An impassioned, diverse dialogue on wind power

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Our online readers responded with vigor to Sunday’s editorial regarding major investments — infrastructure, jobs, consulting services, etc., — the wind industry has made in Maine in the past decade.

Most of the response — but not all — was critical of the industry — and equally critical of any acknowledgement of wind investment.

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In the editorial, we quoted Reed & Reed CEO Jackson Parker’s analogy of a cement turbine platform and the mountain on which it is perched. “. . . what it amounts to is like a very small desk being placed on a football field,” noting that only about 400 of the available 6.5 million acres of qualifying, above-sea-level mountaintops have wind turbines on them.

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Jon Cantin of Peru challenged Parker’s statement, asking “How about the surrounding thousands of acres that have to look at this ‘400’ acres? It’s a huge impact” on those doing the looking, he wrote.

Our editorial noted, based on polling done over the years, the overwhelming and continued public support for wind projects.

Brad Blake of Lincoln questioned the results of polling, and in particular, the efficacy of a recent Pan Atlantic poll reporting far-ranging support of wind development.

According to Blake, “There is no context in which this question was posed nor any reference to the sample size, the targeted demographics or any disclosure as to who paid for this poll,” which he characterized as a “push poll” designed “to elicit a favorable response for the people or entity that paid for it.”

Boston-based First Wind Corp. commissioned the sole question regarding wind turbines in the greater Omnibus poll commissioned by DownEast Magazine and the Bangor Daily News, which Pan Atlantic clearly disclosed in its report.

Pan Atlantic also disclosed the sample size, which was 400 Maine residents, with each of Maine’s congressional districts representing about half of the poll sample.

According to the poll, Democrats and independents are more likely to favor wind turbines in Maine than Republicans: 92.8 percent of Democratic respondents and 90.6 percent of independent respondents favor development, versus 78 percent of Republican respondents.

Ernest Labbe of Oxford voiced a question that has been asked by many, and that is one of curiosity: “How come there isn’t such a turmoil when developers cut away the sides of mountains clearing ski trails. Then waste tons of energy making snow. Just wondering, that’s all.”

Brooks Morton of Newry was quick to respond. “I do not think you realize the economic engine Sunday River Skiway is to this area. Look at the tax base alone. Compare that to some of the towns that have wind as a tax base.”

We’re not sure any town in Maine would point to wind development as a “tax base,” but Morton is right to point out that the potential property-tax revenue from the geography consumed by ski resorts versus the geography consumed by access roads and turbine platforms is vastly different.

Alice Barnett of Carthage, who joined in the dialogue several times, lamented what current development might look like in the future.

“Towers get bigger and louder and, yet, the DEP does not change its codes … so we look at 2,000 bigger turbines. If you climb Tumbledown (Mountain) you see red flashing lights.”

And, “if you look around,” she suggested, “imagine turbines every where you look,” arguing that wind is not a wise investment in Maine and will cost more than it’s worth.

She’s not alone in making that assertion.

“Look,” wrote Blake. “This really boils down to economics. Wind power would not exist without heavy subsidies, tax breaks, mandates and Enron-inspired RECs. I say we drop every type of subsidy, etc., and let the market determine the sources of electricity.”

It’s an interesting challenge, and makes one wonder what kind of natural gas and oil markets we might have without federal subsidies, tax breaks, mandates, etc., on development and distribution.

Doesn’t it?

The chat attached to Sunday’s editorial is a tremendous example of community dialogue and (generally) civil disagreement over Maine’s future energy needs and development, and we urge you to check it out.

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Have your say and get your voice heard on the Web and in print. Register to comment online at www.sunjournal.com.

Some of the above comments have been edited for length, punctuation and spelling.

jmeyer@sunjournal.com

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