The wind power debate these days.
- By: Paul Doiron
Last summer, the Camden Select Board made what it thought was an innocuous decision. It created a committee to explore the idea of building wind turbines atop Ragged Mountain. The selectmen didn’t know it, but they’d just kicked a hornets’ nest. People in my hometown had just watched three windmills rise across Penobscot Bay on Vinalhaven. They’d read about the islanders’ enviably low electric bills, but they’d also heard from neighbors of the turbines who described the experience of living in the shadow of a wind farm in ominous terms. And they feared that windmills would disfigure one of the prettiest hills on the midcoast.
Mostly, though, they worried. Despite the fact that there were no actual plans to construct a wind farm on Ragged Mountain (a place which my wife seeks to protect as part of her work for the Coastal Mountains Land Trust), rumors ran wild that bulldozers would soon be clearing a road to the summit. Town officials tried to calm the panic. “What [the committee] is not doing is developing a plan to install wind turbines on Ragged Mountain. It is the farthest thing from what we’ve been doing,” Camden Energy Committee member Rick Knowlton told the Bangor Daily News. “When it comes to Ragged Mountain and a wind project plan, there isn’t one.” But it wasn’t until opponents of the nonexistent plan began crafting an ordinance prohibiting turbines from ever being built in Camden that the hysteria at last subsided.
Such is the nature of the wind-power debate these days. Mainers are aware that turbines are going up on remote islands and mountaintops. And they might have heard about a fantastic proposal to construct a floating wind farm in the Gulf of Maine. But will wind energy ultimately be a boon to the Pine Tree State — or will it, instead, be a boondoggle?
In this issue of Down East we hope to clear the air, so to speak. We’ll introduce you to a University of Maine professor who believes the state can create a multibillion-dollar industry harnessing offshore wind. We’ll dispel some of the most common myths about wind power. And we’ll hear from an environmentalist who worries that the rush to place turbines on backcountry mountaintops might mean the end of the North Woods as we know it.
- By: Paul Doiron