A Free-Market Energy Blog

Vermont Environmentalists: 'Time Out' to Industrial Wind (Whoa moment in the Green Mountain State)

By Sherri Lange -- September 6, 2011

“What will we do when the wind turbines die? Will there be a ‘deconstruction tax’ placed on fossil fuels, oil, gas, and coal taking the blame for driving wind turbines into retirement?”

Former Governor of Vermont, Jim Douglas, says that wind turbines are the “wrong choice” for the famous ridgelines and natural beauty. Annette Smith, Executive Director of Vermonters for a Clean Environment (read her op-ed below), says “it’s not too late,” to examine the facets of building mammoth turbines in one of the most beautiful natural areas of America.

These new, important voices indicate that politically correct wind energy is creating a backlash in Vermont, as elsewhere.

Lifecycle Analysis

What is actually involved in the construction of huge turbines is often not thought of, unless, as Ms. Smith suggests, you are forced by proximity and imminence to consider the “engagement.”

There is the transportation of huge parts (usually manufactured elsewhere such as in China or Denmark), parts that are often toxic (carbon fibers in the blades that cannot be recycled). Or consider the rare earth elements in the magnets, also highly dangerous, created out of and transported with oil and gas, lubricated with oil and petroleum products, mired in massive plugs of cement. Consider also how natural sites are dynamited for turbine sites, how forests are ripped up, and the social costs for those near the taxpayer-dependent activity.

Expect a short (12–15 year) life span for the turbines, not the 25 years the industry purports. Imagine when the subsidies dry up how the turbines will be left to rot in the sun, still a hazard for birds and bats.

The question must be asked: What will we do when the wind turbines die? Will there be a ‘deconstruction tax’ placed on fossil fuels, oil, gas, and coal taking the blame for driving wind turbines into retirement?

‘Turbine Sacrifice’

The incredible destructive power of Industrial Wind has been long submerged into cozy green language, and false promises. It is the result of fast and very clever social marketing for over 30 years. The fact is, that “turbine sacrifice” (those creatures and landscapes destined for destruction in a radius of some say 10 miles) is a common feature of our relationships with this industry. But now people are saying, Whoa.

The Whoa Moment is burgeoning everywhere. Moratoriums and ‘No’ votes from the grassroots are reaching to all levels of government in all parts of the world. The movement against Natural Destruction is a force unto itself. The development of turbines intrinsically is a decision to “collapse, kill, dig, plug, reduce water quality, explode, and create unbearable noise.”

What do Vermonters and others want of their habitats? Clearly not the destruction of eco systems and social systems that cannot be replaced. As Smith also attests, communities and relationships are also torn asunder. There is nothing safeabout this industry.



The downside of turbines on the ridgelines of Vermont will be equivalent to a slowly released toxic social and environmental mess: a Love Canal of sorts.

WHOA might well stand for: Wind Hammers Our America. It’s not too late.

If turbines are not right for Vermont, they are also not right for important bird areas, wetlands, migration routes, in the Great Lakes, on prime agricultural land. Since turbines are now seen by many as a primitive junk science technology, we may as well begin to look at the recovery of industrial junkyards such as Hawaii’s Big Island, or California’s Tehachapi Gorge. Lessons have been learned. No need to press the replay button.


Smith: Whoa! to wind energy development in Vermont by Opinion | August 22, 2011

Editor’s note: This op-ed is by Annette Smith, executive director of Vermonters for a Clean Environment.

It is not too late for Vermont to stop and take a serious look at wind turbine development on our mountains. In fact, now is exactly the right time to step back and evaluate what we know, and build on experience.

When polled, most Vermonters say they support wind energy. Imagining the Searsburg turbines, I answered “yes, even near my house.” They are only 197 feet tall, unlighted, not too many, not very visible. I thought they were beautiful when I saw them in 2001.

When Vermonters started calling VCE in 2009 seeking assistance with wind proposals, I quickly learned the technology has changed. Today’s machines are “big. They’re very, very big,“ said Jeff Wennberg, while promoting the Ira project. Vermont’s Public Service Board (PSB) has approved four projects with turbines ranging from 410 to 459 feet tall. Vermonters have not been asked what they think about anything that big.

Vermonters who live near mountains where wind turbines have been proposed have learned about all the issues associated with the technology. Call them NIMBYs or wackos, yell at them if they use the word “industrial” instead of “utility scale,” call them a vocal minority or a fringe group, they now number in the thousands and have had to become educated by reason of location.

If you live in the “sacrifice zone” of wind energy development (draw a circle with a radius of two miles from the ridgeline — you get the impacts but no compensation), you learn that wind turbines:

a) collapse, catch fire, throw ice, throw blades,
b) kill birds like raptors, and endangered bats
c) require cutting bear-scarred beech trees and fragmenting wildlife habitat
d) destroy songbird habitat
e) require hundreds of thousands of pounds of explosives to blast miles of new roads
f) require impervious road construction on highly erodible soils
g) require filling headwater streams and degrading water quality, resulting in fewer fish
h) make noise extending over a mile that can interrupt sleep and make people sick
i) are being permitted less than 200 feet from property lines
j) have blinking lights and industrialize the landscape
k) divide communities; turn neighbors, family members and towns against each other and more, with issues unique to ridgeline development in Vermont.

