Benning: A change in the wind

Editor’s note: This op-ed is by Sen. Joe Benning, a Republican from Lyndonville.

Recently I hiked up to the top of Lowell Ridge to see where 21 400-foot wind towers will be placed. As I crested the mountain, I came face to face with an energy policy that is at war with itself. The environmental destruction taking place there pits those seeking to reverse climate change against those who wish to preserve Vermont’s pristine natural resources. While that battle rages, the economic cost to Vermont has been pushed aside as irrelevant.

Our new energy policy calls for a 90 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2050. Targeting our entire energy spectrum (including transportation), it relies on instate renewables to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. At the same time we’re eliminating Hydro-Quebec, nuclear power, fracked natural gas and less efficient biomass electricity as acceptable “renewables.” Industrial wind, currently the darling of the present administration, has become the power that now drives our legislative policy.

What price are we willing to pay for this new policy? Vermont currently does a better job than most states at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, so self-imposed mandates are not even necessary. And to those who believe Vermont will “lead the way” in reversing climate change, any hope that Vermont alone can cause a worldwide domino effect to achieve this lofty goal should be carefully balanced against the very real environmental destruction taking place right now in the cherished natural solitude of the Northeast Kingdom.

And more wind farms are coming as corporate investors, motivated by tax incentives and artificially inflated electric rates, seduce small towns with infusions of cash. Since wind is intermittent and has no storage capacity, our policy alone will require more wind farms and many miles of transmission lines to achieve our energy goal. If regulatory authorities fall short insisting on decommissioning plans, our ridge lines will end up littered with 30-story rusting hulks when this technology becomes obsolete. These new wind farms are encroaching on our wildlife corridors, destroying pristine mountain environments and radically changing the aesthetics of our state. They pit citizens of towns against each other, and towns against towns in a given region.

In the meantime, we in the Legislature have not been living up to the responsibility that comes with guarding Vermont’s Constitution. Article 18 urges us to be moderate and frugal when enacting only such legislation as is necessary for the good government of this state. At a time when Vermont already has more power than it can use, our new policy is not moderate, not frugal and certainly not necessary. We haven’t even taken the time to ask ourselves what these policy goals will mean to our economy in the absence of similar goals in surrounding states.

I cannot support the raping of a pristine environment in exchange for intermittent power that has to be subsidized by both the taxpayer and the ratepayer. At a time when Vermont already has an ample power supply, this is no energy plan, it is a blind obsession. It’s time for Vermonters of every political stripe to join together in defense of “These Green Hills and Silver Waters.”

Comment Policy requires that all commenters identify themselves by their authentic first and last names. Initials, pseudonyms or screen names are not permissible.

No personal harrassment, abuse, or hate speech is permitted. Be succinct and to the point. Comments should be 1000 characters or fewer. If your comment is over 500 words, consider sending a commentary instead.

We personally review and moderate every comment that is posted here. This takes a lot of time; please consider donating to keep the conversation productive and informative.

The purpose of this policy is to encourage a civil discourse among readers who are willing to stand behind their identities and their comments. VTDigger has created a safe zone for readers who wish to engage in a thoughtful discussion on a range of subjects. We hope you join the conversation. If you have questions or concerns about our commenting platform, please review our Commenting FAQ.

Privacy policy
  • Steven Farnham

    Of all the debates we have these days this one has got to be the craziest. Given what the nuclear, coal, oil, gas, and (oh so sustainable) Hydro Quebec have to offer, I just don’t see the quibble over wind turbines.

    It’s like condemning a fellow for beating his wife once a month, when every other man in town is beating his wife every hour.

    If you want to whine about something, why not whine about our insatiable appetite for energy, and our utter complacency about halting it’s complete and destructive waste?

    There is only one regretful thing about the wind turbines on Vermont’s ridgelines. We allowed some corporation to own them. The people of Vermont should pony up to erect these turbines and then benefit from the power they provide. We’re going to pay for it anyway⎯why should some faceless corporation profit from them at our expense? And we should own the dams on the Connecticut River⎯but let’s not beat that deceased equine quadruped any further…

    • Michael Reddy

      Your comparison to domestic abuse is pretty scary. I don’t think beating spouses or children, whether it’s once a month or once an hour, is something that should be mentioned lightly or in any way condoned.

      The regretful thing about turbines is that they fly in the face of a “do no harm” approach. If we are going to protect the environment we should preserve the intact ecosystems, the carbon sinks, and wildlife corridors that we still have left, while dismantling those infrastructures which are actively destroying them.

      While claiming to reduce greenhouse gas production and slow climate change, industrial ridgeline wind development destroys the very thing it purports to save. Wind development does not reduce the use of “brown” energy sources. In fact, since it is intermittent it requires traditional backup generation with increased inefficiencies due to the need to ramp up and ramp down production to cover for the inconsistencies in wind.

      Wind development does not replace fossil fuel use. In the case of Lowell, the development actually provides capital by which fossil fuel giants GazMetro and Enbridge (GMP’s parent companies)are able to expand the fossil fuel use and distribution. Rather than causing a decrease in the amount of energy produced through fossil fuels, wind development actually adds to the total amount of energy on the grid (which already has excess). As anyone who has studied Malthus knows, lacking other limiting factors, a population grows to the food supply. In this case, electricity consumption will grow to the available grid capacity. Malthus argued that such growth ultimately leads to famine. I can only hope we transition to something more benign and sustainable before the earth’s systems impose famine upon us.

