7 comments on “The View From Our Mountains

  1. The fallacy of commercial renewable power is that it is good for the environment. While it may potentially reduce carbon emissions, it does so at a terrible environmental cost. Maine has some of the most beautiful mountainous areas in the country and the commercial wind power carpetbaggers are destroying it; without a viable commercial need or benefit. And the support it receives from likes of Maine Audubon (who has two top donors in commercial wind power companies) and the Sierra Club is mystifying. Why do we continue to give taxpayer money to commercial wind developers and solar developers, both forms of which are entirely ephemeral without grid level power storage available? Instead, give the money to those that desire to engage in micro generation where power storage is both possible and always done. And use commercial renewable power subsidies to prop up the grid operators so they don’t have to charge those with micro-generation facilities more for power delivery as is currently done here in Maine. Sorry, this topic and the paradoxical “environmentalist” reaction to it drive me absolutely crazy. Love the blog!

    • Chuck, I agree with you on more points than I think you realize I do (unless I’m reading this wrong), but I also think that hyperbolic reactions to issues don’t help. The claim about “terrible environmental cost” is one I’ve heard a few times, but I’ve never found any reputable scientific sources that back up the worst of the allegations. In reality, almost nothing that humans do is without consequence for the environment– especially generating energy.

      I agree 100% that micro-generation is something that all levels of government should promote (here’s an interesting article from yesterday’s NYTimes about what’s happening in Hawaii, where more than 10% of homes have solar arrays). Like I said, wind energy isn’t about the environment, as much as some groups would like you to believe that’s the case– it’s about money. And you’ll find that the most effective arguments for any renewable energy don’t come in the form of “this is good for the environment”, so much as “this is good for your wallet”.

  2. I used to live in the Mojave, and now that I’m back in the PNW I head to Eastern WA to hike in the spring. I’m pretty familiar with wind farms. I’ve got to say, though, they don’t bother me too much. I’d hate it if they were everywhere, of course, but I just chalk them up as interesting. And I appreciate that they provide green power; I see them as part (not all) of the solution.

    • You bring up a good point, Liz– even if they don’t bother someone, it would likely bother that person if the wind farms were everywhere. That’s one of the important reasons why development needs to be thoughtful and not wanton, since once a development is built, there is no going back to the time before it was built. The scar will always be there.

  3. Ryan, thank you for calling me to task for the shrill nature of my post. When I say “terrible environmental damage” I am referencing two things: the first is the, albeit temporary, damage to the views of unspoiled wildernesses of Maine; the second, though, is the industrial nature of these installations, and the fact that, as far as I can tell, wind developers in Maine are not required to escrow decommissioning and removal costs. My imagination runs wild and I see these abandoned facilities rotting in said unspoiled wilderness for generations to come. And who knows what else will be left behind. When I look at what the wind developers say, the promises they make, the hush money they pay, and the structure of the subsidies, and overlay all that on the true power generation of these facilities, I get frustrated and shrill. Every penny of these subsidies could be spent elsewhere to accomplish what these developers (and their supporting politicians and environmental advocacy groups) claim they will accomplish with far more efficacy. That includes research into grid level power storage and other, greener power generation technologies. You hit the nail on the head when you say “good for your wallet” because based on what I can see, that is all this is; a money grab. I believe that Berkshire Hathaway is now the largest owner of commercial wind power in the US, as a second tier owner (purchased from the developer, but receiving transferred subsidies. I recall a quote from Warren Buffet, explaining this move, admitting that it was done, not because of the importance of green power, but the tax losses they afford. I’ll meekly go back into lurker mode now.

    • Hey Chuck, I appreciate the debate, so don’t go back into lurker mode unless you don’t have anything else to add– I hadn’t thought of dismantling costs for the wind turbines, because I’m just assuming they’ll stay profitable for the long term and will continue to be in operation. But as I mentioned in response to Liz, that is a major problem with development– once a farm is there, it’s there for good (whether operational or not, most likely) and you can’t take back that wilderness.

      I was pretty angry to hear about the (mostly) aborted off-shore wind farm, since it seemed like a great alternative to these land-based ones: the plan was large enough to generate a significant amount of energy, it was far off shore so it didn’t destroy a significant portion of a finite wilderness, and it was a major investment so it would bring lots of money to the state in the long run. It was entirely boneheaded politics that shut it down, which is especially obnoxious, coming from our illustrious governor who rails against his opponents for supposedly being unfriendly to businesses wanting to invest in Maine.

      In the meantime, it is unfortunate that renewable, clean energy has to have such a political stigma attached to it. Every house and large building should be packed with solar panels, and we should have more efficient storage batteries to take advantage of that, but one of the major hurdles seems to be the denial of climate change or backlash against “green” attitudes. Of course we’d probably still need something more for industrial users, but we’ve gotta start somewhere!

      I’ll look forward to hearing more from you when I write about similar things in the future 🙂

      • Lurker mode off for another moment or two…

        The wind farms that are being developed in Maine have a projected finite 25 year lifespan. Profitability of the farm is not even part of the equation, that is why the federal subsidies are so important and why the subsidies transfer through two ownership changes; freeing the developer from the unprofitable facility, allowing them to develop more, while at the same time allowing retirement funds and operations like Berkshire Hathaway the benefit of both the tax loss (and accompanying write-off) and the tax subsidies themselves. This is an insidious system! (It occurs to me that the wind developers not replacing turbines that have caught fire is pretty strong evidence of the lack of commercial viability of this enterprise.)

        I agree with all of your other points. I am NOT green bashing, I am however railing against feel-good environmentalism. I can’t help but imagine John Muir’s reaction to siting a wind farm in any unspoiled wilderness and yet the Sierra Club is as shrill in favor of them as I am against them. Having said that I am both a confirmed contrarian and a card carrying cynic. To me acting locally while thinking globally is the only solution. But that is often very inconvenient and not visible. I am concerned that there are those that drive Volts not because they want to save gas and carbon emissions, but because they want to be seen as saving gas and carbon emissions. There was recently an article in a Canadian newspaper discussing a study of the true greenhouse cost of fully electric vs hybrid cars (given the regional power generation mix). Hybrids were far better in terms of greenhouse gas emissions because the power in the particular region was heavily reliant on oil and gas. But then I wonder what happens to all the batteries when the hybrid (and electric) cars reach end of life. That in and of itself is a potential environmental disaster. When you look at the eMPG of these cars, it seems to me that the most environmentally sensitive thing to do is to drive a used car that except for your driving it would be sitting in a junk yard leaking God knows what into the soil. But, that isn’t visibly environmentalist.

        I want real change. You are right when you say every roof-top should be covered with solar panels, just as every drain should have micro hydro turbines on them. In the meantime, though, let’s all stop and think about the real value of an effort in the long run. Commercial wind and I will even venture to say solar power generation are a long way from prime time. That is not just here in the US, but around the world. As subsidies dry up, development grinds to a halt- that is very telling to me.

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