Putting 35 decibels in context

Focusing on decibel levels is extremely subjective and avoids the larger issues with wind generation

SOUTH NEWFANE — I did not want to write another piece about wind turbines, but two recent letters from people I know and whose intelligence I respect struck me with their absence of clear thought and lack of logic.

Focusing on decibel levels is extremely subjective and avoids the larger issue with wind generation in Vermont: habitat destruction and potential flooding brought about by mountaintop clearing.

Saying that the sound of the wind in the grass or leaves is louder than that of wind turbines doesn't really address the issue of the aesthetics of the sound: 35 decibels of a colicky baby in the airplane seat behind you cannot be compared as equal to 35 decibels of Aretha Franklin.

I have a pond full of spring peepers right now whose raucous shouting actually hurts your ears if you stand at the edge of the water. I keep my bedroom window open all night so I can hear them.

When a neighbor a quarter mile away uses his leaf blower, I find the sound repugnant, even though it is considerably less noisy than those frogs.

Additionally, a small home turbine makes nowhere near the noise that 90-foot bladed industrial turbines create. There is a rhythmic whoosh of the large blades as well as a deep humming of electric generation.

If you haven't visited a big wind farm to experience this firsthand, you don't really have any standing to comment on the effect it has.

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Discussing terrorism in context with wind energy is kind of getting off the subject. Accusing the majority of people from Grafton who voted against the wind project there of being supported by dirty energy corporations without any evidence is insulting to a community that resisted the offers of tax incentives by Iberdrola, itself a huge energy company.

The fact that only four people have complained to the Department of Public Service doesn't preclude that others are happy with their situation. I find it extremely condescending to dismiss other peoples pain as an “alternative fact.”

Speaking of which, I believe most of the shortfall since the shuttering of Vermont Yankee has been filled in with hydroelectric from Québec. Thinking that a large international wind company will respect Vermont laws any more than BP is wishful thinking. Please do a little research on how these companies have treated other communities near wind projects.

I did not hear anything about conserving energy and using some restraint on energy usage. I personally have an electric bill that averages $15 per month, I do not have a dishwasher, and I heat my water on my wood stove in the winter and in jars in the back of my car in the summer. I drive junky old cars that get 30 to 50 miles per gallon. I haven't bought new clothes for years, as anyone who knows me will attest.

I don't expect anyone would want to live as I do, but perhaps we need to consume a bit less. Exxon Mobil has not offered me any payola thus far.

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I am extremely optimistic about solar energy for Vermont. We need farmland for crops and for vistas, so I would prefer to see the panels along the median strip of the interstates and over parking lots and rooftops.

I also would like to see wind energy in the right places. In Vermont, the siting inevitably involves mountaintop removal, causing three problematic issues: flooding, habitat destruction, and scenic destruction.

Here we once again are in the subjective area.

Some people love to look at wind farms. I personally like the large installation at Rimouski, Québec along the Saint Lawrence River. But what would you think of 30 wind generators along the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, or how about in the middle of Yosemite? All Vermont has to compare to that are the Green Mountains. Are you prepared to sacrifice them for clean energy?

If you think this is hyperbole, you need to visit one of these wind sites. Searsburg does not count, because those towers are being replaced by the new, larger versions with 90-foot blades. I want you to actually go to the base of these generators to get an accurate picture. Or take a look at the Vermonters for a Clean Environment website pictures of the Georgia project. (I have no affiliation with this group, and they neither know nor care who I am.)

In the 19th century, painters from the Hudson River School like Albert Bierstadt painted the White Mountains of New Hampshire. They did not paint the Green Mountains because at that time our mountains were denuded by loggers and sheep.

After the Civil War, many of the widows left for Ohio where there were men looking for wives, fewer rocks, and no sheep. The Green Mountains recovered. In the 1930s, they were discovered by rusticators and skiers.

Today, our mountains draw people because they harken to an America that is mostly lost. If you go to the White Mountains today, you will find factory outlets, billboards, and other ticky-tack.

We ought to cherish our mountain ridges in their recovered condition, not cover them with 150 miles of industrial wind.

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