Wind energy in the news

http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2012/08/09/scituates_wind_turbine_ruffles_some_feathers/

Winds of discontent in Scituate

David Dardi had been away from Scituate for months.

After spending the winter in Florda, Dardi was driving back to his Gilson Road home after a late-night flight in June when he saw red, flashing lights.

He gave it little thought, Dardi said, as he made his way home. Then the following morning, Dardi looked through the trees and saw the white blades of the town’s new wind turbine off in the distance.

“I left in October of 2011, and I came back in June of this year, and there it was,” said Dardi, whose house sits about 3,100 feet from the power-generating turbine. “I thought, ‘Who . . . put that ugly thing there? What a monstrosity.’

“My first reaction was some do-good yuppie who went to business school decided it’s the thing to do, because we have to have alternate sources of energy, with a total disregard of the heritage of the community, the North River, and what it will do to the community.”

Now he wants the town to take down the turbine.

Throughout the six-year saga that led to the $6 million turbine, owned by Solaya Energy LLC, being set up on town-leased land on the Driftway, Scituate officials have touted its benefits in saving both energy and money. The turbine’s massive parts rolled into town amid great fanfare in February, when more than 1,000 people turned out to sign one of the blades before it was attached to the tower.

Town officials say the vast majority of residents are thrilled with the turbine, which began operating in March But as the comments of Dardi and some other neighbors show, the sentiment isn’t unanimous.

Dardi said he’s dismayed not only by the turbine’s size — 400 feet from base to blade tip — but also that he didn’t even know it was going up. A retired engineer, Dardi had been out of town for more than five years taking care of his ill mother. When he returned to Scituate last summer, he was dealing with cancer himself.

“Now I’m ready to live the rest of my life and here is this windmill in my backyard!” he said.

Dardi is upset not only by the turbine’s impact on the landscape, but by the whooshing noise that he says creeps into his bedroom two or three nights a week and wakes him up.

Living more than a half-mile from the turbine, Dardi said, he initially couldn’t believe it would make an audible noise, “but the reality is, it does.

“If I close the windows, I can’t hear it, but then I don’t get any breeze,” he said. “The whole point of this house was the windows that face the southwest . . . when it’s hot, the wind is from the southwest. That’s when it makes the noise, and that’s when I want the windows open.”

Nancy Melvin, who lives at 131 Driftway, has a similar complaint.

“We underestimated the effects of the turbine,” she said.

Her house is approximately 300 feet from the turbine, Melvin said, and the effects vary depending on the strength and direction of the wind. Regardless, when the world quiets down at night and there is less traffic on the roads, the noise of the turbine is apparent.

Melvin and her husband had not opposed the turbine’s construction. “We didn’t want to be the ones who said, ‘Not in my backyard,’ ’’ she said, but now, “he’s kept up at least two nights a week, or woken up and can’t get back to sleep.”

Melvin said her family still supports the town’s goal of generating alternative energy. But, she added, “We’re hoping that the town will listen and that they will be sensitive. We were trying to be tolerant of this. We just didn’t think there was going to be any impact.”

Linda Alvarez, who lives on Collier Road, said she has talked to 10 of her neighbors who hear the turbine at night, and all of them are upset about it.

“They don’t call it a windmill — it’s a turbine,’’ she said. “It’s not just a whoosh, whoosh; it’s a jet engine.”

Alvarez also feels the town didn’t properly inform residents about the turbine as it was going up.

“Maybe we weren’t paying that much attention, which is possible, but when your neighbor puts up an addition, you get a letter and there is a meeting. We thought for something that would impact so many people, we thought there would be more from the town to the people . . . who were impacted,” she said.

Selectman Rick Murray, an oceanography professor at Boston University, acknowledged that under the right conditions, residents might be able to hear the turbine. But he scoffed at the idea that townspeople weren’t informed.

