The answer my friend

The power struggle that is wind energy


Milkweed seeds catch the wind in Newport. Photo by Bethany M. Dunbar

by Bethany M. Dunbar,  November 13, 2009

Wind energy has been a tough subject for us here at the Chronicle.  Everyone likes the idea of renewable energy, and we are no exception.  I really enjoy the sight of small wind towers at individual farms and homes, spinning away.  You can’t hear them unless you’re right next to them, and most of them are not that much taller than the area around them.

But comparing those systems to a wind “farm” with dozens of 400-foot towers and lights on them is kind of like comparing a five-cow farm that sells raw milk in half-gallon glass jars from its milkhouse to a 2,000-cow factory farm in California.  Do you want a row of those on top of your Vermont mountains?

Putting an industrial development on top of our wild and unspoiled Vermont mountains seems incredibly counter-productive and short-sighted.  There are so many other potential sources of energy that have not been fully explored.

Tourists are not flocking to Vermont to look at wind turbines.  They are coming here to see beautiful wild mountains, working farm landscapes, wildlife and woods and streams and lakes.

After next summer, most likely, the people who go to the beautiful Crystal Lake state park beach will be looking at a row of wind turbines with lights on top.  The Sheffield wind project is smack dab in the middle of that particular view.

I remember when I first started thinking about what wind energy would really look like.  It was when Paul Lefebvre got ahold of a map of proposed wind projects all over the state.  It’s still hanging on the door to his office.  It’s as wide as the door, almost, and shows the state of Vermont in white, with black writing showing towns, mountains and the usual stuff that shows up on maps.

Pink circles the size of coffee cans around the proposed wind projects show the towns that will be looking at these developments.  These are the towns that will be paying the price.  Putting a project like this to a vote in one town is kind of a sick joke.  But that’s the way it’s been going.

The most recent project is Lowell Mountain.  This week, the Chronicle came out in opposition.  Chris Braithwaite’s editorial and this week’s news story are available to you to read at the Chronicle’s web site, along with a lot of work that we have done about wind in past issues.

That’s including reporting by Paul who went to see the project in Mars Hill, Maine, and talked to people there about how it had affected them.

Please take a look, and post your comments — here, on that site, or send me an e-mail at

Thanks again for reading and for all your feedback.


5 responses to “The answer my friend

  1. As a professional social ecologist it’s my conviction that renewable energy is best utilized when it’s deployed in a decentralized fashion. Small-scale wind-electric generators (Please, please do NOT call them windmills! Windmills are low-speed, high torque machines designed to pump water or turn grindstones. Wind-electric generators are high-speed, low torque machines designed to produce electricity) that supply power to a single home or to a group of homes or a business can be completely independent of corporate energy conglomerates. Their deployment requires that their owners know how they work and know how to maintain them, which includes the willingness to climb up a steel tower, strap in, and do routine maintenace work or scrape the blades when they ice over. Once the machine pays for itself in energy produced, the owner(s) enjoy free energy as long as they maintain the generator and the propeller blades and the battery storage system. Such a system produces DC power, not AC, which is what the energy congomerates sell us and what you currently have in your house or workplace. Converting AC to DC requires an inverter which can eat up a lot of electricity just in its own operation. But a household with DC camping appliances and a package of storage batteries — the phone company recycles theirs regularly long before they need to — can become totally energy independent of The System. That’s decentralized power. That’s power We The People own and control. As long as power is generated by a corporate conglomerate, whether it is generated by burning fossil fuels or by renewable sources, we remain at the mercy of Corporate America. We must BUY the energy we need from THEM at a profit to THEM and a loss to US. So, nothing really changes, socially speaking, and ecological concern is exploited for corporate profit. Goldman, Sachs is now planning to profit immensely from a carbon cap-and-trade bill before the U.S. Congress. Goldman, Sachs, by the way, is the same gangster corporation which engineered the current recession to get its corporate paws on billions of dollars of our tax money, wipe out or weaken its competitors, give its executives grotesquely bloated “bonuses” over and above their multi-million dollar salaries and set itself up for the next “green” financial “bubble” which they are diligently manufacturing so that We The People can enrich their avaricious bosses even further while we are kicked out of our homes and driven into bankruptcy. “Green” projects without decentralization of power is the same old rip-off game in new, “environmentally-friendly” disguises. As long as power is centralized in the hands of the few, at the expense of the many, nothing really changes and the sleazy con game of private profits and socialized losses goes on and on. “Power to the people” is not an antiquated, hippie slogan. Renewable energy generation contains the implicit potential to return power, through decentralization of ownership and operation, to individuals and small communities while protecting the biosphere and individual ecosystems from further degradation and eventual systemic failure on a world-wide basis.
    Vermont may lose more than the bucolic view over this issue. It may lose the power of individual self-determination once and for all.

