by Heather Rae, cleantechblog.com
What of personal responsibility? It’s the crux of an article on vehicle idling last week in The Coastal Journal: take personal responsibility and turn off that engine, it says. My neighbor — who thinks Al Gore is the only one to benefit from ‘that movie’ as well as the hullabaloo over global warming — talks about living simply, bicycling to work, and taking personal responsibility for one’s health. (His comments have a Rush Limbaugh echo — ‘America can’t be blamed for global warming’ — so I find our conversations around personal responsibility interesting.)
Fifty miles down Route 295, Steve Bothel, a mechanic in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, built himself a super-insulated home in 1981 that uses passive solar and a waste oil furnace that feeds his domestic hot water, his mechanic’s shop, hot tub and greenhouse. His hobby, he says, is energy independence. It’s the Bergey BWC Excel 10kw wind turbine spinning behind his shop that made me stop to say hello. We conversed beside the open hood of a Ford Jeep. Steve says his next project is an evacuated tube solar collector. He mentions that he has visited the Mars Hill Wind Project in Maine and the Fenner Wind Project in New York and says they are like tourist attractions. He put money into those communities staying at local hotels, buying meals and even, as at Fenner, buying T-shirts.
Another expression of personal responsibility demands a constitution that I, sadly, lack, but forge into loaded with naivite and passion and emerge with grey hairs and a prescription for propranolol. It’s a form of personal responsibility that looks like this:
Beaver Ridge in Freedom, Maine is a 3-turbine project. My colleague, Tom, lives nearby the site. (Click here to see a simulation of the site.) Last Friday, Tom and I drove dirt roads to a house where we were to do a home performance assessment. Tom built the house. It’s down a long, wooded drive, within sight of a tranquil pond, modest and lovely. The owners, former dairy farmers, are intensely involved in the Beaver Ridge Wind Project. They want it: for the farmers’ retirement, for the jobs, for the green credits that will be sold through Maine Interfaith Power & Light, for the housing development that it may keep at bay. While Tom set up the blower door, I heard the lowdown on the sordid local politics that may kill Competitive Energy Services’ 3-turbine project.
The smoke blown by the opposition is noise from the turbines. The fire is who will profit, small community jealousies, questionable use of power by elected officials, and lack of clear land use guidelines. Incredible personal energy goes into putting wind on the ground by people who have little to no financial interest: the petition drives, the election campaigns, the writing and rewriting of land use rules, the long, drawn out phone calls and meetings. Frustrations mount and exhaust patience and will.
Tom and I find that the house is sealed to a perfect tightness, maybe a little more than desired, even. Solar could be the next step, like Steve a hundred miles away, but there’s little sunshine at this wooded site. Advocating for local wind projects is a fine expression of personal responsibility, but it’s not for the faint of heart.
Heather Rae, a contributor to cleantechblog.com, manages a ‘whole house’ home performance program in Maine. In 2006, she built a biobus and drove it from Colorado to Maine. In 2007, she begins renovation of an 1880 farmhouse using building science and green building principles.