      • John Greenberg

        If you’re serious, then disconnect from the grid and learn to live simply.

        Otherwise, you’re missing the point: all electrical generation involves environmental degradation. If you’re going to use power, the question is which sources create the LEAST damage, which was, of course, Mr. Farnham’s point.

  • This is what is crazy. Destroying our mountain ecosystems
    and inflicting noise on neighbors
    and dividing communities while co-opting town officials
    It is a sad story for our communities that goes far beyond the failure to empower Vermont communities with renewable energy that benefits Vermont rather than corporations.

  • Chuck Kletecka

    We live in a world that denies climate change and avoids the uncomfortable choices to address it. Either way what we do, or don’t do, has consequences. I’d rather live in a Vermont that is responsible and forward looking and not in denial. That includes some limited use of our ridgelines for comercial scale wind. Anyone that denies that reality is drinking someone else’s coolaide.

  • Townsend Peters

    Evidently Sen. Benning missed a lot of stuff in the renewable energy bill his committee voted out. Maybe that helps explain why he voted against it. Either that, or he is deliberately misleading readers of this website. For example, in the bill:

    1. Both in-state and out-of-state resources count toward an overall renewable energy target for the electric portfolio of 75 percent by 2032 and, within that target, a requirement for 35 percent “new renewable energy.”

    So, Sen. Benning misleads when he says “it relies on instate renewables to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.”

    2. Hydro-Quebec counts toward the overall 75 percent renewables target. It does not count toward the 35 percent “new renewable energy” requirement – but that leaves 40 percent that HQ is eligible for.

    So again, Sen. Benning misleads when he says “we’re eliminating Hydro-Quebec.”

    3. The renewable energy bill states a goal for a diversity of renewable technologies, and requires utilities to proceed consistently with that goal. Utility compliance with the renewable energy goals will be part of triennial review by state regulators of utility resource plans.

    So, once again, Sen. Benning misleads by implying that the only resource the state will rely on to meet its renewable energy goals is “Industrial wind.”

    Even worse than the senator’s misleading statements is his clear ignorance of the broad energy picture. Here again are examples:

    a. He claims “the absence of similar goals in surrounding states.” He is wrong. Every other New England state and New York has a renewable portfolio standard.

    b. His claim that Vermont does a better job than most other states at reducing greenhouse gas emissions is fraudulent.

    It is, in fact, the states surrounding us who are achieving the emission reductions because Vermont is selling the emission reductions from its projects – in the form of renewable energy credits – to utilities in those other states who have renewable portfolio standards. That leaves Vermont buying brown power from the regional grid, not green power.

    c. He worries about “many miles of transmission lines to achieve our energy goal.” In fact, opposition to in-state energy projects is most likely to result in many miles of transmission lines, because as our demand grows, we will have to build them to import ever increasing amounts of power. And that means many miles of environmental impacts.

    I can understand opposing wind projects on ridge lines because of their environmental impacts. But that does not excuse a public official’s making misleading statements or failure to fully inform himself of the real facts.

    • Sen. Joe Benning`

      Townsend: this op-ed piece never mentioned the Energy bill (aka H.468), which remains a work in progress. This piece was directed at the Governor’s stated energy policy. While I appreciate your passion in arguing against my thoughts, we aren’t on the same page.

      It is clear you are angry with me for voting against the Energy bill, as each of your points addresses parts of that document. Those parts have changed several times over the past three weeks as our committee chair does an admirable (and thankless) job at trying to accommodate competing interests. My piece wasn’t attempting to criticize a moving target.

      I voted against H.468 for several reasons. Initially I objected to allowing renewable energy credits to be sold to out of state generating facilities so they could offset their pollution emissions against their own state’s renewable portfolios. I sought language requiring generating facilities to be closely located to consumers, thus eliminating miles of new transmission lines. The latest version of the bill attempts to address these concerns. After last weekend’s jaunt up Lowell Mountain, I’d like to see language added that would put a moratorium on industrial wind plants while we determine whether they should be under Act 250 review.

      It makes no sense to require Act 250 review of a proposed outhouse on Vermont’s mountains while we ignore erection of forty story pinwheels. I think Dean Davis, the father of Act 250, is turning over in his grave.

      Let me close with one simple request. Please take a hike up to the top of Lowell Mountain and see for yourself what I’ve seen. The destruction taking place there is not reversible with the replanting of trees. If you see it you will understand exactly why I argue that this is not the legacy we should be leaving to our children.

      Thanks for being willing to participate in the debate.

      • Townsend Peters

        Sen. Benning – sorry, but I am not buying that your piece has nothing to do with pending renewable energy legislation. It is legislation that ultimately decides what our “new energy policy” is – a policy the Governor must execute. If you are attempting to exclude the renewable energy bill from the debate, you are again misleading the readers of this site.

        I don’t know where in the world you get the notion that Act 250 would treat wind development differently from PSB review. Both apply nearly the same criteria. Act 250 approves about 98 percent of all applications submitted.

