A rejuvenated proposal to place tall turbines atop mountains threatens the tourism that supports area residents.
‘You see that view? That’s my business,” says Ruth McLaughlin, co-owner of Blair Hill Inn in Greenville, as she points to the scenery overlooking Moosehead Lake and the Moose Mountain range.
She explains how people come from all over the globe to enjoy the sunsets and sunrises, the undeveloped mountains, pristine waters and the unusual wildlife in a natural setting that doesn’t exist where they live. She is among many business and property owners who are worried about how mountaintop industrial wind development will harm our scenery and local economy.
The tourism economy now sustains the beautiful North Woods as the forest products economy wanes. If industrial wind development prevails, 300 miles of our mountain ridges will be bulldozed to supply southern New England energy at the expense of our forest treasures and livelihoods.
When Maine wind developer SunEdison filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in April, local residents and others concerned about the impact of SunEdison’s 26-turbine Somerset Wind proposal near Moosehead Lake breathed a sigh of relief.
However, earlier this month, Houston-based industrial wind development giant NRG bid $144 million to purchase and continue Somerset Wind. I urge all Maine residents who value our real economy and the state’s last great scenic places to contact your state senators and representatives and the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. Do it now, because once the mountains are defaced, we can never get them back. Maine’s mountains are not renewable.
Lobbyists with eyes focused on large federal subsidies have pushed legislation in Maine to allow for fast-track permitting. Corporate and legislative moves abound, disguising what they don’t want citizens to know: that industrial wind development, the way it is presently structured, is neither reliable nor economical.
The U.S. Department of Energy has identified Maine’s coastal areas as having greater, more consistent winds than our inland mountains.
Turbines generate power only about 30 percent of the time, and the power in the wind is less on hot summer days when electricity is needed most. Power needed during their downtime has to be purchased from other sources.
Since 2012, Maine ratepayers have been paying for upgrades to transmission lines, even though citizens concerned about the impact of wind development have found that at least 85 percent of the energy will be sent to southern New England. These upgrades were implemented specifically for power not needed in Maine.
The London School of Economics found in 2014 that residential property values plummet near industrial wind development. That same year, the Mountaineering Council of Scotland released the results of a study that showed that the overall quality of tourists’ experiences is lower when industrial wind development turbines are in view.
Even billionaire investor Warren Buffett has said that his company’s energy unit gets “a tax credit if we build wind farms. That’s the only reason to build them. They don’t make sense without the tax credit.”
But despite wind development’s drawbacks, legislators in Maine favor wind developers, not the people of Maine.
In 2007, then-Gov. John Baldacci’s wind task force, whose members included attorneys with ties to industrial wind development, met with developers in closed sessions. The product of this meeting was a new fast-track permitting law that rezoned 14.6 million acres of Maine’s North Woods and removed the requirement that a project “must fit harmoniously into the landscape.” Representatives of one of the largest economic sectors of our North Woods, tourism and recreation, were not invited to the table.
This expedited wind law is now luring developers to our mountains, since New Hampshire, Vermont, New York and Connecticut have restricted or even banned wind development on their own mountains.
All the power generated from these turbines will go to southern New England. Promised jobs for Maine’s citizens are greatly exaggerated.
Recently, a national branding plan funded by Plum Creek Timber Co. named the Moosehead Lake region “America’s Crown Jewel” to market the area as one of the most stunningly beautiful places in the U.S. Simultaneously, Plum Creek/Weyerhaeuser is leasing the Moosehead mountaintops to be lined with turbines that can rise as high as 643 feet. What are they thinking?
The Moosehead Region Futures Committee isn’t anti-wind. We want smart solutions that balance renewable energy with Maine’s inland economy, and we plan to present them soon on our website.
But as committee President John Willard, owner of the Birches Resort in Rockwood, has said, if industrial wind development prevails unencumbered, the turbines sitting atop our blasted and bulldozed mountains will turn America’s Crown Jewel into nothing more than a “crown of thorns.”