“The wind turbine was discussed for many years. We had multiple public meetings at the selectmen level as well as at the renewable energy commission. It was covered thoroughly by . . . all the newspapers. For people to say they were unaware that a turbine was going to be installed belies common sense and fact.”

As for the noise, Murray, who lives in the Third Cliff section of town, said, “I have not heard anything, nor would I expect to. I’m also surprised that people can hear it, because it’s very far away. But on the other hand, I haven’t gone out at 2 in the morning. Sound does travel over water,” he said.

Murray said he hadn’t heard of such complaints, and he urged residents to tell the town if they are having problems. As for how the town would respond, Murray wasn’t sure.

“If there is a legitimate concern or point, let us know about it. Mitigation depends on what the concern is,” Murray said. “But I’m concerned when people say, ‘Take it down.’ Be realistic.”

Because Dardi is the only one who has complained to the town about the turbine, Al Bangert, director of Scituate’s Department of Public Works, said noise isn’t an issue.

Furthermore, most residents are in favor of the turbine, he said, especially after hearing of the benefits.

The turbine produces electricity that goes into the power grid. The town receives a credit from National Grid that is 5 cents higher per kilowatt hour than the rate that Solaya charges the town to produce it. Overall, the town is reaping a credit of $200,000 a year.

Although the turbine doesn’t provide electricity to the town directly, the energy produced by the turbine pays for about half of Scituate’s municipal power needs.

Bangert also noted the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, saying the turbine is taking the equivalent of 600 cars off the road, saving 330,000 gallons of oil, and eliminating 6.5 million pounds of carbon dioxide per year.

Like the Greenbush commuter rail line, which affects some residents more than others, the turbine was installed for the greater good, Bangert said.

“It’s improving the environment and making a positive statement about Scituate — being a community that cares about its environment,” he said.

Still, Dardi said, he hopes to band together with others residents and see what can be done about the turbine. There is the potential for a class-action lawsuit, he said, though nothing has been decided.

“I think we have to consume less energy first before we start destroying our environment like that,” Dardi said.

Renewable policies crushing New England’s economy

(Sept. 5, 2011, Daily Energy Report, by Lisa Linowes) Earlier this summer, the New England Energy Alliance in Boston, released the results of its annual survey of New England energy consumers. Paul Afonso, executive director of the Alliance and a former Massachusetts utility regulator, summed the results up this way: “Overall, the main concern of New Englanders continues to be the economy and pocketbook issues. If voters think any policy – private or public – will bring down the cost of energy, they will support it.”

If that’s the case, than the survey’s findings reflect a sentiment that’s entirely contrary to New England’s current energy policies.

Background

The six New England states have aggressively pushed for renewable energy development in the Northeast, with particular emphasis on wind power. Five of the states, Vermont excluded, have adopted Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) mandating that a percentage of the electricity sold retail into the region comes from renewables.

RPS obligations for 2010 were about 14% of demand — an amount satisfied through a combination of existing, qualified resources in New England and renewable energy imported from neighboring New York and Canada. However, these percentages are slated to reach over 20% by 2020 with most of the energy coming from projects not yet built. Meeting the growing renewable obligation with new generation will be substantially more difficult. Critical adjustments in RPS policies are needed now or skyrocketing energy costs will severely cripple New England’s economy.

Wind in New England: Today and in 2020

New England currently claims 48 wind energy projects totaling 318 megawatts. Maine has the most wind installed at 266 megawatts; Connecticut the least at 0.1 megawatts. Assuming a generous 30% annual capacity factor, wind in New England produced around 836,000 megawatts hours (MWh) in 2010, substantially below other fuel options including natural gas which produced over 50 million MWh (half the region’s demand).

New England would need to add 23 million MWhs of new renewable energy in order to satisfy state mandates by 2020. Since wind energy is the primary resource proposed to be built in the region, and the resource most favored by New England’s ‘ruling class’, future RPS obligations will likely be met by in-region wind power.

But what will this look like?