        Take a look around all of the ski areas. They exist at high elevations. They all get Act 250 permits for new development. And they do not necessarily look wonderful when under construction either.

      • Rob Macgregor

        We’ve been through this before with the Governor’s (Douglas)
        Blue Ribbon Commission on Wind Energy Regulatory Policy. The findings found no basis for subjecting wind development to Act 250 review in addition to the Sec. 248 review.

        The legislature rejected a moratorium in the past, and the Senate was smart to reject the proposal again.

  • Thank You Senator Benning for having this discussion. And my sincere thanks to those who voted in favor of a wind moratorium the other night in Montpelier.

    As you know, one very well known advocate for industrial wind claims it will require 200 miles of ridgeline development to reach the goals we have set. Unacceptable. There has to be another way and we are going to have to find it. Transforming our Green Mountains with these useless, innefficient statues is something that Vermonters are realizing they do not want to do.

    I too was in favor at one time. That is until I looked at the useless character of the power produced, the incredible cost in dollars to get that power, the environmental harm that occurs (dead birds, bats, silted up headwater streams and habitat fragmentation, the hit that home values take when located close to a big wind turbine and the health affects caused all over the world by industrial wind. I simply can’t imagine how I would feel if I lived in a home being bombarded by the sound/infrasound that comes from wind turbines that are actually making power. (Noting that this doesn’t mean the power being produced is being used..because more than likely your grid manager has left a good pad in place to be sure that when the power fluctuates it doesn’t leave them scrambling.)

    Solar, cowpower, hydro, biomass..all renewable options that to varying degrees are expensive and involve sacrifice. When you compare the ratio of effectiveness at producing stable or least forcastable power verses negative impacts. If this ratio could be calculated each of the above would come out way ahead of industrial wind.

    With the options we have in Vermont and with what we are losing more of every day in our little state..Industrial wind is not worth it.

    • Townsend Peters

      Could pls identify who this person is, and how the conclusion was reached:

      “As you know, one very well known advocate for industrial wind claims it will require 200 miles of ridgeline development to reach the goals we have set.”

      • Michael Reddy

        While Senator, Shumlin named entrepreneur David Blittersdorf to the board of the Clean Energy Development Fund. He was eventually asked to step down because of a conflict of interest, which he did. His wind development enterprises were subsequently awarded $4.3 million in tax credits from the CEDF.

        The following is the transcript of an exchange he had when questioned about ridgeline development.

        Question: How many miles of ridgeline is it gonna take to reach your 40% capacity?

        David Blittersdorf: I don’t think you want to hear my answer.

        Question: Yes, I’d like everybody to hear your answer.

        David Blittersdorf: I’ll tell you it is 200 miles of ridgeline that needs to be developed. And we have 900 miles of developable wind ridgelines and that takes out all National Forests, it takes out all terrain above 3400 feet. It takes out a bunch. But we have a lot of ridgelines in Vermont.

        • Mike,
          I am pleased you found this quote. Here is a calculation to show how silly the Blittersdorf idea is.

          The Blittersdorf idea of putting wind turbines on 200 miles of Vermont’s ridge lines, equivalent to 200/3.5 = 57 Lowell Mountain’s, at a cost of 57 x $160 million = $9.12 billion is a good idea? Note: Lowell uses 3.5 miles of ridge line.

          How much energy?

          57 Lowell Mountains x 63 MW x 1 GW/1,000 MW x 8,760 hr/yr x capacity factor 0.32 = 10,066 GWh/yr; this compares with Vermont’s annual consumption of 5,700 GWh/yr

          If one puts numbers on some of these “ideas”, it becomes immediately apparent how silly they are.

          That is the reason the VT_DPS report about “Vermont Energy Future” does not have meaningful costs for alternatives, only cost differences between one alternative versus another, a standard way of obfuscation and misleading the gullible public.

        • Townsend Peters

          Thank you for providing the source of the quote. However, it is clear from the quote that it does not actually support your assertion “it will require 200 miles of ridgeline development to reach the goals we have set.”

          State law does not set a goal of 40 percent wind. Current state law has a goal of 20 percent of the electric portfolio being _renewable_ energy. There is no requirement that it all be one technology, and it is a myth that the only way Vermont can meet its renewable energy goals is through wind.

  • Avram Patt

    In order to assess the environmental impact of a ridgeline wind project, it is more accurate and honest to look at an operating project, rather than one under construction. A very large construction project will look like: a very large construction project.

    Not far away, First Wind’s project in Sheffield has been operating since October. The towers are of course huge and very visible. The project is a bit smaller than the Lowell Mountain project, but but concerning the impact: A total of 63 acres were cleared for both the towers and road construction. About 39 acres of that have now been left to re-vegetate, leaving a cleared area for towers and roads of 23 acres. Wildlife returns to the project area and is very evident. It does not look like or have the impact of a construction zone. So with that project now generating the equivalent of all the energy used by all the homes in Caledonia County, we need to ask where that power would come from otherwise and what it’s impact would be on the environment and on the need for more transmission infrastructure, even if it’s someone else who is looking at it.

