The wind fizzle

There were some rumblings of possible excitement at today’s Democratic State Committee meeting. Word was, the anti-wind energy crowd would push the Committee to adopt a resolution opposing ridgeline wind. And, to add impetus to the push, they might attend the meeting in force.

Well, not so much. There was a resolution on the agenda, courtesy of the Caledonia County Democratic Committee. But attendance was moderate. No busloads from the shadow of Grandpa’s Knob. There was brief and polite discussion, after which the resolution was defeated on a 26-7 vote. Arguments against the resolution mostly cited procedural grounds, arguing that the State Committee is a party-organizing operation, not a place for policy debates and decisions.

And that was it. No confrontations, no immediate blowback; the meeting went on without incident. The after-meeting chatter was no more or less heated than usual.

The resolution was crafted to downplay its anti-wind origins, but its clear intent was to put the Democratic Party on record opposing ridgeline wind.

The Caledonia County Democratic Committee proposes the following resolution that the State Democratic Committee call on the Vermont Legislature and Governor Shumlin to: 

Reassess Vermont’s energy policy to include appropriate changes to Statute 248 to account for high-elevation industrial-scale power projects that are attentive and accountable on issues of environmental destruction, wildlife habitat and human health impacts.

Propose a transparent, sustainable energy policy that preserves the irreplaceable ecosystems of Vermont’s highest elevations.

Okay, well. Aside from the fact that the second paragraph isn’t really a coherent sentence, here’s the problem. The resolution’s purpose is to effectively ban ridgeline wind under the guise of permitting reform. The language is highly inflammatory, written from an extreme anti-wind viewpoint and accepting the anti-wind arguments as fact.

And there’s the rub. If you believe that wind turbines cause unique harm to human health, wildlife and ecosystems and that they somehow cause irreparable and permanent damage to mountaintops, then ridgeline wind is unacceptable.

The rest of us, of course, don’t agree. We see wind power as part of the solution to climate change, and we see the preponderance of scientific evidence as supporting wind energy. Anti-wind people, like anti-vaxxers, are so convinced of their rightness that they unquestioningly accept any evidence that seems to support them (no matter how thin, anecdotal, or unscientific), and instantly dismiss any evidence that undercuts their views.

That’s the faulty foundation of this resolution. I am relieved that it was quickly sent packing by the DSC, even if it used the convenient dodge of a process argument to do so. The Committee, I’m sure, was even more relieved to avoid a public confrontation with one of the party’s extreme elements.

10 thoughts on “The wind fizzle

  1. waltermoses

    If we are really serious as a state to develop wind turbine energy, industrial scale, then lets put it where the wind blows and the infrastructure is available. Also where the need is adjacent to the supply. That is Lake Champlain, where you can look over to New York from the northern end of the lake and see wind turbines, lots of them. BUT, the rich have their estates and shoreline and that aint going to happen. Because the pushers and the capitalists of wind turbines don’t want to see them. Can’t blame them for that. Also, to remove any town influence on the process for placing these machines is something only a former lobbyist would do. Like, my little Tony.

    1. John S. Walters Post author

      The wind potential of Lake Champlain has been studied, and found inadequate to support a wind farm. It might seem windy when you’re down on the lakeshore, but that doesn’t mean there’s enough wind to support turbines. The Adirondacks are in the way. (There are wind farms in northern New York, between Plattsburgh and Malone; they are north of the mountains and face the broad flat lands of southern Ontario.) The only places in Vermont consistently windy enough to support turbines are the ridgelines — and, in fact, only a handful of them.

  2. walter Moses

    What is the story on the turbines in Georgia or Milton? Was a “study” done on those or are they just another subsidy boondoggle. I know there are studies and then there are other studies. Having spent considerable time on the shore of Champlain and driven to Malone, NY to observe the turbines there, I got a lot of questions about that “study”. Let’s start with who did it and who paid for it.

    1. John S. Walters Post author

      Well, if you’re firmly against wind farms, then you won’t believe a stack of studies from here to the Moon. I seriously doubt that any sensible utility would build a wind farm where it wouldn’t produce sufficient energy to pay for itself.

      I reviewed the myriad of studies a couple years ago when I was blogging at Green Mountain Daily. The takeaway: the only good sites for wind energy are north-south ridgelines between 2000 and 3500 feet above sea level. (Higher than that, icing becomes problematic.) You can read it here, not that it will convince you.

  3. Gaian

    ess release from the Caledonia County Democratic Committee.

