God’s Country

by Heather Rae

The whipping winds of central Spain and the sultry, slow-spinning blades of wind turbines play central roles in Pedro Almodovar’s most recent creation, “Volver.” One of Almodovar’s women sighs, “este maldito viento se vuelve loca la gente.” (“This hellish wind drives people crazy.”) To me, a student in Madrid the summer of 1982, the topography of central Spain was arid, harsh and unforgiving. To someone else, Spain is God’s country – as are Nantucket Sound, the ridges along the Appalachian Trail, the plains of eastern Wyoming and the shores of Denmark. They are all God’s country; they are all special places, giving spiritual and ecological sustenance to someone and something.

Opponents of the Reddington Pond Ridge, Maine wind farm, parroting opponents of the Nantucket Sound and the Spanish La Mancha wind projects, say the Reddington site is inappropriate…it’s special. On the local radio, opponents say, if this project is approved by the Land Use Regulation Commission, then the bar will be so low that all wind projects proposed in Maine will be approved. They say, those coal-plants out west should clean up their acts; that is a better way to address climate change, a better way to meet demand for electricity.

In the mid-90s my former mate, a wind developer, came home to the agricultural preserve of Montgomery County, Maryland where we had a farmhouse. He had been to Upstate New York walking ridges and talking to farmers and local governments, looking for a good site for a wind cluster of eight or so turbines. He told me that he had found a really good one, but a woman, recently relocated from Manhattan and a self-proclaimed environmentalist, opposed the project. My mate moved on.

I was pissed.

Down the road from our farmhouse, along the Potomac River, 40 miles outside Washington, DC were two electricity generators – one coal-fired, the other a trash burner. A good old boy in Poolesville, Maryland paying 50 cents on the dollar to farmer widows, sold the land to these industrial developers. It was relatively easy to locate these polluters in what was then a poor, agricultural, uneducated and politically-weak backwater. A local citizen’s association extracted as recompense an old barn, abandoned when the county purchased a farm for a commercial composting facility; the barn was renovated into headquarters from which to educate and to monitor shipments of coal and trash, plant emissions, the incessant and monotonous drone from the plants that ebbed and flowed over farm fields, and, potentially, accidental releases of anhydrous ammonia. The good old boys settled disagreements with shotguns, stalking and paintballs; they aligned with industrial polluters and government. They joked that one day they would leave the agricultural preserve for “real farmland” in Pennsylvania; they would take their money and move on to another special place.

Close to the Mason Dixon line, Montgomery County’s agricultural preserve is culturally rich (guns and good old boys and all). With its fecund soil and the sleepy Potomac, it is God’s country – as are Pueblo, Colorado and the Dinai Indian Reservation out west, homes to huge coal-fired plants that feed a ceaseless and increasing hunger for electricity.

This week Maine’s Land Use Regulation Commission rejected the proposed Reddington Pond Range and Black Nubble Mountain wind projects in western Maine, prompting the editors of the Maine Sunday Telegram to proclaim: LURC wind farm vote a lost opportunity.” The editorial page editor, John Porter, called the rejection “a fit of immaturity.” The Associated Press weighed in that same day with, “Town blows hot and cold on wind farm” referring to the newly erected Mars Hill Project. Another wind project in Maine, Kibby, is up for review.

From Spain to Maine, it’s all special; it’s all God’s country. Nobody can lay claim to ‘specialness’ as a reason to oppose wind projects.

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.

6 replies
  1. Tim McDonald
    Tim McDonald says:

    I think wind-turbines can be unaesthetic at times. Though, I'd must rather live near a turbine farm than a coal-fired plant, I think that we should consider how obtrusive alternative energy sources are compared to their energy output.

  2. Steve
    Steve says:

    Thanks for the post. I would be interested in hearing more about the ‘good old boy” from Poolesville who got the land cheap and sold it to the businesses, if you can name names or give a general description.

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