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Pondering wind on a rainy day

First light
First light

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

Light sourced
Light sourced

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.

Morning glows
Morning glows

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.

A sign of things to come
A sign of things to come

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.

Missing pieces
Missing pieces

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.

Remnants
Remnants

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.)

Let's take a walk in the woods
Let’s take a walk in the woods

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

A calm morning
A calm morning

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.

Among the loblollies
Among the loblollies

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??).

September 2014K 019a

 

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).

The calm before the storm
The calm before the storm

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.

Chives and lemongrass in the herb garden
Chives and lemongrass in the herb garden

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.

A few drops
A few drops

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.

Author:

Robin is a photographer, artist, writer, wife, sometime poet, mom, grandma, daughter, sister, friend, and occasional traveler currently living on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. She finished a 365 commitment to get outside every day in 2011, and has turned it into a lifelong commitment taking one or more walks each day. Robin will continue to share her walks through her words and images on Breezes at Dawn. Older posts can be found at Life in the Bogs, her previous blog. Robin and her husband are in the midst of renovating the house and property they refer to as the Wabi-Sabi Ranch, 35 acres that include marsh, a dock on a tidal creek, meadows, and woodlands. Every day brings new discoveries.

27 thoughts on “Pondering wind on a rainy day

  1. Gorgeous photos, Today, Robin, as everyday. Dare I grow accustomed to such beauty? And that is the issue, is it not? You and your neighbors have grown somewhat accustomed to the peace, the quiet, and beauty, and the tranquility of living with nature in such a remote place. And now, here come businesspeople waving huge wads of money wanting to trade access for peace. And, you are right- it impacts EVERYONE- those who may profit, and those who won’t. And with such unforeseen, but irreversible consequences. A deal with the proverbial devil. I’m so sorry your peace has been shattered with this proposition, and hope your neighbors make wise decisions.

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    1. Thank you, WG. 🙂 I think that’s what gets me the most about situations like this — it really does impact EVERYONE, but those who stand to gain don’t usually care to listen to their neighbor’s side of the story. I was just thinking about the political aspects, and if what we saw in Ohio with fracking is any indication, money will win out unless those opposed (and there is a local group working hard on this issue) can get the numbers to prove to the politicians that they can and will be voted out. Even so, when there is big money involved, that might not matter to some. They may be given other opportunities to further their careers.

      The turbines will completely change the face of the county, some of which relies on tourism. It makes me wonder what tourists will think when they see 600-foot tall giants across this flat landscape. Someone from the group I mentioned Photoshopped some pictures just to give an idea of what it would look like, and it’s… I don’t even know how to describe it. Not a pretty picture, if I were a tourist coming here for the first time. In fact, if I’d known when we moved here this was a possibility, I might not have moved here. The other factor is that there are people, like myself and M, who moved here, or might have moved here, with retirement thoughts in mind. I can’t imagine there are many folks who want to retire in a place with a huge wind turbine in their backyard or even just down the street.

      And yes, the beauty, the tranquility, and all of nature will be impacted by this as well, as will the children in this area and their children. This is a long-term decision, something else I think people tend to ignore in favor of immediate gratification (money).

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      1. I agree with you on all counts…. and you mentioned 2 things which might be leverage points. 1. Can you get the realtors organized to oppose it on the grounds you just mentioned? Could be a huge variable in convincing retirees to invest in property in the county (not exactly a hot spot for retirement, anyway…) 2. The wildlife. If you can prove it will interfere with eagle nesting, that will be a huge point… also, look into the EPAs standards for development near waterways. The CBF should be an ally. We caused major problems for a developer wanting to add homes along the buffer of our community by documenting eagle nests (nesting areas are federally protected). That is one reason I regularly include photos of eagles near our dock in my posts! Good luck, Robin. I’ll be AFK for the next several, but will check in to your posts as opportunity allows. Best wishes, WG

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        1. Maybe not a hot spot for retirement now, WG, but neither was North Carolina until fairly recently. Or Florida, if you go back far enough. With the right businesses and services, it could be an attractive place to retire. I’ve met several people since we moved here who moved here as part of their retirement plan, usually after visiting the Eastern Shore at some point in life and falling in love with the beauty of nature. Safe travels to you, and have a wonderful trip! 🙂

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  2. I’ve been all for the giants in Lake Erie, but I hear your voice loud and clear. Not sure it will go forward on Erie, worry big oil/coal may be behind the negative press. We watched ‘Windfall’ and thought about the noise. Being in a city, is nothing like where you are. Keep doing your homework and then judge. P.s. Itching is getting under control, day 23.

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    1. I think the 600-foot turbines would be great out in the bay or the ocean, Chris. I think it would make perfect sense to put them out there, especially since it’s windier. Glad you’re feeling better! 🙂

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    1. That’s what I’ve heard, Elisa. They are so new that there isn’t a lot of science behind these illnesses yet. But I do know that lack of sleep due to increased noise would be a major problem for anyone, and there is a lot of science to prove that.

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      1. There are also balance issues and dead zone issues that interrupt or interfere with the body’s systems. The illnesses were so odd when I first heard of them I thought they were hooey, until I looked further into peer-reviewed literature about the medical issues related to them. Who wouldda thunk it?