Meeting 2020 obligations dictated by state laws will require a 28-fold increase (9000 megawatts) in wind energy over the amount installed today. Measured in actual turbines, nearly 3000 3-megawatt turbines would be needed by 2020 or 300 new turbines erected every year for the next 9-10 years.

Nearly every wind project proposed in New England has encountered substantial opposition. Historically, opponents argue citing local concerns including the impact of the turbines on the natural environment and properties in proximity to the towers. Local opposition will certainly intensify; but wind development on the scale necessary to meet RPS mandates will also trigger region-wide fights with complaints expanding to such topics as the cost and impact on New England’s economy.

Getting to 20% wind in New England

In December 2010, the ISO-New England [1] released the findings of its New England Wind Integration Study (NEWIS). The study, conducted by General Electric, assessed the operational effects of integrating large amounts of intermittent wind power into the ISO’s control area. The NEWIS study concluded that significant wind resources could be added to New England’s power grid but for a price.

It was the price of this integration that caught our attention.

  • Existing Power Plants :

Despite adding thousands of megawatts of new wind to the grid, the NEWIS study assumed the existing fleet of New England’s power plants would remain with no significant plant retirements relative to capacity resources. The study also assumed that new capacity resources proposed to be built would be brought online and the grid’s regulation capacity requirement would grow to 313 MW, nearly 4-times the current level.

Twenty-percent wind in New England would not result in the decommissioning of existing capacity nor would it negate the need to build new generation. While wind might displace fossil fuel, primarily natural gas, it cannot replace it.

  • Transmission :

Since many favorable sites for wind development are remote from New England’s load centers, development of these distant sites would require significant transmission development. According to NEWIS, 20% wind in New England would require 4,095 miles of new lines at an estimated cost of between $11 and $15 billion dollars. [2]

This cost would be in addition to the $5 billion already approved in New England to address existing reliability requirements. None of the wind-related transmission has been proposed to date nor has any public discussion been initiated on who would pick up the tab. The survey cited above found that New Englanders disliked high-voltage transmission lines even more than wind turbines.

  • Energy Costs :

The NEWIS report is mainly silent on the effect of large-scale wind integration on energy prices, but it does acknowledge two important points.

  1.  A wind plant’s revenue may be below its annual total cost which could require the plant owner to secure higher than market value power purchase agreement(s);
  2.  By displacing conventional generation, primarily natural-gas-fired resources, revenues for displaced plants would decrease and their economic viability would be put at risk. Increases in capacity market payments may be necessary to ensure these plants do not shut down.

Adding large amounts of wind to the region may reduce marginal electricity prices since wind has no fuel cost, but the costs passed on to ratepayers are derived from power purchase agreements negotiated between utilities and wind plant owners. Onshore wind currently demands between 9-11 cents per KWh, more than twice the wholesale price of natural gas. Offshore wind is even more expensive at over 18 cents a KWh. More wind in the fuel mix will cause upward pressure on energy prices for the life of the power purchase agreements. As these agreements expire in 15-20 years, prices may drop but by that time the turbines will be coming to the end of their operating life.

Other significant integration costs will also be imposed on the region to accommodate wind’s intermittency, including billions in new transmission.

  • Measuring Benefit :

According to the NEWIS study, 20% penetration of wind in New England will reduce yearly CO2 emissions by 12 million tons per year, a 25% decline. This percentage is significant but placing a value on the savings paints a very different picture.

Currently, RGGI carbon allowances are trading at the reserve price of $1.89, which would place the value of the benefit at $22.7 million per year — a fraction of the transmission costs alone, even if paid out every year for 20 years, which is the life of the wind plants. In fact, just to break even on the $15 billion in new transmission costs, the price of carbon would need to be over $60/ton. Clearly, there are less costly and more appropriate methods of reducing carbon emissions.