    March 21, 2015

    Montpelier, VT

    Today a resolution, presented by the Caledonia County Democratic Committee,
    concerning the impact of industrial wind turbines on Vermont’s high elevations,
    was put to a vote at a meeting of the Vermont Democratic Party, State Committee.
    The resolution reads:

    The Caledonia County Democratic Committee proposes the following
    resolution that the State Democratic Committee call on the Vermont
    legislature and Governor Shumlin to:

    Reassess Vermont’s energy policy to include appropriate changes to
    Statute 248 to account for high elevation industrial-scale power projects
    that are attentive and accountable on issues of environmental destruction,
    wildlife habitat and human health impacts.

    Propose a transparent, sustainable energy policy that preserves the
    irreplaceable ecosystems of Vermont’s highest elevations.

    The Vermont Democratic State Committee failed to pass this important

    VDP Vice-Chair, Tim Jerman, former member of the House Energy and
    Natural Resources Committee, waved the resolution aside saying not to
    worry, there will be a two-hour joint legislative committee public hearing
    on energy siting on March 24th.

    Caleb Elder, an employee of industrial wind developer, David Blittersdorf,
    who was at the State Committee meeting, also said not to worry as there
    were no industrial wind projects currently being built. Mr. Elder failed to
    mention the active process to force construction of industrial wind turbines
    in Vermont’s Green Mountain National Forest.

    As the Vermont Democratic State Committee took up the resolution regarding
    large scale, high elevation industrial wind power projects, it became clear that
    all the problems that occur from environmental and health impacts, to lower
    than predicted power production, along with a huge carbon footprint and lack
    of CO2 reduction, makes it questionable if there are any real benefits to cancel
    out all the negative impacts these projects cause. It has also become clear that
    this issue has divided the Vermont Democratic Party just as it has divided
    Vermont communities.

    Meanwhile, the Vermont House Energy Committee, led by Tony Klein
    (D Washington Co.), has refused to act and make changes needed for siting
    these power projects and continues to side-step the issue, while there continues
    to be no Act 250 or Environmental Court oversight. As for the issue of siting
    these questionable projects Mr. Klein has been quoted as saying, “I don’t want
    to hear from neighbors.”

    A number of regions around the state are still threatened by these destructive
    projects, including one proposed for the Green Mountain National Forest,
    adjacent to the George D. Akin Wilderness Area.

    It is quite evident that the discussion on this controversial issue is far from over.

    Statement by:

    Keith Ballek, Caledonia County State Committee Representative to the VDP
    Ph: 802-626-9895
    Cell: 609-558-1221

    1. John S. Walters Post author

      A one-sided account, but that’s your viewpoint. However, if you’re so interested in the George D. Aiken Wilderness Area, maybe you should spell the man’s name right.

  4. waltermoses

    …..”north – south ridge lines between 2000 and 3500 feet above sea level” Really. Seems a wind generator is about to go up on a Ferrisburg farm big enough to supply 25 houses. The first community size wind generator has been in Vergennes for a while. Bridport has had one on a farm since 2013. Read all about it on WCAX. Like you, I doubt any of these would go up if they lost money.
    However, if you got your mindset with Klein and company that ridge lines must be destroyed to generate wind renewables, I guess convincing you of any other way is futile. Take a trip to the moon, John, and read some more studies not commissioned by GMP or the subsidy- society.
    Last time I looked, Bridport, Vergennes and Ferrisburg are on the east side of the lake.
    I’ll just bet the PSB agrees with you, Shumlin too.

    1. John S. Walters Post author

      See, the fundamental problem is that you believe ridge lines will be destroyed. I see some alteration, but no more than for, say, a ski run or comm towers. We haven’t batted an eye at all of those.

      Also, if you want wildlife habitat degradation, just wait till you get a load of the high-power transmission lines from northern Quebec through NH and VT.

      As for your first point, obviously community-scale wind is a different deal than the large turbines.

      1. waltermoses

        You haven’t batted an eyelash at ski areas, but I know a raft of Vermonters that have including me. I live 45 minutes from Mt. Snow, Bromley, Stratton and the Searsburg abortion belonging to GMP. I hunted where MT Snow is now. Yeah, I’m an old bastard, but I farmed 44 years and watched the degradation of the rivers and streams below every one of these city playgrounds. I have also driven the “megawatt line” from Norton to Concord VT , and that ain’t pretty either.
        I would much rather see community scale wind but that might not allow the big players to sell their pollution credits and get the big money. If you can look at the aerial photos of the Lowell wind project and say that isn’t destruction then I believe you are the product of an urban childhood and a city environment. Your attitude about this surprises me. On so many other issues we agree, I think.

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