Choose carefully Vermont

Saint Albans Messenger; October 15, 2015

 Over the past few months I have read in the newspapers and listened to the radio about the controversy over wind turbines and solar panels in Vermont and elsewhere. My commentary today is not to speak to a particular situation, nor the issues of noise, health concerns, the financial incentives of energy developers, or the implication of these projects on property value. This is not to diminish these matters – they are all important and need to be addressed, but it will not be by me.

My focal point is the effect he wind turbines and solar panels have on the beautiful Vermont landscape. In the last year I have had the good fortune to relocate to northern Vermont, where by paternal lineage can be traced back to the early 1800s. I am just amazed at the absolute beauty of this area. As IO drive on Route 105 from ST. Albans to Enosburg the vista near the Abbey restaurant of Jay Peak and the other Green Mountains in the background with the Missisquoi River flowing nearby is just breathtaking. I think people everywhere, when they live in an area long enough, become immune to its beauty and just accept it. It is only when they leave and return with “fresh eyes” that they can appreciate the special beauty of a place.

This is why I am writing now. I have seen the wind turbines on the mountains in Georgia and Lowell. It is true that ultimately beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, but in my opinion these turbines look ugly!

One of the great things about Vermont is when the state removed all of its billboards. How wonderful to drive I-91 and I-89 without seeing advertising blighting the view of the beautiful Green Mountains. I recall travelling on I-81 in the magnificent Shenandoah Valley of Virginia seeing huge billboards stating a restaurant was just 10 miles ahead. This reality made me appreciate Vermont.

I realize that our state, and our nation, as well as the world, of which we are all a part, needs to find cleaner, renewable resources to offset fossil fuels that affect climate change. I profess, I don’t have all the answers to the dilemma of balancing clean energy and maintaining Vermont’s beautiful landscape. I do know that when these wind turbines are installed, the costs have to be great, and they are not coming down anytime soon. Furthermore, I believe they will have a great impact on tourism. People come to Vermont to see the mountains, rivers and fields full of cows. Not mountains with giant turbines and fields full of solar panels. Let the wind turbines be put up on the vast west Texas plains, where only the prairie dogs will see them, or the wind swept fields of Kansas or North Dakota, but not here in Vermont.

Recently, I listened to a story on National Public Radio on a wind turbine farm off of the scenic coast of Block Island, Rhode Island. True, the electricity rates went down, but as year-around resident Edith Blane commented, “It’s not just costs, I mean, I’m from here. All my life I’ve looked at the Bluffs. There’s been nothing between the Bluffs and Portugal. And now we’re going to see these things out there … the beauty and the calm, and the stillness, and the loveliness of a summer night. It’s never going to be the same again.”

So, choose wisely Vermonters, think twice, you live in a gem of a place, whether you realize it or not, and remember what Joni Mitchell sang about in her 1970s song, “Big Yellow Taxi”: “Pave paradise, put up a parking lot”, or in our case: “Put up wind turbines and solar panel farms in paradise.”

James A. Croft, Bakersfield

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