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It is time for supporters of energy alternatives to become vocal

  • Published in Letters

To The Daily Sun,

Why all the resistance to an energy alternative that makes sense?

It fascinates me that people put so much energy into obstructing things that on the surface look beneficial to the community as a whole. I want to qualify this opinion by stating first that everyone has a right to an opinion no matter how selfish it may seem. Personal interest drives many of our social and political issues where there may be otherwise little or no support or discussion.

Wind energy as a green energy alternative has been embraced by many countries and the U.S. as a viable alternative to fossil fuel and nuclear generated options. With the Gulf of Mexico accident and other significant oil spills (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_oil_spills), Nuclear disasters (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lists_of_nuclear_disasters_and_radioactive_incidents#Main_lists), airborne elements from fossil fuel/coal fired plants causing mercury and acid rain levels to rise, especially in the Northeast, (http://www.epa.gov/owow/tmdl/pdf/final300report_10072008.pdf), and the destruction of thousands of acres of forest for wood fired plants (http://www.nrdc.org/energy/forestsnotfuel/), the need for less damaging alternatives to energy production is critical. The fossil fuel industry would have us believe that all these side effects are relatively moderate compared to the minor damages caused by wind farms, hydro-electric, solar or geothermal options and in fact, whatever option threatens its hold on the market share, it goes after with a vengeance (i.e. Wind energy farms in New England).

With the proposed Wild Meadows wind farm in Alexandria and Danbury, we have an opportunity to bring jobs, revenue and modernization to the northern parts of New Hampshire which has suffered the most in the economic downturn. With stimulus and federal funding drying up for our municipalities and public schools, states are looking for creative options to fund these shortfalls. Unfortunately, NH's limited solution is to put the burden of shortfalls on the backs of the property owners — in NH's case the farmers, loggers and long standing landowners who have worked the land for generation and are now struggling to survive. Danbury and Alexandria, two of the poorer communities in N.H. have the most to gain from the implementation of The Wild Meadows Wind farms (Over $800,000 with increased annual adjustments between them). However, the wealthier surrounding communities are trying to dictate to Danbury and Alexandria and passing off outsider influence as local opinion.

You have probably heard the not-in-my backyard (NIMBY) statement from some of your neighbors but if this mindset won out in other venues we would not have airports around the state, cell towers on our mountains, highways through our natural resources and yes, houses on the shores of our lakes and beaches! There was opposition to all these moves but ultimately the needs of the many outweighed the needs of the few. A community or state cannot compete with other communities or states if it does not have the modernization to attract business and residents to support its municipal, county and state infrastructure. We are not where we need to be but we have better mobility via our highways, communication (albeit not perfect in the North) via our cell tower, accessibility via our airports and increasing residents because we allow development around our lakes and beaches which has attracted over 27,000 millionaires into NH (in addition to being a tax haven for the wealthy).

A storm of very vocal and well funded anti-wind turbine advocates (with national help) have bullied the communities of Danbury and Alexandria into believing it is a town position. A recent vote indicated a 2-1 anti-wind turbine position in these towns but there is more to the story. Nearly half of the registered voters in these towns did not vote, many of them laying low because of the uncontrolled insult shouting matches at the town meetings, some fearing reprisals from neighbors, and the fact that the vote occurred during a winter break with many residents traveling out of area.

There are legitimate questions that need to be answered — truthfully! Here are some of the concerns I heard from the devoutly opposed and in the order of most common:

1. It will take away my views.

2. It will lower my property values. (If you are selling your property in the next two years possibly a minor set back but the Whittemore School of Business at UNH found no effect on Lempster property values after the development of the wind farm.)

3. I don't like the color and/or I don't like the idea of a strobe or flashing red light in my window. (It would be nice if there was an alternative but FAA safety prevents this but there is an alternative light being developed right here in NH that will only go on when a plane is in the area of the towers)

4. I rent property to out-of-staters and this will kill my demand. (People visit NH for numerous reasons; history, foliage, hiking, skiing and boating to name a few but most wouldn't think twice about the turbines. Wind turbines have become an attraction in California, Vermont and Europe with many locations allowing recreation around the turbines)

5. I've heard that the sound and vibrations are a health risk and I'm very sensitive to sound and vibration. (There are some studies that suggest that this may be a concern but you would think a nation like Germany that has 22,000 wind turbines in a country the size of Montana and a population of NY and TX combined would have identified major health risks if they existed. There are far greater health risks to fossil fuel/wood burning carbon emissions and nuclear power)

6. It's a foreign company and I would support it if it was an American company. (They are a foreign-based company that has a U.S. affiliate and hires Americans. It also has a history of building state of the art energy alternative wind farms and American companies haven't rushed to NH! If this argument was valid those same Americans would no longer drink Budweiser because it is now owned by a Belgian company)

7. I've read that they are subsidized by federal grants and I don't like subsidies (What isn't subsidized? Our roads, airports, schools, etc. are all subsidized and in fact fossil fuels and fossil fuel extraction processes like the controversial "fracking" and steam methods are subsidized)

8. It will destroy our mountain tops and habitat for many animals, kill birds and bats and I've heard other countries are curtailing this method.

When you look at the previous concerns I've mentioned (1-7 are the leading responses) you would think that number 8 should be the primary argument because it is the least selfish and looks at the environment and community as a whole. Fossil fuel carbon emissions, "fracking", deforestation for wood burning plants, nuclear and oil accidents, and an additional note pollution from old septic systems around NH lakes and coast cause far greater damage to the environment and the surrounding communities. I don't see the same level of vocal opposition to these issues. Health risks from fossil fuels, deforestation, and elements like sulfur and mineraloids like mercury are being introduced into the atmosphere from coal burning plants and are a far greater risks to children, bird and bee populations, fish and humans in general. Also, why would Germany (a "Green" nation with a Green Party), after building 22,000 wind turbines and placing them in a country the size of Montana, finally come to the realization that it is not viable? For those that don't know, Germany is one of the greenest , most technologically proficient and one of the major income earners for the European Economic Union! They are curtailing because they've reached maximum distribution and are now emphasizing other green alternatives.

Why should we embrace this energy alternative?

1. It is a back-up to energy alternatives that could be affected by environmental, economic or weather conditions. If you can't get wood or oil to a plant because of weather, the turbines will continue to produce. Both fossil fuel and green alternatives need back-up under certain conditions.

2. It will bring revenue into the state and support some of the most depressed areas through payments in lieu of taxes. In Danbury's case it could off-set nearly 50 percent of the municipal budget and provides a fund that could potentially reduce or stall tax increases. It could buy much needed town equipment and infrastructure (i.e. fire truck, police car, community recreational upgrades, utility upgrades, school programs, etc.).

3. Brings temporary construction and administration jobs into an area where unemployment and poverty is high. Additionally, several long term maintenance and management positions will remain beyond construction phases!

4. Off-sets the demand from carbon emission producing plants. The same amount of KWH producing fossil fuel plants spill tons of carbon emissions into the atmosphere, water and soil. This does not include the spills and other accidents that leach impurities into our food supply and drinking water.

5. It is an alternative that benefits the needs of the many and not the self interested few!

These are just my thoughts and I'm sure will generate discussion and disagreement but ultimately I am a advocate for those that need this the most (the poor and middle class) and the environment. It is the future, it is a greener and better alternative than fossil fueled sources and has the potential of helping NH's north country become more economically self sufficient! I could go on, and I am sure I will have many more conversations about the wind farm over the next few months. This is too important an issue to let a few outsider influenced-fossil fuel supporting obstructionists dictate the outcome! It is time the supporters become vocal!
Bill Kennedy