One large project is under construction in Sheffield, with 16 turbines 420 feet tall and seven miles of new roads. This kind of development is new to Vermont, and has the potential to change the face of the state. With more than a dozen communities targeted for proposals, this subject deserves more thoughtful consideration than is provided by two lawyers and one businessman in Montpelier who are making decisions on a case-by-case basis without any statewide planning.

Questions have been raised about PSB-approved wind projects that will be answered soon, once the Sheffield project goes on line and operates through a winter. We have the perfect opportunity to evaluate the performance of First Wind’s project.

  • Will the stormwater control design protect the high quality water resources and control the volume of water coming off the mountains?
  • Will noise be a problem for neighbors?
  • Will the technology withstand brutal winter conditions?
  • Will lights be an issue?
  • Will wind turbines inhibit or enhance tourism and the second home market?
  • How many permanent jobs with benefits will be created?
  • What will the capacity factor be?
  • How many birds and bats, and what type, will be killed?
  • What happens to the wildlife whose habitat is changed?
  • Will the PSB enforce its conditions?

…. With so much at stake for Vermont, the prudent thing to do is stop, look and listen. Wind developers and our political leaders owe it to all Vermonters and our wild creatures to make sure we get this right.

On Friday, former Gov. Jim Douglas was on Vermont Public Radio and was asked about big wind turbines. He said, “…the natural beauty of Vermont is our strong suit, and to put these big machines on our precious ridgelines is not something that’s in the state’s interest…. I think it’s the wrong choice for Vermont.”

We have a lot to lose. Getting it wrong will be a very expensive mistake. For those people living near Vermont’s big wind energy proposals, it already has been.


  1. John Cunningham  

    A classic Greenie move–support alternate energy in the abstract, but oppose every specific project. Let’s see…no oil, no natural gas, no coal, no nukes, no wind turbines, no solar plants. How do we warm and power ourselves? harnessing unicorn farts?


  2. Vermont Enviro’s Love Wind Power, Just Not In Vermont » Pirate's Cove  

    […] group which loves “green” energy, but doesn’t want it where they can see it (via Master Resource) Editor’s note: This op-ed is by Annette Smith, executive director of Vermonters for a Clean […]


  3. Vermont Greens’ Wind Power Worries - I Hate Paypal » I Hate Paypal  

    […] “utility-scale” turbines on Vermont’s ridge lines.  Is this a sign of things to come?  More here. Posted by admin Add […]


  4. Catherine Bayne  

    WOE moment is perhaps more appropriate when apparently large factions of our society are willing to think in terms of “sacrifice zones” of two miles which include both humans and preciously intact wilderness.

    In fact the visual blight on property values and ecosystems extends well beyond two miles in remote wilderness and wetland areas. The industrialization of our cherished and long protected natural heritage, which is so precious to some of us that it is part of our self-image, feels like a scar on our own faces.

    This willingness to make such sacrifices marks idolators of Industrial Wind.


  5. Ken Langford  

    Battle lines have been drawn in Anchorage Alaska over a 17.6 MW wind farm that offers nothing but high priced electricity for the customers of a local co-op. Chugach Electric and the Cook Inlet Native Corporation (CIRI) have presented a power purchase agreement to the Alaska Regulatory Commission for approval.

    Since it is a closed docket, the people are unaware of the proceedings, but the bottom line is “what are the people of Alaska getting for doubling down on the wholesale cost of electricity. Reliability, fuel savings, environmental conciousness?

    Hopefully, we will be provided with the full proceedings and justifications for the commission’s determination.


  6. Vermont has a Whoa Moment « The Green Whiteboard  

    […] More can be found here – Vermont Environmentalists:  ‘Time Out’  to Industrial Wind […]


  7. siroblio  

    This is a very funny article and the enviro’s op ed is hysterical! NIMBY, NIMBY, NIMBY! What a bunch of loosers. Unfortunately, they convince a lot of people that they are right.


  8. Jon Boone  

    Well said, John Cunningham. Up to a point. We warm ourselves with capacity generation, which excludes wind and solar. And we place capacity generation plants in ways that honor a sense of civility and public health. If environmentalists seek to provide the most power in the smallest space, and if they wish to enhance modern standards of reliability and performance at affordable price, then they have but one choice….

    And Ken Langford, Alaskans should not hold their breath waiting for an honest accounting of Anchorage’s proposed wind installation, a smallish bit of tax sheltering for a few at the public’s expense. The arrogance of regulatory commissions across the board portends nothing but vagary, stonewalling, and consumers be damned. Alas.


