Letters to the Editor
Read what our readers have to say about Maine.
The Truth About Wind
Kudos on your attempt in your March issue at a balanced package of articles about wind energy. One important factor left out on both sides of the discussion is cost. Wind is free, but the power it generates is not (the same can be said of solar). Without heavy government subsidies neither is a viable business, which is the dirty little secret rate payers in Ontario, the UK, and elsewhere are all too rudely discovering about wind. Finding clean and sustainable sources of energy is a lofty and necessary goal, as well as sensible regardless of the debate about CO2. We cannot lose sight, however, that the users who bear the financial burdens must be heavily factored into the equation, or in the end it is all for naught.
—Richard B. Lyman
Pound Ridge, New York
Overall, Joshua F. Moore’s “Everything You’ve Wanted to Know About Wind Power” article did a good job answering many questions. However, I’d like to see him back up his claims with data from unbiased scientists and economists. For example, as he stated, wind turbines’ production capacity is much lower than its rated capacity. Thirty percent is a generous number. The state-funded turbine at UMaine-Presque Isle has been in service for almost two years, and its production levels are approximately 12 percent. UMaine-Orono’s Jim LaBrecque studied Mount Abram High School’s turbine and determined that it would take more than six hundred years for it to pay for itself.
Since wind is intermittent, unreliable, and not able to be stored, it can never supply our base-load power. It is always and only an unnecessary add-on. When the wind blows, its electricity is added to the grid, and so a traditionally fired plant must be ramped back down, producing power at a less efficient level (and polluting more than it would if it ran at peak performance levels) as it waits for the inevitable moment when the wind doesn’t blow.
In regards to setbacks, newer studies are showing that homes within two miles of a turbine development suffer losses in value of 25 percent to 40 percent, with some homes being deemed a complete loss.
Thank you, Down East, for giving this important topic so much space in your magazine. Industrial wind will be, I believe, one of the top stories of 2011.
— Karen Pease
Lexington Township, Maine
Thank you for addressing the important topic of wind power in your March issue. In reference to your “Editor’s Note,” Camden and Rockport have separately begun the drafting process for wind ordinances to protect the health, safety, and welfare of their citizens. Ordinances are written to spell out legally the details for consideration by all parties, and they do not promote, nor prohibit, wind development. Fifteen Maine towns have already enacted, or are in the process of enacting, protective wind ordinances.
The respective planning board and ordinance-writing committees are working with their code enforcement officers to educate themselves on important issues including noise, property values, setback limits, flicker, and impacts on nature. Interested citizens are also encouraged to participate by attending their town’s meetings.
Separate provisions may be included to address small backyard or farm turbines (up to a hundred kilowatts), medium turbines (hundred kilowatts – 1.5 megawatts), and the large turbines (1.5 megawatts and larger). The dates for public hearings will be announced later in local newspapers.
The Camden and Rockport select boards must also review and cast their vote to, or not to, support their town’s planning board wind ordinance draft/changes or additions. Only then will the ordinance appear on each town’s ballot for voter approval. If accepted by the majority of voters, that wind ordinance will represent each town.
Friends of Ragged Mountain
Thanks for printing both sides of the wind-power issue. Maine is the Alaska of the East Coast with the same issues: one side surrounded by the ocean and two sides by Canada, leaving only the south as an entrance to the U.S. Because of that, the tourism industry is the largest in Maine, with ten billion dollars income and 179,000 jobs reported in 2009. We will lose many of the jobs and much of the income with the destruction of the mountaintops to accommodate 350 miles of wind towers across the state. But why, when we can buy power from Canada when we need it without the loss of our most profitable industry, or else use offshore, out of sight power generation when it is ready?
—Nancy D. Gray
Maine Comfort Food
I got my March issue of Down East and was taken in by the picture of franks and beans on the cover. I am an alum of the University of Maine and remember Saturday night supper in the dining hall being franks and beans! As I looked through the issue, the pictures and descriptions of the comfort food were more and more enticing.
Pocono Pines, Pennsylvania
I enjoyed reading your March story “An Education in Green Living,” which highlighted sustainability practices at many Maine colleges and universities. Let me add to that story on behalf of Bates College.
For a commitment to sustainability to have arguably its greatest result, it should become part of an institution’s long-term facilities planning and everyday operations. In addition to its newly built, environmentally friendly building, the dining program at Bates has made many strides toward not only reducing its environmental impact, but also supporting the larger community. One action taken to promote environmentally responsible food service is purchasing 28 percent of its food from locally grown and organic sources, with a goal to increase that percentage to 35. The dining program also recycles or composts 82 percent of its solid waste, keeping it out of the local landfill. The process is so effective that there is no dumpster needed at our Dining Commons.
Bates College Environmental Coordinator
Where in Maine?
The mystery picture in your March issue was a comforting one for me: it is my hometown of Patten. In the photo I can see two of my relatives’ homes as well as the Methodist church, where my own parents were married. When I went to school in Patten in the eighties, there were twenty-eight kids in my class; now Patten kids are bused to nearby Stacyville because there would only be approximately five in each grade. Like so many other towns in Northern Maine, Patten’s population continues to dwindle, and pictures like this one, with a full downtown scene, are history.
—Suzanne Libby Morton