energy facilities is crucial in the protection of the Appalachian Trail experience," the policy continues.

Other groups also oppose the Highland Mountains project, such as the Appalachian Mountain Club and the Natural Resource Council of Maine, according to Tom Lewis, also on the MATC standing Wind Committee. Individuals opposed to the Highland Mountains proposal can sign a petition called "Save The Highland Mountains," on the Friends of the Highland Mountains Web site (www.highlandmts.org). The petition, bearing 288 online signatures as of April 17, will be sent to the Maine Land Use Regulation Commission.

Pemaquid Point Maine

According to the petition, more than 1.6 million cubic yards of rock and soil would be blasted from the mountaintops to level their surfaces to construct the turbine foundations. In addition, 25 miles of roads will be built of which 15 miles will be a 32-foot-wide ridgeline road.

The petition continues to state that over 500 acres of mountain forest would be clearcut that would include forested wetlands.

"The normally silent mountains of Highland Plantation would experience sustained noise levels previously unknown," the petition states.

One problem facing those who oppose this particular proposal is Maine's new expedited permitting law, LD2283, which seeks a streamlined approach to permitting wind-power proposals, Lewis told the 100 or so MATC members who attended their annual meeting.

Piscataquis River Blanchard

I have never met anyone, who said they oppose wind power done appropriately to avoid environmental damage and problems for people nearby. I am not opposed to wind power, although I wonder why I read almost nothing of hydropower which we purchase through a program offered by a Portland company, Beaver Ridge Wind LLC, that is working toward wind power in Maine. This program mandates that the electric utility purchases as much hydropower as we and other hydropower customers use. Beaver Ridge Wind LLC also offers wind power as well as combination wind power and hydropower for sale to businesses and consumers.

The farmer in Freedom about whom and others wrote last year didn't oppose wind power generally. But the three towers of the Beaver Ridge Wind LLC project approved by his town's voters about 1,000 feet from his farm have created enough visual and noise disturbance for him that he told me he didn't want to be forced to leave his farm -- and home -- where he had lived and farmed for 34 years.

Towns near Freedom, as well as towns located elsewhere in Maine, have since passed moratoriums to give town officials time to study wind power and establish regulations for it that will protect their residents from ill effects of wind power caused by poor siting.

Typical of poor siting is the effect the Highland Mountains proposal would have on the Bigelow Preserve. Lewis said the proposal is to locate wind turbines too close to the Bigelow Preserve -- one mountain the proposed wind-power would farm is located 11 miles away, he said. Maine voters established the Bigelow Preserve by a statewide referendum in 1976. Will this wind power project be allowed by LURC to ruin the wilderness area Maine voters approved, Lewis asked.

Marsh Stream Waterfall Maine

We're caught in a bind. We need renewable energy. Lewis told the MATC group that not all "facts" wind-power companies provide to support their wind power proposals are accurate. In Maine, those companies say, wind power will eliminate the importation of some foreign oil. That is untrue, Lewis said, explaining that most electric power in Maine is powered by natural gas so wind power in Maine does not affect oil imports. Fifty percent of Maine's pollution is caused by diesel trucks and out-of-state power plants, Lewis said.

Wind power in Maine would not replace out-of-state power plants, Lewis said.

Alternative electric power must be found, but not in a way that will cause major disturbances in the Pine Tree State -- or other places.

As I drove home from the MATC meeting through Thorndike on Route 139, I glanced to my right and there six or seven miles to the south were the three wind towers in Freedom. I could see the towers from several vantage points for about five miles as I drove east on Route 139. I wondered if the Freedom farmer was alone in being negatively impacted by those three towers designed to produce some electricity and some income for the company that owns them.

I wondered if at night residents along Route 139 see red lights revolving six or seven miles away in the night sky -- the night sky that used to be dark enough to feature stars and planets.

Two of the three wind towers atop Beaver Ridge in Freedom that can be seen from miles away and at night produce rotating lights to bother people trying to sleep enjoy the outdoor sky at night. Milt Gross photo.

 


 

Milt Gross can be reached for corrections, harassment, or other purposes at lesstraveledway@midmaine.com.

Milton M. Gross Copyright 2010


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