Nancy Tips: Why wind turbines divide Vermont communities

Editor’s note: This commentary is by Nancy Tips, who is a member of Friends of Windham.

As soon as a town learns of a proposed wind installation, pretty much everybody involved knows that for some the stakes are high, while for others nearly non-existent. Imagine how strange this makes things: Part of a community experiences constant anxiety, while another part forgets about the whole thing. Sometimes for years on end.

Consider. Many proposed turbine neighbors spend lots of time trying to conceive an alternate plan for themselves and their families should the turbines be built. Some days we imagine devices to protect us from noise and shadow-flicker so we might continue to live here; other days we try to figure out how we might leave, given that we wouldn’t be able to sell our property. Most days we grieve for our region’s precious ecology and topography, bastions against climate change that would be irreparably damaged by the proposed installation. We grieve for Vermont’s renewable energy movement, in the grip of deceitful corporate powers. We grieve for each other.

Then, too, we’re angry. The Spanish wind developer Iberdrola’s proposal for our town, Windham, is basically a chimera, not even in the “queue” for consideration by ISO-New England, the controllers of our electrical grid. It’s a corporate fantasy, but one with obvious power to hurt nearby people and countryside if it ever does come to pass. Vermont’s renewable energy lobby, alongside our captured state government and agencies, will do everything in their considerable power to see that it does, yet another source of our despair.

What must it be like, I wondered, to never think about the proposed project and the attendant disruption, damage and pain it would cause?


Is it any wonder that prospective turbine neighbors tend, sometimes, to be anxious and sleep-deprived? This, even though most of us are normally calm and uncomplaining, not the caricatured crybabies that Iberdrola and their local agents enjoy portraying. We might even be forgiven for feeling a bit miffed at certain of our fellow community members. Especially the ones who for various reasons, including their own pleasant distance from the proposed and delightful “wind mills,” never think about either the turbines or us; or who, if they do, shrug and enjoy a quiet laugh at our expense.

I reflect on a meeting that took place back in the spring. It was a selectboard meeting, with community reaction to the turbine proposal on the agenda. I was anxious about attending, not liking the stress, but I went anyway and expected fireworks. Instead, the tension level was low. The “pro-wind-process” group of community residents who were in attendance were gorgeously relaxed, manifesting a sort of genial puzzlement about those of us in opposition to the turbines, along with a breathtaking lack of interest in anything we had to say. What must it be like, I wondered, to never think about the proposed project and the attendant disruption, damage and pain it would cause? What must it be like to never think about your neighbors?

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Many of us have given a great deal of thought to Iberdrola’s proposal and its potential effects. We have studied and written tirelessly on the topic. We have also thought a great deal about each other. Meanwhile, others in our community haven’t thought about the project, or us, at all. Until recently, that is. Suddenly, somehow, Iberdrola has turned up the heat on its community friends. And just like that, our very relaxed pro-wind-process faction has discovered its passion and it voice! Letters to all the newspapers have been dispatched, excoriating the opposition and trumpeting the news that a highly informed pro-wind-process group is now negotiating, in secret, with Iberdrola, on behalf of the town.

It’s just a guess. But I’d say that a firm and permanent foundation for community division has been laid, and that a grand framework for future discord is under construction.


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