A French-owned power company has announced plans to transform portions of Vermont’s Green Mountain National Forest into an industrial wind farm if its development proposal receives the approval of the U.S. Forest Service.
The company, Deerfield Wind, cleared the first hurdle in mid-July when the Forest Service accepted a special use application for the proposed project.
Environmental activists have opposed virtually all resource development and road building in national forests. However, with environmental activists split on whether wind farms benefit or harm the environment, the French company is hoping for activists’ acquiescence in developing the most pristine areas of the Green Mountain National Forest.
Mountaintop Ridges Threatened
According to the company’s plan, 20 to 30 giant wind turbines–each taller than the Statue of Liberty–will be constructed on an 80-acre wind farm at the peak of some the nation’s most scenic and previously unspoiled ridgelines. In justifying the development, the company argues the industrial wind complex will power up to 16,000 local homes, albeit at higher prices than current energy sources.
The Forest Service must prepare an environmental impact statement and take into consideration public comments before deciding whether to approve the proposal.
Many local residents protested the proposed windmills at an August 3 community meeting held by the Forest Service in West Dover.
Garry Degray, who already has wind turbines within sight of his property, warned at the meeting about the sight and noise pollution associated with industrial wind farms.
“Not only do I have a visual impact in my backyard, I’ll have to listen to the industrial rumble of the windmills,” said Degray at the hearing, according to the August 4 Bennington Banner. “Contradictory to their claims of a light swooshing noise, it’s an industrial rumble. My quality of life is taking a nose dive.”
“I’m here to kill this project,” added Richard Joyce of Wilmington, as reported in the Barre Montpelier Times Argus on August 4. “It will provide us with very little energy at a big price.”
Newspaper on the Offensive
The Burlington Free Press, in a series of house editorials, summarized local sentiment against the industrial wind complex.
“Do we now want to see pristine ridge lines turned into pincushions with enormous white turbines whirring along the skyline?” asked a July 24 house editorial. “Most people support clean energy sources, but at what price? Is this the vision Americans had of its national forests when these wild places were set aside for our children and their children to enjoy?
“There is a place for wind power in the clean energy mix, but pristine ridge lines that are home to important wildlife and offer spectacular natural vistas are not the place for turbines,” the editorial continued. “How much power will actually be generated by these towers, and is that amount worth the environmental degradation that can be expected? How visible will these towers be and at what distance? How noisy are the turbines?”
“Vermont’s ridge lines, whether public or private, are the wrong place for swooping, strobe-lighted monstrosities,” added a July 27 house editorial. “The mountains are this state’s backbone, home to wild animals and a rare, quiet place of solitude and contemplation for its people.”
Easing Energy Prices?
“It’s pretty apparent the price of oil is going up, we need to look at other sources of energy,” countered Wilmington resident Gordon Ritter at the community meeting, as reported in the Bennington Banner.
Institute for Energy Research President Rob Bradley, however, said the price of oil has little to do with the economic costs and benefits of wind power. “Oil is used primarily for automobiles, while wind turbines are used by power plants. Coal, the primary fuel for power plants, is much cheaper than wind power.”
In neighboring New York, the New York State Public Service Commission this month will begin charging electricity customers a 0.1 to 2.2 percent surcharge on their bills and handing it over as a subsidy to power companies who would otherwise balk at the high price of supplying wind power.
“In addition to the significant environmental impacts of the wind farm and necessary transmission lines–all for unreliable power–the Forest Service, environmentalists, and local residents should all be aware that this scheme exports jobs to Europe and India, where the majority of the world’s wind turbines are built–and not using one stick of U.S. lumber,” said Tom Tanton, a senior fellow the at Institute for Energy Research.
“Further,” added Tanton, “since there isn’t any oil used to generate electricity in the U.S., this scheme will not affect gasoline prices now or in the future and does nothing for our energy independence nor economic productivity.”
James M. Taylor ([email protected]) is managing editor of Environment & Climate News.
For more information …
Research and commentary on wind power is available through PolicyBot™, The Heartland Institute’s free online research database. Point your Web browser to http://www.heartland.org, click on the PolicyBot™ button, and choose the topic/subtopic combination Environment/Energy.
Also see these Environment & News articles:
“Wind Farm Costly for Kansans, New Study Finds,” May 2005, http://www.heartland.org/Article.cfm?artId=16909
“States Take Widely Varying Stands on Wind Power, February 2005, http://www.heartland.org/Article.cfm?artId=16384
“Environmental Group Files Suit Against California Wind Farm,” January 2005, http://www.heartland.org/Article.cfm?artId=16203