    Here’s a video about environmental protection measures at the Sheffield project:

    • I’ve flown over the Shefield project and the impact looks more like 1000 acres to me. The top of that ridge is covered with roads….and ummm…wind turbines. The impact to the environment includes the little chunks of land that haven’t been clearcut but which fall within the huge perimeter / industrial umbrella of a project like this. Direct impact to wildlife extends beyond the pads and roads themselves.

      Just because you see animals doesn’t mean habitat quality has returned to pre construction conditions which the wildlife that once thrived there had.

      • Avram Patt

        The number of acres I stated are verifiable fact. Of course there is environmental impact from a large construction project. There is also environmental benefit from a wind project. What is the environmental impact of the “invisible” sources of electricity we rely on now? It is far greater. What is the environmental impact of trying to produce the same amount of power solely from small scale generation? It is greater and more visible. There is no one solution. We have to do large and small projects in order to make more than symbolic change. Every choice has tradeoffs. After construction, the Sheffield project has relatively minor environmental impacts, and it is of course very visible. And it produces a lot of electricity. That power would have to come from somewhere else otherwise, in which case we are exporting the environmental impact and looking the other way.

        • I don’t doubt that 63 acres were cut. My point is if you look at that mountain from the air it is clear that the quality of about 1000 acres of habitat has been irreversibly altered. Maybe someday we’ll become a society that puts wilderness back together…but I haven’t seen it happen yet.

          As far as “invisible” impact from the power sources we presently use..I acknowledge the sacrifice that must be made. I too will bear the brunt of necessary sacrifice in my backyard. BUT it needs to be worth it. What’s worth it? I’ve listed what I feel is worth it above. I am not alone in saying that we have options a plenty. Those who support blasting craters and making roads for semi’s on the top of the Green Mountains for such a wildly unreliable source of power as wind are looking like a smaller and smaller percentage every day.

          Nobody is “looking the other way” in my circle of blue collar Vermonters?! We care what happens in other people’s backyards.. But then again…I guess you and your wind developer pals know that.

    • Avram,

      Lowell may have good winds and the land was available, but some ridge lines are topographically unsuited for industrial wind turbines that are 459 feet high (about a 40-story building) and have 367.5 feet diameter rotors (a larger swept area than a football field).

      Here are some photos of the destruction which have been sent to ALL legislators and their staffs to make sure everyone has “the picture” and no one can be “not knowing”.

      Click on…. Here ….. at the bottom of the URL to see some photos of the
      destruction of Lowell Mountain due to GMPs 63 MW industrial wind energy

      Here is an article (peer-reviewed by several doctors/professors in energy systems) on wind energy being a major disturbance to the grid and as a result not reducing CO2 emissions anywhere near to what is claimed by wind energy promoters. Please read it and let me know your comments. The article has nearly 5,000 views on THE ENERGY COLLECTIVE website, one of the most viewed articles ever.

      RE promoters and politicians often tout job creation by RE projects, but do not mention the jobs lost in others sectors of the economy.

      Economists have used standard input-output analysis programs for at least 40 years to the determine the plusses and minuses of various economic activities. Numerous studies, using such economic analysis programs, performed in Spain, Italy, Denmark, England, etc., show for every job created in the RE sector, about 2-5 times jobs are lost in the other sectors.

      For every 3 green jobs created in the private sector, 1 job is created in government. Such job creation is unsustainable.

      Job creation in the green sector increases unemployment in the private sector and increases employment in the public sector. Whether these government jobs are good or bad, needed or not needed, is irrelevant.

      Note: This is not the case with increased energy efficiency subsidies. They create jobs in the EE sector, but also create a net increase of jobs in the other sectors, because the reduction of energy costs enables more spending on other goods and services.

      In Vermont, the real CO2 emission culprits are the transportation and building sectors. What Vermont needs is not RE, but a:

      – Gas-guzzler tax, based on mileage (the lower the mileage, the higher the tax).
      – Strict, enforced building energy performance codes (Btu/sq ft/yr for heating, cooling and electricity).
      – Time of day, TOD, electric rate schedules. The rates would vary hour-by-hour as daily demand varies. This would flatten the daily demand curve more effectively and at less cost than Efficiency Vermont’s staff of about 180 people and $40 million/yr budget.

      These measures would require minimal public funds and subsidies, would quickly create jobs all over the state and would quickly and more effectively reduce Vermont’s CO2 emissions many times more at less cost than any RE buildout; for poor Vermont, increased EE is the most rational approach.

  • Sally Shaw

    It strikes me as odd that back when Entergy threatened politicians with early closure if they didn’t get their planned trifecta, the Uprate, Dry Casks, and Relicensing, it was all “oh dear me, we’ll freeze in the dark if we don’t have VT-generated electric power.” Now that VY is on its death bed and we have the opportunity to develop CLEAN Vermont-generated electric power without the thermal, radioactive, water polluting, and gene-mutating byproducts of nuclear, fracked natural gas, and all other anachronistic combustion or fission-based generation sources, it’s “save the view, we don’t need the energy”. If we’re truly concerned about the environment and future generations, why don’t we leave them a carbon-neutral, non-toxic energy source that harvests the resources that are abundant, free, non-polluting and already are blowing and shining upon us? Why not begin now to replace the planet-cooking, toxic, permanent land and life-destroying technologies we are now using to run our toasters? I’d prefer to see municipally owned, local renewable energy rather than for-profit reaping of sun and wind, and so would my future grandchildren. Who wouldn’t? Let’s get going.