  9. Green Mountain State ‘time out’ on industrial wind | JunkScience Sidebar  

    […] Vermont Environmentalists: ‘Time Out’ to Industrial Wind (Whoa moment in the Green Mountain Stat… by Sherri Lange September 6, 2011 […]


  10. Jon Boone  

    You’re correct to point out Annette Smith’s lack of overall perspective. But your pithy pretentiousness borders on graffiti. There is much to admire in Ms. Smith’s position, for open vistas, natural scenic heritage, sensitive habitat protection, wildlife preservation, and respect for human health and quality of life, are all concerns embedded in environmental tradition. Any power plant siting, not just wind, should address these concerns, if only because it’s what an adult civility demands. What should be particularly galling is that Vermont’s wind projects not only threaten much that the state’s environmentalists hold dear but that they also would dysfunctionally impact the region’s power supply, making it more costly, less secure, and much less reliable.

    The real horror story is that the sacrifice of Vermont’s mountains to the caprice of Aeolus would be in service to corporate tax sheltering at the expense of the public’s pocketbook and intellectual acumen while providing negative benefits.


  11. rbradley  

    From a free market perspective, adding to what Jon said to siroblio, when special government favor (including outright mandates such as in Texas) create rural development where there would otherwise be none, NIMBYism by consumers and/or taxpayers has a special basis. Environmentalists too.


  12. john  

    In light of the Solyndra fiasco…


    Who are these guys?

    Now password protected by Maine LURC:

    Paul J. Gaynor Executive Summary Career Highlights Education Paul J. Gaynor is responsible for the strategic direction and day-to-day …. After beginning his energy career with GE Capital, he joined Enron in London …
    maine.gov/doc/lurc/rev… – Similar

    UPC First Wind President
    Michael Alvarez
    Section 4 Technical Capacity
    Michael Alvarez is responsible for First Wind operations and asset … After beginning his energy career with GE Capital, he joined Enron in London in


    UPC First Wind
    Steve Vavrik
    Vice President,
    “After beginning his energy career with GE Capital, he joined Enron in London in a project development and gas trading capacity. His role at Enron included trading natural gas forward contracts and negotiating structured power deals.”


  13. Rolf Westgard  

    These turbines are a taxpayer funded scam. The intermittent output requires duplicate power from natural gas or, when available, hydro. In effect you get one power generation system for the price of two.


  14. Jon Boone  

    Great work, John. Thanks.


  15. john  

    I’m not finished with First Wind Yet. Michael Alvarez was involved in a rather messy divorce awhile back. His wife discovered that he had lots of hidden assets and went back to court to amend the secree. The judge who I believe was wrong threw out the case. They above mentioned also got into broadband and other businesses after Enron Failed under UPC. I have lots of comments with links here:


    Another good source is Barbara Durkin….



  16. No Wind Turbines for the Vermont Landscape | Are We Aware Yet? Political News Blog-Current News Political News Blog  

    […] (Master Resource) – Former Governor of Vermont, Jim Douglas, says that wind turbines are the “wrong choice” for the famous ridgelines and natural beauty. Annette Smith, Executive Director of Vermonters for a Clean Environment (read her op-ed below), says “it’s not too late,” to examine the facets of building mammoth turbines in one of the most beautiful natural areas of America. […]


  17. john  

    Germany and Italy accused of ‘overestimating’ wind speeds


    Note: That is why Big Wind never discloses it…

    In other news…


    Lest see here, the executives at UPC/First Wind started their careers at GE capital and then joined Enron in London. UPC is rather famous in Italy too…



  18. Vermont Greens’ Wind Power Worries | theConstitutional.org  

    […] Annette Smith, executive director of Vermonters for a Clean Environment (VCE), is raising questions about “utility scale” wind developments in Vermont.  In a recent op-ed, she identified numerous environmental concerns and suggested postponing proposed wind farm developments until there is an opportunity to evaluate the environmental consequences of a planned 16-turbine development near Sheffield.  Former Vermont governor Jim Douglas has also warned against placing “utility-scale” turbines on Vermont’s ridge lines.  Is this a sign of things to come?  More here. […]


  19. john  

    GE Decides to Dump Offshore Wind-Power Plans Despite Collecting Millions in Stimulus Funds for Wind Projects


    GE was awarded 44 contracts totaling over $46,000,000 and 44 grants totaling more than $79,000,000 from the Obama-Pelosi $757 billion dollar stimulus package. Millions of dollars in stimulus funds were used by GE in green energy projects.

    Today GE announced that it was going to gut its offshore wind-power plans.


  20. john  

    Solyndra executives to testify before House panel next week


    Stearns and other Republicans on the Energy and Commerce Committee are conducting an investigation into the Solyndra loan guarantee. Republicans on the panel voted in July to subpoena OMB for documents related to the loan guarantee. Though OMB ultimately complied with the subpoena, House Republicans are now pressing the White House for more documents.

    Stearns hinted Tuesday that Republicans would consider subpoenaing the White House again if it does not comply with their latest documents request.

    Republicans will broaden the investigation to include Energy Department loan guarantees for other projects, Stearns said.


  21. john  

    Here are a few loan guarantees made.



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