Wind proponent changes her mind

Rutland Herald|October 9, 2005
VermontImpact on LandscapeImpact on People

John Soininen is a principal with Eolian Renewable Energy, a start-up company seeking to erect a wind energy facility in northern Vermont. In 2005, Mr. Soininen's mother, Alice H. Soininen, a resident of Vermont, submitted this letter to the Rutland Herald newspaper at the time when the Sheffield wind project was proposed near her home in Sutton, Vermont. Today, Ms. Soininen is a vocal advocate for her son's wind project.

This letter appears in the online version of the Rutland Herald, October 9, 2005.

October is one of the most beautiful months of the year. Some would argue that it is the most beautiful month of the year in Vermont. I find it curiously ironic that our governor would name it Wind Energy Month.

Originally a proponent of wind energy — as I am a proponent of renewal energy — I am now totally opposed. I have seen the wind farms in California and in Denmark. Those turbines are atop towers that are significantly shorter than the 400-foot ones proposed for our area. The area along Interstate 10 on the way to Palm Springs is a barren wasteland (at least in the view of a Vermonter). The hundreds of small wind turbines are nestled in the valley between two (beautiful) mountain ranges. They spin gracefully — mostly in the same direction — and are seen only by persons speeding along the highway as there are no residents within their sightline.

Conversely, I have to say that, in my opinion, the turbines, albeit small, are a blight on the beautiful, lush, green Danish landscape. In Sweden, I have only seen single towers on industrial complexes built to supplement electrical needs.

More than 30 years ago, Sen. George Aiken declared our corner of the state the Northeast Kingdom. The name stuck for obvious reasons. Locally and afar, one can see and understand the Northeast Kingdom sticker on cars. The Northeast Kingdom is a special place.

Yes, the Northeast Kingdom is a federally designated impoverished area. A major contributor to the economy of the area is tourism, but we do not attract the shop-until-you-drop, set. We are the home to and destination of those seeking the beauty, solitude and abundant wildlife of the area. Be we residents or visitors, we respect and honor the land. We are typically conservative in our use of energy. We work to "leave no trace" when we walk, hunt or snowmobile in the woods.

The Northeast Kingdom is a target for gigantic wind towers — not quaint picturesque windmills seen on the postcards one finds in the Netherlands. Four acres have to be clear-cut and blasted to accommodate each tower. The towers, their gigantic blades, flickering lights and shadows and whining turbines will rise high above our ridgelines.

A condition for my original support of wind energy was that the electricity generated stay in our (immediate) area. In Vermont, it is the (powerful) PSB that makes the ultimate decision. A significant consideration in its go/no-go decision is its benefit to the people of the state. We are only a small portion of the state — population-wise. Why should we have to sacrifice to supply electricity for those not very much interested in conserving?

Maybe we should think about a 51st state: the Northeast Kingdom.


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