  • Steve Wright

    Just look at the pictures. Does the Lowell project seem to be “clean” energy?

    This debate should be about creating a healthy, long-term energy policy developed for Vermonters by Vermonters. We have yet to have that conversation about our future and until we do the yelling at each other will continue, to no good end.

    The first rule in developing such a long-term policy is to protect the health and function of our existing landscape. These mountains–undeveloped–are a bulwark against existing climate change. Blowing them up in order to provide electricity is the antithesis of careful, fact-based, long-term planning.

    Thank-you Senator Benning for getting the conversation started.
    For now, let’s keep looking at the pictures.

  • Karl Riemer

    There’s crazy in abundance in this debate. Disheartening to me is the eagerness of people I’ve respected and allied with to accept and repeat any nonsense, any patent falsehood or wild exaggeration, in support of their current conviction. I’m reminded of someone earnestly condemning the atmospheric carbon contribution of nuclear power plants, while another counters that wind turbines in Lowell will ruin the serenity of Green River Reservoir. That level of absurdity, if not deliberate prevarication, is irresponsible ignorance. Where are the voices of moderation and sober reflection? Forget moderation; where are the voices of verity? Why do we only hear from people who “fear” or “believe” or “understand” that there’s a right and a wrong answer, a simple solution or a magic future deliverance? Why do we only hear from people convinced that the way to influence debate is through hyperbole? Disheartening to me is that opponents of the Kingdom Community Wind project, who may very well be correct in their analysis, have shamelessly, consistently lied about every detail, hysterically exaggerated every fault, covered their eyes and plugged their ears to la-la-la through any consideration of alternatives (refusing to acknowledge that refuting one thing means advocating another), then hidden behind egregious pie-in-the-sky brain-dead homilies offered as a substitute for math-based energy policy.
    We’ve gotten used to a steady diet of willful ignorance and passionate deception on this subject. I’d like to expect a higher caliber of discourse from an elected official, but given the ambient noise perhaps this bit of jive is to be expected.
    It is lame, though. It’s so transparently ill-informed and unconvincing, I almost wonder if it’s designed to claim credit for one position while surreptitiously bolstering the opposite. “Vermont already has more power than it can use” indeed: where do you suppose that comes from, Senator?

    • Kathy Leonard

      Mr. Riemer likes to read his opinions in print, I believe!
      I wish he could express himself without being so disrespectful of others’ opinions. Rath-ER.

    • Michael Reddy

      Seems a little disingenuous to cite someone saying “wind turbines in Lowell will ruin the serenity of Green River Resevoir” as evidence that there needs to be more “verity” in the discussion when I can find no reference to the Green River Resevoir other than yours in these comments.

      Indeed, “Where are the voices of moderation and sober reflection?”
      Not in your comment (calling people crazy?) and certainly not coming from the lips of GazMetro, Dorothy Schnure, Mary Powell, or Gov. Shumlin. Unfortunately, those parties’ positions of power all them to take very real actions that are imposing the “answer” they insist is “right” upon all of us–moderates and extremists alike.

      “Why do we only hear from people who “fear” or “believe” or “understand” that there’s a right and a wrong answer, a simple solution or a magic future deliverance?”

      So let’s hear your voice articulate a vision of nonsimple solutions. Let’s hear the basis of your accusations that claims made by opponents to Kingdom Community Wind are absurdities and patent falsehoods. And then let’s reflect…. Let’s not dive headlong into habitat destruction vis a vis industrial infrastructure development projects.

      • Michael Reddy

        those parties’ positions of power all them to take very real actions that are imposing the “answer” they insist is “right” upon all of us

        should read

        those parties’ positions of power *allow* them to take very real actions that are imposing the “answer” they insist is “right” upon all of us

  • Have you been to Lowell and seen for yourself what is happening to the ecosystem? Have you talked to the neighbors who are being affected by it? There is nothing absurd or ignorant or hysterical about what is occurring on the site and how people are conveying it. People familiar with construction sites have been there and been shocked. The Lowell project is the most environmentally destructive development the state has seen. That is not exaggeration. Unfortunately, there is no middle ground. We have asked four wind developers to work collaboratively in our communities and they have all continued to use the sledge hammer approach rather than following the guidance of the DOE-sponsored workshop held last year at Harvard Law School intended to teach wind developers how to bring their projects to communities in a more productive way. As long as big wind developers continue to plunk down a project and throw money at it, uproar is guaranteed around every project that is proposed in the state. Vermonters do not want to live around big wind turbines.

  • Steve Wright

    Wow, Karl, that was quite an exhortation. You decry hyperbole then become hyperbolic.

    Can you help us Lowell Wind opponents understand how we might craft a better message? Can you provide specific references where we have been less than candid or have lied or have misrepresented any situation or statement of fact?

    Without those references your comment just becomes so much more, well, hyperbole.

    Look at the pictures. They don’t lie. I took them myself, last week.

  • Daniel Barlow

    Here’s our choice: Vermont Yankee and nuclear waste that will outlive us all or limited development of our mountains for wind power. Seems pretty simple to me.

