Promise of wind energy an illusion


To the Editor:

We, all of us Moshup Trail residents, wrote this letter to Durwood Vanderhoop, planning director of the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah)

Thank you very much for the invitation to attend the public hearing to review the results of a wind feasibility study conducted for the tribe and funded by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center and the Bureau of Indian Affairs. We understand the tribe is considering erecting two wind turbines on tribal property in Aquinnah.

As Aquinnah residents, property owners, and neighbors of the tribe, we would like to share our concerns about the impact of such a development on the health of our community residents, tourism, wildlife, community character, and property values, as well as about the economic impacts.

Structures: These industrial installations being proposed are not sculpture: they are huge, complicated pieces of machinery moving at hundreds of miles per hour. At different locations where they have been installed across the country they have been known to fall, spin out of control, throw pieces of the blades or large chunks of ice, and catch fire. How would Aquinnah extinguish a turbine motor on a fire 250-feet in the air?

Health: There is increasing scientific evidence that large-scale industrial wind turbines located within a mile of inhabited dwellings can produce headaches, dizziness, memory loss, anxiety, and sleep deprivation in some residents. This effect seems to be related to the wind turbines’ rapidly pulsed sub-audible pressure waves, as well as to the “flicker” effect produced by the constantly turning arms of the turbines, akin to a strobe light. While wind power proponents deny this effect, you only have to ask the residents in nearby Falmouth who live near the municipal turbine installed there this year about this effect. They will assure you it is real, and immensely damaging to their lives.

Tourism: Visitors are the lifeblood of the Vineyard economy, and of Aquinnah’s. The great attraction of our Island is that it is different from the rest of the country, with its protected open space, its older buildings in its small village centers, its unspoiled ocean vistas, its farms and its fields and its beaches. Dotting this pristine landscape with 400-foot high whirling industrial towers cannot help but take away some of that ambience that makes our island and our town so special to our visitors.

Wildlife: The tribe has always had a special and close relationship with the natural environment, with the birds and animals that share this land with us. Wind turbines will destroy that relationship. Construction and operation of these mammoth turbines will permanently drive away much of the animal life that exists nearby. And the bird and bat populations that fill our sky will not only be diverted from areas near the turbines, they will be killed in great numbers by them.

Property values: The wind industry claims its installations cause no loss in property values. This assertion is based on appraisals in Texas and Iowa where wind turbines are located on vast unpopulated areas. In Aquinnah, where people prize their unspoiled views and their rural quiet, the value of property within sight or hearing distance of these giant industrial structures will most certainly be affected negatively.

Economics: Clearly the tribe would not be considering this idea if there were not promised economic advantages. The state of Massachusetts and the Federal Government currently offer a vast array of subsidies and inducements to developers of wind power. But a cursory reading of current trends in this industry suggests that these may soon be disappearing, as concerns climb over the deficit at the national level and over the cost of wind-generated electricity to ratepayers at the state level. What the federal and state government promise today, they can take away tomorrow, as the tribe well knows.

First Wind, a leading wind developer nationally and in New England, recently withdrew its initial stock offering because no buyers could be found at the price they were hoping to get. It is entirely possible that the companies the tribe might partner with may find long-term commitments unsustainable, and leave the tribe with uneconomic structures and commitments to deal with alone. Look across the water to Cuttyhunk, where the remains of a wind turbine built and abandoned in the 1970s still lies on the top of that island’s highest hill.

False claims: The wind industry touts their installations as lessening our state’s reliance on foreign oil, and reducing energy costs. These claims are untrue. Less than two percent of electricity in Massachusetts is generated from oil. And the cost of wind generated power in our state, even with all the tax subsidies and utility mandates, is more than twice the cost of conventionally generated electricity. In Denmark, held out as the world leader in wind generation, the government recently announced plans for no further installation of land based wind turbines. What do they know in Denmark that we don’t?

No benefit on carbon output: Wind power is not consistent. As a result, normal, fossil fuel power plants need to remain in place so that when the wind is not blowing, they can provide the requisite power. Fossil fuel plants cannot start up and shut down quickly, meaning that they must run at all times as back up for wind-generated power. The net-net of this is that there is little total reduction in carbon put into the air and hence no real benefit to the environment.

Thank you for your consideration of these concerns. We look forward to a continued dialogue with the tribe on these community concerns that we all share.

Adam and Elizabeth Zoia
James and Erica O’Brien
Todd and Meredith Trimmer