Plumb: Wind towers are "out of scale"

Editor’s note: This op-ed is by George Plumb of Washington.

Utility-scale wind is not a suitable alternative electricity generation option for Vermont for a variety of reasons but one extremely important one that hasn’t been discussed. The wind towers are out of scale with what we value in Vermont. While we may enjoy visiting the big cities we are always delighted to return because we cherish our local and small scale working landscape, our relatively small communities with their modest population, and the scenic natural environment where we spend so much time.

Industrial wind towers are huge. They are 400’ tall! They are not of human scale. The tallest buildings in Vermont in our most densely populated cities are only 125’ tall.

Many who have had even a small number of wind towers go up in their area are very unhappy with the results. One of these places is Vinalhaven, Maine. Here is what Cheryl Lindgren, a member of Fox Islands Wind Neighbors, a group of concerned residents working toward responsible renewable energy on Vinyl Haven had to say about wind towers in a column in the November 12, 2010, issue of the Portland Press Herald, “Our experience has forced me to look into the deeper issues of industrial wind — the technology, the economics and the politics. It has been an uncomfortable journey that has changed my once honey-eyed vision of easy, green power to a view that industrial wind energy is, at present, bad science, bad economics and bad politics.”

These wind towers also have major impacts on the natural environment. Susan Morse, a much respected environmentalist who works on protecting wildlife habitat states, “At their best, even the most brilliant wind turbine infrastructure doesn’t belong on a mountain any more than oil drilling belongs in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. We need to completely and irrevocably protect these precious places, large and small alike – habitats that are not continuously compromised and damaged by our activities. Such intact habitats along Vermont’s mountain ridgelines will play an integral role as global climate change forces countless species of plants and animals to adjust and find new habitats in which to survive and persist.”

Instead of massive wind towers that are out of scale let’s develop incentives for locally owned and installed solar options. I have put in an AllSun Tracker system and couldn’t be happier with the fact that although it is relatively large as solar panels go it is still of a scale that doesn’t dominate the landscape.

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16 Comments on "Plumb: Wind towers are "out of scale""

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Barb Morrow
5 years 7 months ago
I had to spend a lot of time researching and thinking about the proposed windtowers in the NEK and those underway there before I came up with the same conclusion. I would also refer people to the blog in the Burlington Free Press which comments on Sterling College students’ perspective on industrial wind in the NEK. (The College has not taken an official position.) It takes some courage for a liberal environmentalist to say, “Wait just a gall-durned minute,” to wind energy. People don’t have a real sense of the size and ancillary environmental disruption of these towers and what… Read more »
Steve Wright
5 years 7 months ago

Amen to both of the above. Can anyone tell me why Vermont would–in its right mind–blast away significant portions of the Green Mountains in order to hustle up a few electrons? On the other hand, small, local and community-based wind facilities are a possibility. Combined with other sources in measured quantities–along with an aggressive efficiency effort–they may be our way out of the current–pun intended–nuttiness.

And a big “hurrah” for those Sterling folks, speaking truth to power. Ah, I’m running out of puns.
Steve Wright

kevin ellis
5 years 7 months ago
I have admired and respected George Plumb and his views for many years. He raises really good issues about wind development in Vermont. The same points are made about Cape Wind and many other projects. But in the end, it is becoming a luxury to defend Vermont against the need for renewable power projects that may interfere with the views of our neighbors. If global warming was not the critical issue, things would be different. But we are past the point of no return and must take drastic action. It is fine to worry about scale. But we no longer… Read more »
Barb Morrow
5 years 7 months ago
“it is becoming a luxury to defend Vermont against the need for renewable power projects that may interfere with the views of our neighbors,” writes Mr. Ellis. With all due respect to Kevin, the concern expressed by most people I know is far more complex that whether the neighborhood vistas decline. It is true that our need to consume huge amounts of energy has reaching a critical point – probably over the top. However, as the ocean is going to rise up my plan is to hit for the hills, and I’d appreciate having them intact when I get there.… Read more »
5 years 7 months ago

You can read more of Sue Morse’s comments here:
http://www.vce.org/SueMorse_Nov172010comments.pdf

Steve Wright
5 years 7 months ago
Kevin, My Friend, If we’re “past the point of no return,” then why do we have to, “take drastic action?” And your comment re the “view” is, with due respect a disingenuous dig in the ribs. Can you tell me why the “drastic action” must include blasting away–reshaping–the 450 million year-old Lowell Mtns ridgeline in order to put in place a project with a 25 yr. lifetime? Can you help me understand why we “must” develop a project that–admittedly by the developer, Green Mountain Power–would not even be proposed were it not for federal production tax credits? Let’s develop our… Read more »
5 years 7 months ago

Kevin, I recommend you read the comments of Ben Luce, a renewable energy advocate, about the reality of large wind turbines on Vermont’s mountains and their ability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in any significant way: http://www.vce.org/Ben Luce_VCEPressConference_November_17_2010.pdf.