    • Michael Reddy

      If only it were so simple. Limited development on ridgelines will not replace VY. We have no such choice.. It’s not one or the other, it’s both, and you and I have no say in the matter.
      GazMetro/Enbridge and Entergy are clearly the one’s with the money to talk–the one’s with the strong arms to control the fate of our energy future.

  • Here is the GMP/Gaz-Metro-Canada plan for wind energy on 200 miles of
    ridge line of Vermont.

    Where are the real environmentalists when we need them?

    Click on Here at the bottom of the URL to see some photos of the
    destruction of Lowell Mountain due to GMPs 63 MW industrial wind energy

  • Karl Riemer

    “Let’s hear the basis of your accusations that claims made by opponents to Kingdom Community Wind are absurdities and patent falsehoods”

    Start with: “looks more like 1000 acres to me.” (it’s 63)
    Ponder: “These mountains–undeveloped–are a bulwark against existing climate change. Blowing them up in order to provide electricity is the antithesis of careful, fact-based, long-term planning.” (mountains are not a bulwark against climate change, they are not being blown up, and careful planning is an endeavor, not a prescription, so its antithesis would be whim without consideration of the consequences. The author disagrees with a plan, or calculates the consequences differently, so simply denies it’s a plan. This is classic lasagna dissembling – saying whatever comes to mind with the desired emotional impact, in layers of misstatement so thick and fast it makes your head spin.)

    But for a reliable dose of hyperbole, look for anything from Annette Smith: “The Lowell project is the most environmentally destructive development the state has seen”
    Been to Burlington harbor? How about Waterbury Reservoir? Seen pictures of what happened to Vermont during the heyday of sheep? Driven on I-89? While you’re visiting Lowell, take a side trip to the asbestos mine. Ask people what Champion left behind when they sold their land in Vermont. If environmental destruction is a dramatic change in biotic patterns of the land, all these probably pale compared to clearing for agriculture in the 18th & 19th century, but they overshadow Kingdom Community Wind by orders of magnitude.)

    • Glad you’re paying attention, Karl. If you haven’t noticed, the trees grew back after the clear-cutting for sheep. The interstates are not on ridgelines. The asbestos mine is a good example of environmental damage, so it’s kind of ironic that, too, is in Lowell and the townspeople who voted for the wind project accepted yet another environmentally destructive project. The difference with the Lowell project is that it’s in the headwaters, in the dense, rich mountaintop habitat required by furbearers who called that mountain home.

      In the PSB hearings, it was amazing to hear the testimony about restoring the mountain. The idea is they’re going to plant trees. In rock? Rep. Klein has made the statement that if we don’t like the way it looks we can just put it back. It’s obvious that isn’t possible. People point to ski areas (you forgot that one, Karl) for comparison but very little blasting is done on ski areas and roads aren’t being built on top of streams.

      More to the point though, from the work I’ve been doing on the issue for the last three years, is that this big wind technology is not acceptable to Vermont communities. It is astonishing that wind developers have done nothing to change how they interact with the communities to build support rather than create uproar. The wind developer playbook currently requires that communities become divided and people take sides.

      Dan Barlow thinks it’s a simple choice between nuclear and wind. Unfortunately for all the people who want to believe that building wind turbines will replace nuclear power, that’s not the way the grid works. Wind energy can offset natural gas power, but often the natural gas power has to be paid for anyway. We are wasting an enormous amount of time, energy and money fighting about wind in areas all around the state when we could be putting those energies into building our best renewable energy source, which is solar.

      Look at what David Blittersdorf and VPIRG are actually doing (as opposed to what they are saying). David is selling solar trackers, VPIRG spun off a solar business. That should speak volumes.

      • Karl Riemer

        Well, I did forget ski areas. I think they aren’t quite in the same category because, as you say, they don’t reshape much, and the clearcuts are more up and down than across the slope, leaving intact corridors. They do screw around with water quite a bit, but I think (it’s just a think) that they’re more ugly than ruinous. When they finally shrivel up and disappear the mountains will recover fairly quickly. It isn’t true that roads aren’t being built on top of streams. That happens all the time, not only up high but everywhere roads are built. It isn’t true that headwater silt is more destructive than silt lower down where water flows less quickly in greater volume. Those dense, rich habitats change drastically when roads are built beside them. (Much of the destruction of Irene was due to runoff containment, hemming in river beds with roads, bridge abutments and seawalls to permit development beside water. If riparian buffers hadn’t been effectively eliminated, not only would people be further from the flood, the flood would have had room to spread out and calm down instead of being everywhere a runaway train. Those roads-on-top-of-streams are far worse than anything up top.)

        It’s true highways don’t affect ridge tops, but they affect everything else. To build the interstate, mountains really were blown up, moved, and created. That was destruction on a scale against which Lowell can’t begin to compare. Division of communities wasn’t metaphoric, ruining of lives wasn’t histrionic, utter devastation of pristine habitat was no exaggeration. Huge swaths of Vermont disappeared under embankments that only glaciers are likely to remove. What’s happening today is sad, but saying it’s unprecedented or egregious or especially high-handed is simply untrue. You can predict that the ends won’t justify the means. (You can say the same of the interstate.) That’s legitimate. But saying no possible benefit justifies ridge top development, and saying wind power confers no benefit, is overstating the case sufficiently to taint everything you say. I happen to agree with much of what you say, but you have to realize that your word by now automatically triggers a big dose of salt because it routinely strains credulity. Kingdom Wind may be a dog; screaming “Wolf”, in the long run, is counterproductive.

