PORT CLYDE — Much has been written lately about harnessing the wind resources of Maine.

Influential stakeholders have characterized Maine as the “Saudi Arabia of Wind” and others rant about placing huge industrial turbines atop pristine windswept ridges.

I suppose most Mainers and I fall somewhere between the two extremes. We can’t preserve all of Maine’s natural resources and still make a living, yet we can’t cut every tree or take every fish to make money today only to starve tomorrow.

We know we must wisely utilize our traditional natural resources. Why not our wind resources as well?

It seems to me that many of the people involved on both sides of this issue want it both ways.

The turbine builders want huge tax credits, sweet financing deals and an expedited regulatory structure. We can help them create a very expensive new source of electricity from which they propose to profit from us in the future.

Will Mainers’ future purchases cover the expense or will electricity flow out of state? After all, we have for years exported paper from the woods, water from the ground, fish from the sea and crops from the fields. Why not electricity from the wind or tide?

On the other side of the issue are many of the same people who generally favor shutting down fossil-fuel plants and nuclear energy, as well as any dams that impeded fish. Their goals are admirable, if not economical.

They have also advocated that we turn to alternative energy. Well, in a “let’s be careful what we wish for” moment, they are now faced with the prospect of turbines grinding away near their favorite remote location.

The battle over control of Maine’s natural resources is not new. While working families in Maine struggle to make ends meet, well-financed environmental organizations pick their causes and proceed to lobby and lawsuit their way toward their idea of what life in Maine should be.

They win most of the time and working people are left to wonder if anyone is fighting to “save” them.

These same groups have successfully focused our attention to the harmful effects of burning fossil fuels and climate change, and yet when we acknowledge their wisdom, they strenuously object to placing turbines in windy areas.

On the other hand, I have listened to the sales pitch of “experts” relating to wind energy in general, and the Vinalhaven project specifically.

When you hear that we can lead the world to “green energy,” create thousands of well-paying jobs and save the planet, too, who wouldn’t want to take part?

The presentations are long on all the advantages of wind power and short on any problems they may present.

Some remember when hydropower, nuclear and trash-to-energy would make us energy- independent. Now we celebrate the removal of all three.

Land-based wind power is certainly an experiment here in Maine. Offshore wind power is even more of a gamble.

So many technological hurdles and environmental unknowns remain.

No one knows if any turbine in Maine will ever generate enough electricity to fully pay for itself during a full life cycle, (also an unknown).

We do not know how affordable the electricity they generate will be and it will not matter, if when compared to sky-high oil, both would be too expensive for the average Mainer.

There are some places in Maine no one would want to see or hear a turbine. Katahdin and Cadillac mountains come to mind.

In a state that is generally over-regulated, it is now apparent that some of the turbines built here, despite the regulations in place, do not co-exist well with people nearby.

Many of the good turbine sites are relatively remote and/or in scenic areas, and when a neighbor’s quiet place on earth, pre-turbine, is no longer, the NIMBY effect is rightfully the result. Offshore turbines are appealing not only because of consistent and strong winds, but also because no one lives there. The few fishermen left in this state will probably have less say in the matter than the right whales in the area.

I believe many people in Maine, like me, generally favor developing wind energy. I also believe many people in Maine, like me, wouldn’t want a turbine in their back yard.

Above all else we need to ask: Should these grandiose turbine plans come at the cost of losing those special places we each know and hold dear, the essence of why we live here in Maine?


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