Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Times article: Wilderness, nature vs. energy
Photo: my dream home turbine awaits TLC in a North Dakota lot.
Here's an NYT piece with an overview of a major debate taking place all around the country in lots of places where exploration for sites for wind and solar energy farms are controversial with local and regional environmentalists.
This is more or less what we have in Waldo County as the anti-wind power lobby in Jackson and Dixmont gathers steam.
Of course, were we to study the energy needs nationally, and then consider mapping areas based on suitability, with overlays for wildlife and other conservation considerations we might get further faster, but I don't think for a moment that would solve the problem. Ken Salazar, it seems, has proposed just such a process for Interior Department lands.
Good luck with that.
Even when the perfectly rational energy map gave birth to the perfectly rational energy policy, we would have a perfectly irrational scramble as those areas with most money and support got protection, while those with least did not. In Maine, that will likely mean that the debate over wind plants in interior Waldo is nothing compared to the debate that will come when the real opposition gets going, from second-homers down on the coast.
One solution, the one that makes sense to me, is a process whereby localities dip our toes with small scale local projects, however inefficient they may be in comparison with mega-farms, and use the siting work and the eventual turbines themselves to educate ourselves and build awareness of the benefits and downsides of wind. If, at the end of some of that kind of work, the majorities in towns were against wind, then we would at least be experienced in the reasons why.
My guess is, given the chance to vote at a Town Meeting or special Town Meeting that was properly announced, and not at some weird time when the larger number of folks mildly in favor of wind would not be overwhelmed by small numbers of folks dead set against it, the majority of Mainers would vote in favor of properly sited wind turbines right now. But given time and smaller projects, and community owned ones, to get used to the ideas and equipment, we'd be much more educated consumers, less susceptible to misleading propaganda from the national anti-wind blogosphere, or the industrial companies.
Heaven forbid that debate in America NOT be dominated by polarized extremes producing manipulation and misinformation. That would be un-American, wouldn't it?
In the meantime, I have two small turbines to put up, a replacement one at college where there's been a tiny one since students and I made it and put it up several years ago. It's broken, and so we bought a new one that we have to put up. I'd like to take the broken parts of the old one and recycle them into a small turbine for my home back-up power system. However, it looks like I'd better hurry, since if the anti-wind group in Jackson has it's way, I may not be able to put this little turbine up without an elaborate permit process.
In fact the way the proposed Jackson wind ordinance is written seems designed to preclude me doing the sort of experimental/education work I do, where we put up and take down turbines fairly regularly, at home. In particular, I would be required to provide sound data to the codes enforcement officer for all turbines I might wish to put up.
Which means the next time I make a home-built turbine, if I want to put it up in Jackson, not Unity, I may have to spend more hours producing an engineer's acoustical report than I do making the turbine.
All this for a project whose design was used for the Maine Envirothon by several high schools.
(To get a PowerPoint how-to slide show made for the Envirothon, go here: http://www.unity.edu/facultypages/womersley/windturbine.ppt)
Good grief, Charlie Brown.
I guess that privately owned, re-powered Vestas V-15 I was going to get and fix up myself (after I finished all the farm retrofit and insulation, and paid off the credit cards, and bought a new car for Aimee, and did the rest of the honey-do) is out of the question.
Which just makes me sad.