      • Townsend Peters

        “The interstates are not on ridge lines.”

        Environmental impacts don’t only occur on at high elevations.

        It seems you have just admitted that your real concern is aesthetics, and that you raise claims about noise, wildlife, and storm water problems only as ammunition to throw against something you don’t want to see.

      • Gary Murphy

        Annette, you mention solar as our best source of renewable energy. I am not in any way suggesting that solar energy should not be part of the mix but, in designing a program for the calculation of home energy costs for a computer course I was taking a few years ago, using data from the national weather service I discovered that direct sunlight was only available for approximately 20% of the total hours during the winter months.

        • Gary Murphy

          I should add that the availability of sunlight is for various locations in VT.

  • Rob Macgregor

    It has been said that while wind may not be sufficient to replace coal, we will not replace coal without it.

    These pictures seem to me to be more representative of the type of energy / environmental impacts we need to be concerned about:

  • Jeff Farber

    In 1970 Deane Davis put spent much political capital to initate and then succeed in the process of making Act 250 the law in Vermont. Why? Because he was made aware of the impacts that corporate America, in the guise of land development companies, were targeting in Vermont. Massive subdivisions of lots, 1 acre or less surrounding many of Vermont’s growing southern ski slopes were not just imagined but already planned and mapped out. Why did he do that? Because, according to his autobiography, that was not how he believed Vermont should be developing its economic future. He felt deeply that Vermont was and should retain its rural, working landscape based character without the manifest destiny of corporate America, ( and now the world) dispoiling what brings and brought many to Vermont and keeps us here. Are we not considered and pride ourselves on being a refuge from that industrial, consumer driven world that has no respect for, places no value, on landscape beyond its utility to create a profit. Are we not championing a agricultural economy based upon localism and sustainabliity on a working landscape sufficienty intact to consider such, thanks to Act 250? Why would the former president of National Life Insurance, a life-time lawyer and Republican make such a courageous stand. Because he understood that the value of an intact landscape supercedes the bottom line demands of corporate entities and global finance.
    Fast forward to 2011 and the lines of division atop Lowell Mountain. Here we have a utility owned by a global energy conglomerate eviscerating a mountain top ridge in the name of “green” energy and as a miniscule hedge against climate change. Where in this debate is a monetary value, in terms of its value as an intact wildlife habitat and cooridor, in terms of quality of life for those who have invested their lives in a way of life removed from the vestiges of an industrial, urban economy, in terms of the irreplacement integrity of that ridge top forever altered, beyond that of the purchase of the actual acreage, placed into the equation of cost benefit analysis? I don’t see it, I don’t hear it. It is sophistry to hold the that Lowell, or any other alternative energy project, is a better alternative to misguided energy and recreational developments, as if repeating the missteps of the past in the guise of “green” development should be given a free ride. If we are attempting to chart a new, more sustainable path into the future, why hold forth bad and agregious mistakes from the past and say, see isn’t this better than that, when the “this” is just a variation on a system that holds no value for sustainability, and is in fact built upon an economy that by its very nature is an anathema to that goal.
    And yes we are faced with an economy and lifestyle that has become solely dependent upon a never-ending and increasing demand for power, and is in this case electricity, a power source that is predominately, and will until depleted, be fueled by coal and other fossil fuels, and an industry that while it trumpets “green’ energy on the one hand, puts the returns from investments from that “green” energy into developing tar sand and other egregious energy projects. As I write these words, that will soon be transmitted to you the reader, using who knows how much electricity in support of an infrastructure that enables such communication, an infrastructure which is, by the way, a growth center of the global economy, one has to ponder what can we do differently. For me the answer is that we do not destroy the ecological integrity of mountain ridges created over millenia until we have made use of every other available means, be it conservation, be it use of community or small scale projects, be it putting energy generating facilities on places that have already been sacrificed, be it dismantling an insane economic system that is at war with the fundamental nature of the cosmos.
    I do not advocate returning to the pre-industrial era, and do not discount the value of electricty as a tool for modern life, but decry its use in support of a disfunctional gadget based culture, and as such have pondered where else can our power come from. I am not alone. Others in Germany, in Oregon, in California, in New Mexico have seen an answer. In this state we have approximatley 390 miles of interstate cooridor with a right of way of varying width, but likely at least an average of 100 feet ( once the paved portion is subtracted). That is approximately 4,500 acres of land. The land that the interstate right of way sits upon is government owned with restriction on access and useage. The federal government has allowed state’s to have a say on how that otherwise off-limits land may be utilized. In the places named above, they have used some of their interstate right of way to develop projects to generate solar power. I say why not here? Rough back of the envelope calculations indicate that the thousands of acres of land along an already dispolied and stretch of land that has been sacrificed to our unsustainable economy and lifestyle could produce the theoretical power of at least one Lowell Mountain development. Why not call, and it would seem prudent and wise, for a halt or moritorium on the further development of Lowell Mountain until we have a study of the feasibility of producing electricty along the interstate cooridor, why not ask GMP why they never considered this as an alternative to utility scaled ridge-top wind, why not petition our governor and legislators to follow the example of Deane Davis to stand up to the power of corporations and do what is right for Vermont? I applaud Senator Benning for his efforts that brought the moritorium amendment, which could have provided time to answer some of the above questins, to the floor of the Senate, and will be questioning my Senators about why they voted against it.
    This being said, I’m sure that there will be a quick up-swelling of nay-saying to the idea of solar on the interstate, nay-saying based upon engineering challenges, based upon comparisons to the business as usual equations of energy finance and investment, based upon ideological or organizational investment in wind development at any cost. To this I say yes there are challenges and considerations and now let’s find a way, in the name of our landscape and sustainability, to address, meet and solve those challenges.

