The making of a NIMBY
There have been several letters to the editor in which allegations of NIMBYism are leveled at the people of Windham. What does it take to make a NIMBY out of someone who is deeply concerned about greenhouse gases and climate change and is a fervent believer in the idea of community scaled renewable energy? If that person hears that a developer and land owner are partnering to bring an industrial-scale wind project to their town, he might say, as many of us did six years ago, “Really? That’s great. Tell me more.”
And so they dig in and study the data available from places like the EPA and the Energy Information Agency and ISO-New England; they talk to folks with close-up experience with industrial wind; they read about the European experience and they learn stuff like this:
Vermont has the cleanest electric power in the country measured by the amount of atmospheric carbon produced per megawatt hour — 600 times cleaner than the nation as whole (EPA).
Vermont’s electrical sources create two pounds of carbon per megawatt-hour as compared with a national average of 1,300 pounds. The next closest state is Idaho with 220 pounds (EPA).
Vermont has more available electric power than we can use for now and probably for decades ahead (ISO-NE).
ISO-NE says we don’t need power from Vermont Yankee, so common sense says, if we don’t need it we don’t need to replace it.
Wind projects in the Northeast, due to the variability of mountain weather only produce energy on average about 25 percent of the time (government reports from Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont).
Vermont has the lowest percentage of carbon dioxide emissions from electricity in the U.S., at about 2 percent. The national figure is around 40 percent (Energy Information Agency).
Vermont’s percentage of carbon dioxide from home heating is 31 percent — the highest in the country and three times the national average (EIA).
Vermont’s percentage of carbon dioxide emissions from transportation is 47 percent — the highest in the country and 1.5 times the national average (EIA).
Theoretically, Vermont could make a real reduction in transportation-related emissions by the widespread adoption of plug-in cars. Today the state has less than 200 registered. UVM Transportation Study Center says that we could integrate 120,000 plug-in EVs without adding any new electrical generation or transmission capacity.
Massive construction in fragile mountainous terrain endangers not only plant and animal life, but threatens ground water purity, results in uncontrolled stormwater runoff, and vastly increases the risk of flooding
Large-scale independent professional studies show that proximity to these developments has had catastrophic effects on property values — perhaps more than 40 percent (see McCann, Heintzleman and others).
The noise from these locomotive-sized machines deployed 400 feet in the air in large arrays is unique in the environment. Traditional published noise pollution standards are inadequate to protect nearby residents from inaudible sound and other kinds of vibratory interference. The science is still emerging, but the evidence is mounting that people suffer when they live close to these developments.
It all leads to the conclusion that industrial wind on ridgelines is a waste of opportunity and resources and will mostly serve to degrade our environment and enrich the developers.
The only reasonable conclusion for me is: Build it if you must, but not in my backyard.