Conclusion

We do not object to the findings of the NEWIS report that large quantities of wind can be injected into the region. As an academic analysis, the report is reasonable. However, the requirements necessary to meet a 20% wind scenario in New England are wholly unrealistic. Each state can try and overrule local opposition to individual wind projects and fast-track approvals under the pretext of ‘public benefit’, but the effect of above-market power purchase agreements, high-priced transmission construction, and other related integration costs will crush the region’s economy.

Unless changes are made to current RPS policies, New England is headed for an energy crisis of its own making. But who will press for change? Those making energy policy decisions are driven by ideology and appear unaware of the pending costs. And those likely to benefit financially from the policies, including big utilities wanting to build big transmission, are happy to play along. Unfortunately for New England’s energy consumers, no one is watching out for their interests.

[1] The ISO-NE is a non-profit entity tasked with managing the New England grid system and ensuring the day-to-day reliable operation of the region’s bulk power generation and transmission.

[2] Figures from the ISO-NE Governors’ Economic Study referenced in the NEWIS report.

Written by Lisa Linowes, Executive Director of the Industrial Wind Action GroupThe opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author, Lisa Linowes. http://www.dailyenergyreport.com/2011/08/renewable-policies-crushing-new-englands-economy-2/

ROBERT BRYCE

AUGUST 29, 2011 4:00 A.M.

Texas Wind Energy Fails, Again
When the temperature rises, the wind slows down.

Robert Bryce, The Nation

Wednesday brought yet another unspeakably hot day to Texas and, alas, it was yet another day when wind energy failed the state’s consumers.

Indeed, as record heat and drought continue to hammer the Lone Star State, the inanity of the state’s multi-billion-dollar spending spree on wind energy becomes ever more apparent. On Wednesday afternoon, ERCOT, the state’s grid operator, declared a power emergency as some of the state’s generation units began to falter under the soaring demand for electricity. Electricity demand hit 66,552 megawatts, about 1,700 megawatts shy of the record set on August 3.

As I wrote in these pages earlier this month, Texas has 10,135 megawatts of installed wind-generation capacity, which is nearly three times as much as any other state. And yet, on Wednesday, all of the state’s wind turbines mustered just 880 megawatts of power when electricity was needed the most. Put another way, even though wind turbines account for about 10 percent of Texas’s 103,000 megawatts of summer electricity-generation capacity, wind energy was able to provide just 1.3 percent of the juice the state needed on Wednesday afternoon to keep the lights on and the air conditioners humming.

None of this should be surprising. For years, ERCOT has counted just 8.7 percent of the state’s installed wind-generation capacity as “dependable capacity at peak.” What happened on Wednesday? Just 880 megawatts out of 10,135 megawatts of wind capacity — 8.68 percent — was actually moving electrons when consumers needed those electrons the most.

Apologists for the wind industry point to a single day in February, when, during a record cold snap, the state’s wind turbines were able to produce electricity when the grid was being stressed. Fine. On one day, wind generators produced more than expected. But the wind industry’s lobbyists want consumers to ignore this sun-bleached truth: Texas has far more super-hot days than it does frigid ones. Indeed, here in Austin, where I live, we’ve already had 70 days this summer with temperatures over 100 degrees, and there’s still no relief in sight. And on nearly every one of those hot days, ERCOT’s wind capacity has been AWOL. Each afternoon, as the temperature — and electricity demand — soars, the wind dies down:

This summer’s high demand for electricity has caught ERCOT off guard. In June, the grid operator projected that Texas’s electricity demand would not set any new records this summer. But demand is already exceeding levels that ERCOT didn’t expect to see until 2014. Over the past few weeks, as demand has strained the Texas grid, electricity prices have risen as high as $3,000 per megawatt-hour on the wholesale market, and large industrial users have been forced to curtail consumption in order to avoid blackouts.

And yet — and yet — the state is spending billions on projects that focus on wind energy rather than on conventional generation capacity. As Kate Galbraith of the Texas Tribune reported recently, the Texas Public Utility Commission is preparing the state’s ratepayers for higher prices. Consumers will soon be paying for new transmission lines that are being built solely so that the subsidy-dependent wind-energy profiteers can move electricity from their distant wind projects to consumers in urban areas.

