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Click to see a simulation of the proposed wind plant atop Backbone Mountain in Western Maryland
Notable Quotes

"I favor renewable energy sources, including wind turbines, if they can be located in situations away from major migration pathways, and if scientific, peer-reviewed on-site studies of degree of hazard to migratory birds are conducted prior to construction." If a facility does go up, Robbins added that "a fine system should be in place for each bird killed or wounded by the turbines."

—Chandler S. Robbins, Maryland's preeminent expert on migratory birds (Maryland Public Service Commission testimony, 2002).

Jon Boone wrote this letter to the editor of Vermont's New Caledonian newspaper after residents there informed him about a wind developer's disinformation campaign to disparage the documentary he had made, Life Under a Windplant. In DVD format, hundreds of copies of this documentary had been distributed in the area. His letter was published in the summer of 2005.

August 5, 2005

To the Editor
The Caledonian Record

To Whom This May Concern:

As producer and director of the documentary, Life Under a Windplant, a video shown widely in your area, I'd like to respond to the spurious claims about it wrought by your not-so-very local wind developer. But first, you should know I'm a retired university administrator who has no financial interest one way or another over this wind issue, nor do I nor any members of my family own property in the viewshed of any proposed windplant. On the other hand, wind developers hope to make a financial killing, and, despite their penchant for labeling opponents as NIMBYs, themselves live hundreds of miles from their project. The industry is in fact a spiritual descendant of Enron, the "energy" company that, before its demise, owned and operated the nation's largest collection of wind facilities; it pioneered the tax shelter as a commodity. After several years of researching the wind industry, I've concluded the relatively feckless energy it produces is a front for the real business of generating Enronesque tax avoidance schemes benefiting a few at the expense of many, while playing havoc with the environment (while claiming to be saving it). It's an environmental hoax and an economic sham. More than 2500 400 foot 1.5 MW turbines, spread over many hundreds of miles of forested ridgetops, would not displace one 1600MW coalplant. The wind industry, as it targets huge powerplants along the uplands of our region, is a placebo solution to the problems wrought by our dependence on fossil fuels, distracting from the necessary level of discourse—and political action—for achieving genuinely functional responses.

About the video:

The prices Somerset Wind in Pennsylvania paid for the properties near its windplant were comparable to prices paid for similar properties in the area and in line with the price previous buyers had paid. Although the properties in the video were assessed for tax purposes at around $20,000 (as of 1997), they initially had sold for fair market value at $80,000 and $74,000 respectively—in 1998 and 1997. As every realtor and appraiser knows, assessed tax value lags considerably behind market value, often by as much as 500 percent. The property owners who precipitated the sale did so because of windplant-caused nuisances. In 2002, Somerset Wind bought these properties for $104,500 and $101,049 respectively—and within six months, sold them for $65,000 and $20,000 respectively—the first to a windplant employee and the second to an existing wind lessor. The quotes of the prices listed in the documentary are those listed in the deeds. The deeds are public records. And the reason the developer bought the properties in the first place was to forestall a lawsuit brought on because of the very real nuisances that the windplant created—nuisances actually named in an exculpatory easement in the new deeds. Your wind developer's chutzpa here is simply amazing... .

Moreover, the claim that the windplant noise in the documentary was somehow rigged is a damnable lie. If anything, the actual sound was muted in the documentary. Note that the video several times indicates how far the recorded noise was from the wind turbines. Because we anticipated what the wind flaks would say about dubbing, we recorded the voice you hear over the sound, showing that one had to practically shout to be heard nearly a half mile from the windplant. You might also ask any of the Meyersdale participants in the documentary whether they think the sound was dubbed over or modified in any way. Or ask whether the wind developer puts language in his leases holding his company harmless from a variety of nuisances, including noise—as is the case in Berlin, Pennsylvania.

Wind noise is generally much less in the summer and early fall than at other times of the year in part because the wind at these seasons often has a desultory quality, typically blowing with much less intensity. Higher frequency turbine-induced sound along valley ridges is often a hit or miss affair—some get assaulted by it while others hear nothing. We recorded the noise in January. However, it is the low frequency noise that is the real culprit. This is expensive to document. But nonetheless very real. This is what Rodger Hutzell in Meyersdale experiences. Finally, ask your wind developer whether he or his staff are going to attend the "First International Conference on Wind Turbine Noise" in Berlin, Germany this October 17—18—advertised with the banner headline, "Wind Turbine Noise: Perspectives for Control."

The 340 foot tall turbines near Berlin, Pennsylvania are four years old and I can't vouch for how they're maintained. But I can vouch for their horrific noise. Ten miles down the road at Meyersdale, the "newer" 376 foot Danish Micon turbines make as much noise and, according to Meyersdale Wind's fact sheet, these are indeed maintained by two employees. Similarly, a "new" windplant in nearby Thomas, West Virginia, also causes significant noise, and it, too, has maintenance employees.

In Life Under a Windplant, I wanted to feature the human side of the problem with industrial wind, letting the people and the images tell the story. It is the old story of colonialism, with distant capital exploiting the people and resources of the hinterlands to give the illusion of progress. At the same time I wanted to show the falsity of several of the many outrageous claims the wind industry continues to make in pursuit of profit. No negative consequences seem to attach to the industry for making a cascade of promises that unlikely will be fulfilled, such as providing significant new jobs and local revenues while contributing to US energy independence; such as improving air quality by reducing current levels of fossil fuel combustion; such as causing no nuisances and actually enhancing nearby property values. What, for example, would the penalty be in Vermont if the wind developer's promises about the amount of local taxes a community would receive failed to materialize because of an arcane legal tax offset known only to skilled accountants? Or, would scores of thousands of homes really be "powered" by an energy source that at best functions less than 30 percent of the time?

For those who would like to know more about these issues, please visit the website I helped Or go the the Case Search section of the Maryland Public Service Commission website, type in Case No. 9008, and read my 40-page direct testimony, with many documenting attachments, which I submitted as an intervenor in a Maryland windplant application. Above all, please remember that if something seems too good to be true, it almost always is.

Jon Boone
Oakland, MD

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