Turbines on Maine’s mountains are just plain wrong.

Roxbury voters are at a fork in the road. They can ignore the loophole-filled promises of free electricity and property tax savings and vote to keep the ridges free from gigantic arm-waving machines, or they can cave in to the lure of easy money and sell Roxbury’s soul to the industrial wind “farmers.”

But let’s not fool ourselves that the sacrifice of Roxbury’s scenic vistas is justified to curb global warming, or to replace fossil fuel-burning power plants, or reduce dependence on foreign oil, because none of these things will happen. But don’t take my word for it.

In testimony to Gov. Baldacci’s 2007 Task Force on Wind Power, the Maine Public Utility Commission refused to recommend the deployment of large-scale wind power in Maine, explaining that no existing fossil fuel plants would be taken out of service because of wind turbines, and that reserve capacity would increase as the number of wind turbines grows.

The PUC also confirmed that although developers routinely claim their turbines will produce 30-40 percent of the nameplate rating, the experience of existing wind farms is much lower. A study of upstate New York wind farms found their effective capacity to be 10 percent because the output of the turbines is in opposition to the demand curve of the grid, and the wind power is just not there when it is needed.

Until a cost-effective storage system is invented for grid scale wind power, this fatal flaw of wind power will remain.

So why the sudden big push for wind power?

It’s simple. The wind industry has hopped on the global warming bandwagon, made big payments to environmental groups to gain their support, and spent millions lobbying Congress and state governments to provide subsidies that make investments in wind power attractive.

The wind industry has successfully created an extraordinary popular delusion that the wind turbines are benign, elegant and effective producers of clean power. People living near turbines know otherwise. They are noisy and intrusive, degrade their quality of life, and reduce their property values. They pit neighbor against neighbor, tearing the fabric that holds communities together.

In Texas, wind farms pay the grid operator 4 cents per kilowatt to take the electricity from the turbines about 20 percent of the time, just so they can claim the tax credits they are guaranteed for every kilowatt of electricity they can get rid of. Maine already has a surplus of power, so it is likely that this same taxpayer-funded scam, called “negative pricing” will be repeated here.

Angus King and Rob Gardiner were influential in the development of the so-called “emergency legislation” that declared Maine fair game for industrial wind with little opportunity for debate. Gardiner’s testimony to the task force urged the removal of aesthetic issues or scenic impacts from DEP review. Gardiner also urged the task force to disallow any challenges to the false claim that wind turbines help reduce global warming even though the task force heard expert testimony to the contrary.

The essence of Maine’s character is under assault by the wind industry and savvy, well-connected entrepreneurs such as King and Gardiner. Roxbury voters have the opportunity to join with their neighbors in Byron and take a stand against the destruction of a small part of Maine’s identity. The barren plains of West Texas, or a Superfund site in a blighted industrial area in New York may be reasonable locations for wind turbines, but wind turbines on Maine’s mountains are just plain wrong. There is no prettier place in Maine than Roxbury Pond. Let’s keep it that way for generations to come.

Steve Thurston is a general contractor living in Manchester Center, Vt. He is a fourth-generation occupant of the camp his great-grandfather, Ralph Thurston, built on Roxbury Pond.


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