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  3. As with everything else, the devil is in the details. It’s good you have an open mind about the situation. I used to think wind power was pretty cool. You see a lot of them in the fields out in the midwest. There used to be some out along the coast here, but were taken down because the wind wasn’t steady enough… going from gale force to nothin’ intermittently. I suspect some may have been knocked down during storms, but that was ages ago. I like my solar panels just fine. Running an all-electric house averaging $50 @ month for the electric bill.

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    1. We’re looking into solar panels here, Gunta. Our electric bill is outrageous, especially in the summer months. I don’t mind turning the heat way down in the winter, but I don’t tolerate the heat of summer well at all. We seem to have more sunny days than not, and solar makes more sense here than wind power.

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  4. When I think about the Fukushima nuclear disaster I think wind turbines would be the lesser of two evils… (I have a nuclear power plant in my back yard.) But you raise some good points, Robin. Solar power is probably the better choice for your area.

    I think telephone poles and power wires are ugly and ruin many otherwise scenic views. Yet we put up with them. But I suppose telephone wires don’t interfere too much with wildlife, except for the occasional squirrel or large bird who gets electrocuted when touching both lines. (At least once a year we lose power for an hour or so after a squirrel loses its life causing a short-circuit.)

    There are no simple answers. Too bad corporate greed seems to be spoiling what might have otherwise been a “good” idea.

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    1. I agree, Barbara. There are no simple answers. If we had the wind power here, wind turbines would make sense, but I suspect the reason our county was handpicked (and not one of the surrounding counties) is because this IS a poor region where they didn’t expect the people to find out about it until it was too late, and even if they did know beforehand, they probably wouldn’t fight it. Some of the big companies (who shall remain nameless for now) like to point at wind turbines and announce how they’re using green energy, but as I’m finding out, very often those turbines are located in the wrong places. It doesn’t matter to them if the turbines are actually generating energy so long as they can say they own them.

      I’ve been uncomfortable with nuclear energy since the accident at Three Mile Island in 1979. My oldest son and I were visiting my mother-in-law just a few miles downriver from TMI the day the radioactive steam was released. It wasn’t until a day or two later, when we were back at home, that we found out what had happened. The incident was rated 5 on a 7-point nuclear event scale.

      Our electric wires are underground, although the poles are still up in the streets. I often wonder when they will have the good sense to work on putting all of the power lines and such underground to avoid the power outages that result from storms knocking them down.

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  5. Lovely photos as always, Robin, and a thought-provoking post. I don’t envy you, being in this position – and after your Ohio experience, it seems doubly unfair. I have not yet had to face the NIMBY question on windmills here (our power comes from hydro) thankfully. I am absolutely opposed to nuclear power and the continuing use of fossil fuels – they are literally killing us and we must get away from them (though it may be too late already, I fear, in terms of human and wildlife health and climate change). So I support the idea of converting as fast as we can to solar, wind, and geothermal energy (and of course, cutting back on our consumptive lifestyle and focusing on energy conservation wherever possible). But I realize there are issues with renewable power sources too, and I detest the notion of outside developers deciding on the course or our lives, when they won’t have to live with the consequences of their developments. Long-time environmental activist & scientist David Suzuki wrote a post about windmills earlier this year which I just ran across yesterday – you might find interesting even if you disagree with his position. It’s at: http://davidsuzuki.org/blogs/science-matters/2014/04/windmills-are-things-of-beauty/

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    1. Thank you, Laurie, for your take on this, and for pointing me towards David Suzuki’s article. I’ve always thought wind turbines were beautiful to look at, but I’m not sure how beautiful they would be if the noise they generate was keeping me awake at night. I also question his answer to the wildlife issue. He gives the same answer that the wind turbine developers give which is that cell phone towers, buildings, and other man made things across the landscape kill millions of birds every year so what’s a few more? I question it because two wrongs don’t make a right, as my mother used to say, and I don’t think that is the best answer to the problem. The best answer would be to study the issue, and find a solution (such as locating the turbines out of the flight paths). This area hosts a lot of migratory birds, many of whom winter here or spend time fattening up here in the spring on their way north.

      I hope we can find ways to convert to renewable resources, too, and as quickly as possible. Solar would be a terrific option here, but the state has a queue for wind and solar energy, and right now the companies offering wind turbines are at the top of the queue for state and federal funding. Should the wind turbines be zoned out, the solar companies will have a chance, and solar would be much more appropriate for this area where it is sunny more often than not, but rarely windy enough to generate much power from giant wind turbines.

      I often wonder why conservation is not discussed as much as it should be. Well, I don’t wonder too hard because I suspect the answer is that many folks don’t want to sacrifice convenience and comfort. I know I’m guilty of that during the summer months when the heat and humidity are awful and I run the air conditioning.

      Thanks again for joining the conversation. 🙂

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      1. I agree with your comments, Robin. I hope you are successful at either having the wind turbines resited to a more appropriate spot, or getting solar instead. Alas, I fear that so much of this whole energy thing is driven by the quest for corporate profits and government subsidy opportunities that the thoughtful public discussions and sensible planning we SHOULD have are pre-empted right from the start. Sigh.

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Comments are delightful and always appreciated. I will respond when I can (life is keeping me busy!), and/or come around to visit you at your place soon. Thank you!

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