Galbraith reports that “the cost of building thousands of miles of transmission lines to carry wind power across Texas is now estimated at $6.79 billion, a 38 percent increase from the initial projection three years ago.” What will that mean for the state’s ratepayers? Higher electricity bills. Before the end of the year, the companies building the transmission lines are expected to begin applying for “rate recovery.” The result, writes Galbraith, will be charges that “could amount to $4 to $5 per month on Texas electric bills, for years.”

Imagine what the state’s grid might look like if Texas, which produces about 30 percent of America’s gas, had spent its money on natural-gas-fired electricity instead of wind. The latest data from the Energy Information Administration shows that wind-generated electricity costs about 50 percent more than that produced by natural-gas-fired generators. Thus, not only would Texas consumers be saving money on their electric bills, the state government would be earning more royalties from gas produced and consumed in the state.

Further, consider what might be happening had the state kept the $6.79 billion it’s now spending on wind-energy transmission lines and instead allocated it to new natural-gas-fired generators. The latest data from the Energy Information Administration show that building a megawatt of new wind capacity costs $2.43 million — that’s up by 21 percent over the year-earlier costs — while a new megawatt of gas-fired capacity costs a bit less than $1 million, a drop of 3 percent from year-earlier estimates.

Under that scenario, Texas could have built 6,900 megawatts of new gas-fired capacity for what the state is now spending on wind-related transmission lines alone. Even if we assume the new gas-fired units were operating at just 50 percent of their design capacity, those generators would still be capable of providing far more reliable juice to the grid than what is being derived from the state’s wind turbines during times of peak demand.

Unfortunately, none of those scenarios have played out. Instead, Texas ratepayers are being forced to pay billions for wind-generation and transmission capacity that is proving to be ultra-expensive and redundant at a time when the state’s thirst for electricity is breaking records.

A final point: Keep in mind that the Lone Star wind boondoggle is not the result of Democratic rule. Environmentalists have never gained much purchase at the Texas capitol. In fact, the state hasn’t had a Democrat in statewide office since Bob Bullock retired as lieutenant governor, and Garry Mauro retired from the General Land Office, back in 1999. That same year, Gov. George W. Bush signed legislation that created a renewable-energy mandate in the state.

What about Rick Perry, a politico who frequently invokes his support for the free market? In 2005, he signed a mandate requiring the state to have at least 6,000 megawatts of renewable capacity by 2015. Perry’s support has been so strong that a wind-energy lobbyist recently told the New York Times that the governor, who’s now a leading contender for the White House, has “been a stalwart in defense of wind energy in this state, no question about it.”

And during his last election campaign, Sen. John Cornyn, one of the Senate’s most conservative members, ran TV ads showing pretty pictures of — what else? — wind turbines.

— Robert Bryce is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. His fourth book, Power Hungry: The Myths of “Green” Energy and the Real Fuels of the…, was recently issued in paperback.

_ _____________________________

Portland Press Herald, Dec 2, 2010

Wind backers decry conflict-of-interest claims

By Tux Turkel, Staff Writer, Portland Press Herald

 As  Maine rushes to embrace wind power, unnamed critics posting on Internet sites and reader comment pages contend that money and political connections — reaching all the way to the governor’s office — are greasing the skids.

A repeated theme, for instance, focuses on Gov. John Baldacci and Kurt Adams, former chairman of the Maine Public Utilities Commission. Adams served as Baldacci’s chief counsel. The governor appointed him chairman of the PUC in 2005. Adams left in 2008 to be a top executive at First Wind, the state’s most active wind-power developer. Posters allege that Adams has since benefited from his connections with Baldacci to gain permits and generous taxpayer subsidies for big wind projects.

