The relationship between renewable energy resources and the communities we expect to host them must be appropriate and sustainable and, above all, acceptable to local people.
~ Owen Paterson
It’s a rainy Monday here on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. It’s a good day to see if I can tell you about last week’s public hearing without turning it into an epic novel.
Here we sit, M and I, transplants to a county that is mostly agricultural and residential (zoning we took into account when we bought our home and property). Many of the people in the county are poor. Some, such as those farmers who run big farms, are not so poor. There are not many small, family farms here (the Wabi-Sabi Ranch, by the way, is classified by the county as a small, family farm). It’s mostly Big Ag, and you can see it in the large houses that line the road that goes to the Point where we sometimes go to watch the sunset. That’s not to say those farmers aren’t sometimes stretched a bit. Farming can be a gamble with all sorts of things coming into play. You never know from one season to the next how it will go. But some appear to be doing okay.
There is a company, a developer, who want to put up wind turbines in our county. The developer is just that: a developer. They will sell the turbines to companies who want to buy them, usually companies that are in need of showing how they support renewable, clean, green energy. Or companies who need some carbon credits to point to.
Being the type of person who is occasionally called a tree-hugging hippie, I always thought I was all for wind power. The large wind turbines we used to pass on our way to and from Pennsylvania when we lived in Ohio always fascinated me, sitting up on top of their mountain ridge looking like alien giants planted into the rock of the mountain. M and I went up to visit the giants during one of our trips, but to be honest with you, I don’t remember too much about them. Were they noisy? Quiet? I don’t know. I don’t think they were turning at the time, and that’s the reason I don’t remember. It was also quite windy and cold so maybe we didn’t stay long enough to notice.
What I do know, having just looked them up, is that the Somerset, Pennsylvania wind farm has wind turbine towers that are 215 feet tall. While looking that up, I also found out that one of the Somerset wind farm turbines fell in January of this year. (It’s interesting to note that the company who operates those turbines is not a Pennsylvania company. The developer who wants to establish a wind farm here in our county is not from Maryland. I am reminded of the companies who started fracking in Ohio when we lived there, and how those companies are not from Ohio. Obviously this stuff is not happening in their backyards.)
I was not for or against the wind turbines when I first heard about it. I am against the way they hide the notices of public hearings, but that’s a different story for another time, and I think Douglas Adams covered that subject well in his book “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” when the hapless hero, Arthur Dent, finds out his house is being knocked down to build a by-pass.
Prosser: But the plans were on display.
Arthur Dent: On display? I eventually had to go down to the cellar.
Prosser: That’s the display department.
Arthur Dent: With a torch.
Prosser: The light had probably gone.
Arthur Dent: So had the stairs.
Prosser: But you did see the notice, didn’t you?
Arthur Dent: Oh yes. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign outside the door saying “Beware of the Leopard.” Ever thought of going into advertising?
~ From Episode 1.1 of the television version of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
M and I started researching the turbines and looking into what the developer has in mind for our county. It does not look good to us (or to a lot of other folks, as we found out at the hearing). There are, for instance, all sorts of health concerns when it comes to living next door to a wind turbine (shadow flicker, flash, Wind Turbine Syndrome, an increase in noise levels in an area where it’s peacefully quiet, sleep disturbances caused by the noise). There are ecological concerns especially when it comes to wildlife, particularly bats and Bald Eagles. There are aesthetic concerns. We’re not talking about 215-foot towers. Because this is a poor wind area (according to the wind maps), the towers the developer wants to put up will be close to 600 feet tall to catch the way-up-high wind. I keep trying to imagine that, and it blows my mind. The trees here are estimated to be about 60 feet tall. The landscape is flat. Even cell phone towers stand out here, and they are not as tall or as substantial as a wind turbine.
There are other complications to this matter. The U.S. Navy wants a delay until they complete a study on the impact of the turbines on their operations. Congresspeople giving in to the pressure from 21 groups, some from Maryland (the League of Women Voters of Maryland), some national (who have no stake in the matter), some that I used to respect (yes, I’m talking to you, Earth Day Network), who think wind power will be good for us to have here (perhaps because it’s not in their backyard??).
The farmers who will be leasing their land to the developer are all for it. Money, you know, speaks volumes. What they might not realize, and we saw this happen with fracking in Ohio, is that the developer could decide where on the land those turbines will go, and it might not be the area the farmer originally picked out. What they also might not know is that turbines of that size are going to require large swaths of land to be ripped up by large pieces of equipment. The proponents at the hearing came up with all kinds of good reasons for the turbines. One told a sweet little story about a wife whose farmer husband had died, and she said to the company that put up the turbines, “I couldn’t have afforded to keep the farm after he died without those leases.” There was also talk of jobs for the county (not likely as those jobs are few and will probably be filled by out of state people who already work for the companies involved), and an increase in tax revenue (not so, if property values decline because nobody wants a wind turbine in their backyard thereby making it difficult to sell your property if one of those giants happens to be looming over you).
I’ve explored and listened to both sides, and I find myself in a position I’m not sure I like. It’s called NIMBY (Not In My BackYard). I’m all for wind energy until someone wants to erect a 600-foot tower practically in my backyard. The arguments for it don’t wash with me, especially when you start researching the issue and find communities where they are removing or zoning out wind turbines after their own experiences with them.
If you’ve read all this, I appreciate your patience. It did turn into an epic saga after all. Sorry about that. Hopefully the images balance out the drama which I suspect is leaking through in spite of my attempts to remain calm and detached.
Thank you for visiting, and putting up with another near-rant from me. I do appreciate your visits, comments, likes, etc., and if I haven’t been around your place (blog) lately, I hope to get there soon. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, it’s raining here today so there’s no point in going out to watch the sunset. Let’s just sit on the porch instead, out of the rain, and enjoy the coolness. Maybe we can find something to talk about, such as solar energy and how solar panels might work here better than wind turbines.
Be good, be kind, be loving. Just Be. 🙂
Today’s joys: Much needed rain; cooler temperatures; chatting with a friend; lunch with M; playing with the cats.