  2. I have no problem with “wind farms” in Vermont if, and only if, they are placed in strategic locations. And where are these strategic locations, you ask? Montpelier and Burlington. One of those un-godly 400′ structures should be placed on top of the state house’s golden dome. Then, place several more on the grounds at the state house. Next, continue the project in downtown Burlington … build some there. Then put a bunch more along the waterfront … don’t forget Waterfront Park and the other 18 parks in Burlington.

    Someone once told me that moving hot air really gets those suckers spinning. There’s a lot of that hot air in Montpelier and Burlington.

  3. I think the best place for a wind farm in on your dad’s property. I am pretty sure he’d love it and embrace them as his very own…….or am i off base?

  4. Yeah I’m sure Dad would be wicked psyched about that. RIGHT! Truly I’m more worried that at 85 years old he will be the one lying down in the road in front of the trucks that bring these things!! Wonder where I got those rebel genes?

  5. I was going to comment on the wind farms subject but then read a little more on the subject and maybe can see what all the objection is about. I at first was thinking more about the size windmills like the one now on Harry Millers land on the common and the one on the Creek Rd and of course the oldie on Page Pond. Harry Millers catches my eye and is just a relaxing scene. I am always trying to take pictures of the one on Page Pond, but the one on the Creek Rd and I think there was an experimental one in Lowell village last year, well they seem a little too large and do not enhance the countryside like Harry’s does. My first thought when I saw the huge steel pole sticking up in the air, was ,Oh my God, that’s going to be an eyesore, but just the opposite is the case. It just sits there quietly, making the much need power our town needs. Then when i think of the beautiful windmills in Holland again it is like a pinwheel spinning in the wind with beauty and grace. I have bit of an comparison to look back on. When the subject of cell towers came to Craftsbury and I was covering the series of stories, I recall the great outcry especially in Hardwick when it was suggested that one be put on top of Buffalo Mountain. The public meeting with Sen Leahy, Sanders and the top executive from the cell tower company came to light, the meeting headed outside to view the proposed sight. We were standing on the sidewalk out side the Memorial Building and everyone looked up at the Mountain in the distance. I started to take pictures, but quite ironically all my pictures were ruined by the mass of power lines and poles in my view of the site. I ended up having to use a photo taken inside the meeting as the so called beautiful view and ridgeline, they were so concerned about was cluttered with power lines. So when people start talking abput spoiling a view, I can’t help thinking back to that incident. I personally would much rather have the windmills twirling along the ridgeline than the mushroom cloud eventually pushing up into the sky killing everything in its path. I did find it interesting to read about the different levels at which nuclear plants operate, making their presence here sound a little safer, but am not sure. I need to read more about it. We need renewable energy for our future, environmentally safe and releiable. Never seen a lacking of wind here in Vermont. i have know days when the wind was blowing up on our farm on that hill in East Craftsbury (and in Hardwick)when I thought we seriously needed to tie a rope to the barn from the house so we wouldn’t get blown away. No kidding. That’s my opinion on that subject. Thanks for the chance to share my thoughts on the subject. Janet Reed…

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