The charge has become more persistent over the past year, as the pace of energy development has picked up in Maine, fueled by federal stimulus money, efforts to cut reliance on oil and strong support for renewable energy by both Baldacci and President Obama. But in interviews with the Maine Sunday Telegram, Adams and a spokesman for Baldacci say their conduct has been legal and appropriate, and that organized opponents of wind development are using innuendo to influence public opinion.

The connections aren’t secret, they say, and the charges lack specific — or accurate — accounts of any wrongdoing. “Opponents are using a modern-day whisper campaign to discredit policies they don’t agree with,” said David Farmer, Baldacci’s deputy chief of staff.

These tactics are defended by Brad Blake, a spokesman for the Citizens’ Task Force on Wind Power, a Maine group fighting industrial wind projects. A Cape Elizabeth resident with a camp near Lincoln, where First Wind proposes a wind farm, Blake last month posted an online comment following a story on wind power in the Bangor Daily News. “How about equal amount of space to exposing the corrupt relationships that are driving this folloy (sic) in Maine: Baldacci-Kurt Adams-First Wind. Juliet Browne (First Wind lawyer) — her husband, Rep. Jon Hinck — expedited wind permitting law. Larry Summers — D.E. Shaw-First Wind — Obama’s $40.4 million gift to rescue Stetson II. Ad nauseum (sic)!”

Blake’s posting, which he made under his real name, was similar to others circulated on the Internet, chiefly by unnamed commenters. His posting was later copied to another Web site and repeated by another poster. In a recent interview, Blake acknowledged he isn’t able to document any illegal activity. But he said his goal is to draw attention to the wind industry’s ambitions to install hundreds of turbines in Maine, and the officials who appear to be promoting the agenda. “There’s a lot of I-help-you, you-help-me maneuvering behind the scenes, between people who want to move things in a certain direction,” he said.

DEVELOPER: STIMULUS FUNDS OFFERED TO ALL

Both Farmer and Adams point out that Maine is a small state, where business and government leaders have access to one another and interests sometimes overlap. Some posters draw the First Wind genealogy more broadly, connecting Rep. Jon Hinck, D-Portland, who co-chairs the Legislature’s Utilities and Energy Committee, and his wife, Juliet Browne, a Portland lawyer who helps First Wind and other developers through the maze of the state’s permitting process.

In interviews, Hinck and Browne defended their conduct and said their actions present no conflict of interest. Even Lawrence Summers, a former treasury secretary who worked at an investor group that supports First Wind and now is President Obama’s economic adviser, is linked to what some see as the wind industry’s inside track in Maine.

The relationship between Adams and Baldacci has attracted the most scrutiny. Adams disputes that he has used his friendship with Baldacci to advance First Wind’s projects in Maine. As chief development officer, Adams said, he spends most of his time on new projects in Hawaii and the West. “First Wind has a Maine team that doesn’t need my help,” he said.

Adams said he took steps to avoid a conflict of interest when he left the PUC in 2008. The timing was bad. The agency was preparing to consider one of its biggest energy cases — the still-pending Central Maine Power transmission line upgrade request. But Adams and his family live in Yarmouth, next to CMP’s transmission corridor. His wife, also a lawyer, is fighting the expansion.

After receiving opinions from the attorney general and from his personal lawyer, Adams reluctantly concluded he couldn’t stay at the PUC without recusing himself from the CMP case. Long interested in renewable energy, he learned of a management opening at First Wind, was hired and was later promoted to his current position. Internet posters, he said, string together relationships to draw conclusions that aren’t supported by fact.

For instance: First Wind’s 57-megawatt project on Stetson Mountain in Washington County won $40 million in federal stimulus funds in September. Commenters call it a bailout for a project that’s not economically viable without taxpayer subsidies. They assume the project benefited through a relationship with Summers, director of Obama’s National Economic Council. Summers previously was a managing director at D.E. Shaw & Co., a global hedge fund that has a big financial stake in First Wind. But Adams said the stimulus money was available to any wind project that came on line during a certain time period. First Wind has said the $40 million will be reinvested in new projects.

