Op-ed: A Windham resident speaks out for wind

By Mary McCoy

As a resident of the town of Windham, I have observed the activity related to the wind farm proposed for our town — and Grafton, which has been dominated by very vocal opposition.  For my own peace of mind, I am compelled to publicly state some of the positive reasons for supporting wind energy in Windham.  I speak for myself, but there are many others who have quietly expressed similar opinions.

Mary McCoyI see our land here as a resource to be well-managed.  I relate to our town’s working past as a farming area, a place once nearly clear-cut for its timber, the former home of two mining quarries, and an area where many now make their living providing services for others who come here to enjoy the mountains.  Many in town also use the land to produce their own food.  So I see the wind farm as yet another way to make good use of the land.

Some in Windham have said they see our town as a “retirement community.”  I see it as a town for folks of all ages, incomes and backgrounds – a diverse community.  The wind farm would enhance that by providing us with a sizable cut in municipal taxes, making it more affordable to live here.  It also would provide jobs during the construction and afterward with the operation and maintenance, bringing new folks here.  Some might have children in our elementary school, and more children here would not only make this a more vibrant place to live, it could mean a reduction in the school tax rate.

A beautiful and healthy environment is also important to me, but not just for my own backyard.  Wind energy is key to Vermont’s efforts to increase our state’s usage of renewable energy in order to address global warming.  The 500-foot turbines would not be an eyesore but rather a working statement of commitment to a healthy planet.  I believe it is more important to work for the common good of the state, nation and world than to protect any individual’s personal interest.  And, yes, if I lived closer to the proposed wind farm, I would still be in favor of it.

Like those who oppose the project, I researched the topic on the Internet.  Like them, I found articles that concluded that wind production can cause health problems.  But I found more credible reports that said the opposite.  The studies that interested me most were those that found that some people who feared wind turbines prior to project installation later felt sick because of them, while people who had no such fear did not feel sick.  That fits with the awareness that negative expectations often result in adverse effects and that our emotions impact our bodies.

Unlike some others, I am not afraid that the land owner and developer are scoundrels or that working for a wealthy land owner or an international corporation makes one a liar and a cheat.  Even if that were true, Vermont has standards that developers must meet before a wind farm is approved and that are enforced during and after the life of a wind farm.

Concerns can be further addressed for each specific site by having a carefully crafted legal agreement with enhanced protections and benefits achieved through negotiations between the town and the developer.  Such negotiations are now underway between knowledgeable Windham residents and representatives of Iberdrola, the developer.

Unfortunately, many who oppose the wind farm, including two of our three select board members, also oppose negotiations.  Their stand is, in a nutshell, to emphatically say “No!” to Iberdrola.  They fear that negotiations will make the wind farm possibility more appealing to residents who will vote in November on whether the project will proceed.  They say, “No!” to enhanced protections and benefits out of fear that the majority will then rule in favor.

I have never known a “just say no” approach to work on any social issue.  It only sets up a black and white, for or against situation that does not recognize the complexity of issues or the need to respect others’ opinions.  “Just say no!” fuels divisiveness and hard feelings.  It is my hope that my “no!” neighbors will relax their stance and accept the validity of others’ opinions and the importance of negotiations for a fair vote and, if the project proceeds, for the best outcome for our community.

Mary McCoy has served Windham in the past as assistant town clerk, leader of the Windham Broadband Project, and long-time contributor to the Windham News & Notes.

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  1. Lynn Barrett says:

    Mary — Where did you get this statement? Why do you think this is true? Do you remember the tobacco companies telling us that cigarettes were not harmful to our health? Think about it and perhaps do some more research.

    Wind energy is key to Vermont’s efforts to increase our state’s usage of renewable energy in order to address global warming.

  2. Phil Atwood says:

    Hi Mary McCoy,

    You sound intelligent, caring and sympathetic and mention the obvious things that could appeal to folks because of the green carrot that big wind flashes around.

    You might want to get away from your computer for a while to go to some of the meetings put on by Grafton Woodlands, that have addressed several aspects of industrial wind farms. You might also go to Albany and Sheffield, VT., and talk with people, like the Therrians that were not against the Sheffield wind farm, but because they were made physically sick from the audible or infra sound, they had to move away to get their health and lives back.
    There was no help for them from the developer, the land owner or the state of Vermont. A good Samaritan bought a mobile home in Barton for them to move into.

    You say you wouldn’t mind living next to a wind farm. That is quite easy for you to say and it may sound heroic to some, but the reality is that there are houses listed for sale in and around North Windham that prospective buyers will not even look at because of the possibility that the industrial wind farm might be built.

    When and if the project is built and there will be several homes that can’t be sold, what do you think that will do to the grand list and your taxes. What about the several property owners that will not be able to sell? Do you think that will make their lives better?