Ben Luce
5 years 7 months ago
Reasoning that we have to accept utility-scale wind generation because we are out of time to deal with climate change is not a legitimate argument because it does not take into account the scale of the resource, and the potential for alternatives, including the price trends of alternatives. As an argument, it is simply lacking any relevant technical content. Ridge line wind power is among the least of the renewable energy resources available to the Eastern US, and by far the most destructive. Adding up NREL’s numbers for the wind power resources in the Eastern US, I find that even… Read more »
5 years 7 months ago
Thank you Barb Morrow for bringing the anti-whind folks out of the nuclear closet. I have long suspected that many if not most anti-wind folks are pro nuke. Apparently you would prefer to create nuclear waste for future generations to deal with rather than spoil your viewscape with a wind turbine. I respectfully disagree. Your conclusion that “nuclear energy is relatively clean” is not merely wrong but shocking. Even the most ardent pro nuclear zealots would not go so far as to suggest that nuclear power is cleaner than wind power. Ben Luce’s numbers are based on the unstated assumption… Read more »
barb morrow
5 years 7 months ago

You should not assume, sir, that just because someone is anti-wind they are pro-nuclear. Nor should you assume that because someone wants a more planful, considered placement of wind towers, they are anti-wind. Or that because they don’t want outsized wind towers on certain ridges, that it’s only because of the view, a sense of beauty, or a lack of valid study.

Pete Blose
5 years 7 months ago
Barb, I apologize if I misread your previous post. I did not mean to assume anything. It sounded to me like you were clearly willing to accept nuclear power instead of utility scale wind. Now I am curious to know exactly what you’re saying. Would you be willing to accept the relicensing of Vermont Yankee so that there would be no utility scale wind in Vermont? I have researched this issue a great deal and have come to a very definite conclusion. I think utility scale wind is appropriate in Vermont as long as it is properly cited with sufficient… Read more »
Ben Luce
5 years 7 months ago
Peter Blose’s claim that my numbers are based on the assumption that VY will be re-licensed is incorrect. It is based on the assumption that Vermont will continue to have fairly low CO2 emissions associated with electricity production over the next 5-10 years, but this is well justified by the fact that Vermont utilities are already finding good success a renegotiating hydro contracts at prices well below that of ridge line wind (as far as we can tell), and also because the Northeast grid has a lot of natural gas fired generation that Vermont can avail itself of in the… Read more »
5 years 7 months ago
The high capital cost and little power production per invested dollar of renewables makes them very uneconomical. Big wind towers have no place in Vermont Small wind and community wind, not on ridge lines, is grossly uneconomical. FEW OF YOU MENTION ENERGY EFFICIENCY. It is, by far, the least costly per kWh saved and per lb of CO2 reduced, AND IT IS INVISIBLE, requires little or no maintenance, is “there” 24/7/365. In Germany, Austria, Sweden, etc., with similar climates as Vermont’s, tens of thousands of houses and apartment buildings have been built to the 25-year old Passivhaus Standard. They use… Read more »
Pete Blose
5 years 7 months ago
Willem, I have visited the Passivehaus Institute in Darmstadt Germany and visited several Passivehaus projects there. There is at least one Passivehaus in Vermont and another recently built in Jefferson New Hampshire. There is no question that the Passivehaus standard should be adopted in Vermont-as soon as possible. There is no need to take the time to test out the standard here. The Europeans have thoroughly tested and verified everything. Vermont has a great opportunity to take the lead on this. However, there is one problem. As I’m sure you know the Passivehaus standard is most often used for new… Read more »
5 years 7 months ago
Pete, I lived for 26 years in Europe (Germany, Norway, the Netherlands). I am familiar with what is happening there. After you read my articles you will have learned a lot about energy issues and that they are not as simple as many people think. Seventy percent of Vermont’s CO2 emissions are from buildings and transportation. Increased building efficiency and higher mileage transportation should be getting subsidies to reduce their CO2. If new houses and apartment buildings built to the Passivhaus standard received 30% of the capital cost as a grant, as wind and solar renewables do, then there would… Read more »
Marion Seguin
5 years 3 months ago

Has anyone considered the vegetation that will be flattened and erosion which follows just so a few people can enjoy cheap electricity for 20 yrs. The package of destruction is not worth it!!! Marion

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