Larry Summers tied to D.E.Shaw and First Wind

“That’s the way the stimulus act is supposed to work,” Adams said. The appearance of conflicts of interest is nothing new in Maine, he said, where many of the same people move between public service and private life. But Maine has a very transparent government, in Adams’ view, with a citizen Legislature and a permit process that allows plenty of public scrutiny.

He said he has come to take the online accusations in stride and no longer reads them regularly. “It’s a price you pay,” he said. “This is what public life in America is today.”

LEGISLATOR’S WIFE HAS WIND CLIENTS

Unproven charges are familiar to Hinck, the Portland lawmaker, and Browne, his wife, who heads the Verrill Dana law firm’s Environmental Law Group. Browne was appointed by Baldacci to a 2007 wind-power task force. The panel recommended rules that anti-wind activists say were rushed into law by Baldacci and the Legislature to make it easier for wind projects to be approved in certain areas. Hinck, as co-chair of the Utilities and Energy Committee, helped advance the agenda of his wife’s clients, they say.

This scenario ignores reality, Browne and Hinck say. With 13 years of experience working to gain permits for a natural gas pipeline and, most recently, four major wind-power projects, Browne said she had an important perspective to offer the task force. The panel included lawmakers, environmental groups and state agencies. This balanced makeup is typical of state task forces. “It was quite transparent,” Browne said. “I said what my experience was.”

Browne’s work typically brings her in contact with the legislative committee that handles natural resource issues, which Hinck doesn’t sit on. In this instance, the resulting bill came before the energy committee co-chaired by her husband. Hinck said he voted to support the bill but didn’t do any extraordinary lobbying on its behalf. Asked if he should have recused himself from voting, Hinck said that would have been appropriate only if his wife were going to benefit directly. “I don’t think it came anywhere close to being a conflict issue,” he said.

Either way, Hinck’s vote wasn’t decisive. The bill passed without opposition in both the House and Senate. Hinck was a co-founder of Greenpeace USA and a former project leader at the Natural Resources Council of Maine. Most recently, he served on a broadly represented legislative task force that studied energy corridors in Maine.

“Opponents seem to have the notion that a task force should be made up of people with no interest in the business at hand,” he said. “I think that’s ridiculous.”

ACTIVIST: TACTICS BORN OF FRUSTRATION

This tension in not unique to small states, only more visible in places where people tend to know one another, according to Rushworth Kidder, president of the Institute for Global Ethics. Kidder, an author and ethicist who heads the nonpartisan think tank in Camden, said “networks of influence” are unavoidable at high levels of business and government. The solution is to manage conflicts of interest by being as transparent as possible about potential conflicts.

Kidder wasn’t aware of the wind-power cronyism charges. But in general, he said, accomplished people who are busy doing what they think is right in their jobs tend to have a blind spot to potential conflicts. “The last person to see it’s a conflict of interest is often the actor himself,” he said. It’s the appearance of these conflicts, real or not, that continues to feed various Web sites, including the Citizens’ Task Force on Wind Power — Maine, at www.windtaskforce.org/, and the Industrial Wind Action Group, at www.windaction.org.

The sites attract opponents of the noise, visual impact and environmental changes associated with major wind projects. But even within these social communities, not everyone agrees that “connecting the dots” is productive, according to Steve Thurston, a Vermont resident and co-chairman of the Citizens’ Task Force on Wind Power.

“I don’t think it helps to accuse people of malfeasance, unless you can prove what you’re saying,” Thurston said. Thurston has a family camp on Roxbury Pond near Rumford, near where a company led by former Gov. Angus King is planning a wind farm. Frustration leads opponents to connect public officials who seem complicit in a policy that, as Thurston sees it, will destroy the state’s mountain landscapes. “It feels like a freight train,” he said. “No matter what you do to put the brakes on, it just keeps going.”

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