DIXFIELD — The Dirigo High School community room was packed with more than 100 people to hear panelists and experts debate the pros and cons of wind power Thursday night.
Dylan Voorhees of the Natural Resources Council of Maine backed the development of clean energy, such as wind power, and the gradual reduction of the use of fossil fuels.
"Wind power is a broad solution to dealing with some of these issues," he said, adding that Maine companies receive business from the construction of a wind power project.
Dr. Albert Aniel, a Rumford physician, had a different perspective. He said he was concerned with what he described as the injurious effects of the audible sounds and low frequency noise of wind turbines, the effect of flicker lights from the blades, and how all these can adversely affect people's sleep and health.
"With low frequency noise, primarily generated by turbines, people feel they must breath at that rate, causing loss of balance, dizziness and psychiatric disorders," he said.
Dr. Richard Jennings, a retired psychiatrist who lives in Fayette, said his greatest concern was climate change and the future his grandchildren may face if actions aren't taken to stop the rate of such change. He said many believe it is caused by carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels.
"If you want to worry about health effects from wind turbines, you are worrying about the wrong thing. The real issue is climate change. Wind is not the answer, it's part of the answer," he said.
Sen. Peter Mills, R-Cornville, questioned whether the state's target of construction of 3,000 megawatts of wind turbine energy would financially benefit the state. He said such construction would likely benefit only the towns in which they are located.
"I'm not an opponent or proponent of wind power," he said.
He also questioned whether long- or short-term jobs would be created by wind farm construction, or whether electricity rates would be reduced through wind energy.
Throughout the debate, which was kept on track by Western Mountains Alliance director Tanya Swain, experts were asked to provide their opinions. They included sound scientist Peter Guldberg of Waltham, Mass.; James Cassida, who works with permitting for the Maine Department of Environmental Protection; J. Dwight, a Wilton investment adviser; and Brian Hodges, a deputy commissioner for the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development.
Questions from the audience were written on cards and given to Swain. Answers to many of the questions that were either not asked and answered in the allotted time, or answers that were not sufficient will be addressed at www.westernmountainsalliance.org
The event was a joint effort by the Western Maine Economic Development Council, the River Valley Growth Council, Greater Franklin Development Corp. and the Western Mountains Alliance.