    If the Saxtons River has horrific floods if and after the industrial wind farm is built it will be too late to make sure that the drainage was build adequately to slow down the run off from the fragile mountain top environment. The roads and tower bases will add many acres of impervious area and there is no way that all the runoff can be stopped.

    If you do go to visit a wind farm, remember that most of the noise goes out from the blades in a cone, so if you are on the ground you may only hear a whir. If the wind company knows there are going to be visitors, they may slow the turbines down for the duration of the visit.

    The standards that the state has, that you mention, are not rigid enough to protect our ridges and rivers. They do not even have to comply with Act 250 standards that are and have been the gold standard for 45 plus years. The experimental level spreaders that were allowed at Lowell have been reported to be failing and it is a relatively new installation.

    Why do you say that the proposed wind farm is for the good of the state, when the power grid is telling the developer that they do not need the power? The wind towers in Vermont are not efficient and are not really green. That is a myth. Lots of the money for this project will be going to Spain, not Vermont.

    The continued forest fragmentation that the proposed project presents will not help the birds, bats and game animals. One hapless deer has already died tangled in a guy wire to a met tower. The vacuum caused by the blades will kill many birds and bats without them being aware of the danger.

    The several current lawsuits against the developer indicate to me that they can’t be trusted. That is verified by several people who live near wind farms. The gag order that they hide in the small print of their “good neighbor” agreements is indicative of the underhanded tactics that the developer is capable of.

    The several billion dollars in subsidies that the developer has been given in the last several years is why we have an industrial wind farm proposal in Windham and Grafton. The old saying of “follow the money” applies here. If there were no subsidies there would be no proposal.

    My interest in all this is to make sure that no one is harmed, physically, financially of mentally. I am a Grafton resident and live far away from the proposed facility and high above the Saxtons River, but I am concerned for my neighbors who may be in harms way. This proposed project is not good in the long run for the people in Grafton, Windham, Londonderry and Townshend.

    Meadowsend Woodlands to my knowledge has been a good neighbor, in that the land has been open to recreational pursuits for years.

    So don’t take my letter as an attack on you or your beliefs, but in some way may be educational to some aspects that you haven’t been exposed to via the internet. I am not an expert in the wind field, but I have have been listening at several meeting over the last three years or so.

  3. Jackie Backs says:

    Informative, well-written. In my adult life, I have found that the shades of gray (between the black and white in school of thought) have always been key to any good decisions. I’m a non-resident property owner of Grafton.

    It appears we will get to weigh in by way of a poll, but getting info, other than anti, has not been as forthcoming as I’d like. The two letters from an earlier edition of The Chester Telegraph were helpful.

    I need to weigh the pros and cons … a challenge when the most vocal is the con … and the most vocal doesn’t necessarily mean accurate and/or fact-based. This article is one more step toward helping me make an informed decision.

  4. Steve Amsden says:

    I too believe this wind farm could be an asset to the town.

    I have done a little research myself, and took the time to visit a nearby project, the same project that one of our former selectmen visited and refused to get off the bus.

    The results I found were favorable. The noise levels were low, There were no dead bats, birds or animals to be found, and the forest was growing within 50 feet of the towers.

    We already have roads, and an outlet for power transmission. I guess it’s true our select board refuses to enter into any negotiations, even though there was a petition signed, and delivered to them requesting some action. For the public good, and for the good of my lifelong town, I totally support Mary McCoy, and the wind farm project in the town of Windham and will vote yes in November!

  5. Brian Tracy Heybyrne says:

    Industrial wind is not even close to “green”. The hidden costs are considerable, and undesirable for VT.

  6. Joan Brockway Falb says:

    Hi. I built a solar energy geodesic dome out of polyurethane foam in Belmont, Vt., in the early 1970s. We heated with a woodstove, had a garden and tried to live in peace. We had the answers all along. We need to remain true to our values. I now live in Florida. Good luck. Have courage and be kind. I miss Vermont.

  7. Skip Woodruff says:

    Thanks Mary for such sensible thoughts on the matter.

  8. David Acker says:

    The bottom line whether it is pre-conceived or not, and I believe the latter, people are being harmed.

    People are getting sick around the world. Iberdrola talks of the hundreds of thousands who live by industrial wind turbines and are not harmed but they fail to mention the thousands who are harmed. Unless you live under one, you have no idea!

    It is not green if it kills raptures, bats and songbirds, disrupts habitat and fresh clear, cold drinking water, and cuts forests to make way. Industrial wind turbines are not green, but for the tax subsides.

  9. Judy Dickison says:

    Nice to see such a reasonable article. I applaud her courage.