    • Bruce Post

      Yes, Deane Davis played a prophetic role in the creation of Act 250 as did another visionary Republican, the late Arthur Gibb. I would like to add two more names to the list of remarkable people who protected Vermont’s natural communities and mountains: UVM’s Hub Vogelman and Craftsbury’s Shirley Strong, the first woman president of the Green Mountain Club.

      Hub and Shirley were instrumental in the creation of the Green Mountain Profile Committee, which advocated the protection of our high altitude ecosystems and contributed to the 2,500-foot rule in Act 250. Their work was motivated by assaults on our high ridges, one of the most notable being the blasting of the Jay Peak summit in order to erect the tram house.

      Where are similar visionaries in public life today? I know Jay Peak Resort is still around, chiseling away at the mountain and with big plans for more mountainside urbanization.

      Vermont, like most places, has suffered its share of ecosystem destruction. That is part of the sad history of our state. Going forward, when will we learn to say “enough”?

  • The 1932 Report by the Country Life Commission in one of its recommendations stated that the State of Vermont should purchase all the ridge lines!

    • Bruce Post

      Hey, Roger! Good to hear from you. Here is what the VCCL’s Committee on Summer Residents wrote:

      “The Committee would recommend that the state take over, as rapidly as possible, the summits of the principal mountains for park and forestry purposes. Our higher education institutions already have some important holdings on the summits of mountains. The National Government is establishing a Forest Reservation in southern Vermont which will probably be enlarged from time to time. If the towns, the state, the Federal Government and our educational institutions can secure control of the mountain summits, and manage them in a coordinated manner, this control may be utilized to advantage, from both a forestry and a scenic point of view. It may be possible, under suitable restrictions, to lease these lands in certain areas, for the erection of camps and summer homes. It seems to your Committee, that the possibilities of such development deserve careful consideration.”

  • Jim Candon

    In the end we will be using natural gas.

  • Joelen Mulvaney


    People are so afraid they will not be able to power their toys and gizmos…that they are willing to destroy the very ecological systems they profess to want to preserve!

    How about passing laws that require ALL NEW building construction to generate electricity (by solar or wind)? small scale generation will not only take our energy future out of the hands of capitalist pig corporations but also use an already destroyed site for energy generation.

    As long as energy generation is proffered by for profit mega corporations we will not have projects that “save” the environment, only ones that profit from its destruction

    • Joelen,
      There is a massive energy source right at our fingertips — but, so far, this resource remains largely untapped. This energy resource is available in every state, every city and every town, does not require mining and drilling and costly power plants, makes no noise, is invisible, does not harm the environment and fauna and flora and creates more jobs than renewables per invested dollar.

      The majority of our existing building stock is old and most are inefficient buildings that are destined to be in service at least 25 years or longer. Reducing the energy that is normally wasted in existing buildings offers more potential for cost-effective energy savings and CO2 emission reductions than any renewables strategy. Here are some data:

      Annual Energy Use for Heating, Cooling and Electricity of Inefficient Government Buildings 

      NY State Office Building Campus/SUNY-Albany Campus; average 186,000 Btu/sq ft/yr. Source: a study I did in the 80s. 
      Vermont State Government buildings; average 107,000 Btu/sq ft/yr.
      Not much can be done with such buildings other than taking them down to the steel structure and start over. 

      Annual Energy Use for Heating, Cooling and Electricity of Efficient Corporate Buildings 

      Building energy demand management using smart metering, smart buildings (including increased insulation and sealing, efficient windows and doors, entries with airlocks, variable speed motors, automatic shades on the outside of windows, Hitachi high efficiency absorption chillers, plate heat exchangers, task lighting, passive solar, etc.) were used in the Xerox Headquarters Building, Stamford, CT, designed in 1975 by Syska & Hennessey, a leading US engineering firm.

      Result: The energy intensity is 28,400 Btu/sq ft/yr for heating, cooling and electricity, which compares with 50,000 Btu/sq ft/yr, or greater, for nearby standard headquarters buildings. Source: a study I did in the 80s.

      France and Germany are building high-rise office buildings that average less than 10,000 Btu/sq ft/yr. 

      China is building net-zero-energy, high-rise office buildings designed by Skidmore, Owens, Merrill, a leading US architect-engineering firm in Chicago, Illinois. 

Thanks for reporting an error with the story, "Benning: A change in the wind"