Monhegan Resident Responds to “Yes in My Front Yard”—
Thursday, March 09, 2017 12:23 PM
Monhegan Island is my home. As a resident who lives and works here, I feel compelled to respond to the opinions expressed in the recent op-ed “Yes in My Front Yard.”
The issue is the siting of the UMO/ Maine Aqua Ventus wind turbines just 2.5 miles off the southern end of Monhegan Island. The two proposed 575-foot turbines would be visible from all of the island’s famous headlands, Lobster Cove, the harbor, the lighthouse and museum, from Manana Island, and a good bit of the west side. For the record, these towers would be nearly twice as tall as the Statue of Liberty and, closer to home, more than 100' taller than the towers of the Penobscot Narrows Bridge.
They would be in place for 20 years, after which, the 2009 legislation permits further testing of newer power generating models. Even though some of the community benefits being offered by MAV appear to be generous, the group Protect Monhegan maintains that the project siting is inappropriate and has introduced a bill to move the university test area elsewhere.
A correction to the “Yes” article: Half of Monhegan’s registered voters are opposed to the siting of this project. I have seen the list; my name is on it. I have not seen a list of those in favor of the project.
As far as the bill proposed by Protect Monhegan being referred to as “An Act to Promote Gentrification,” the island’s own community based electrical generating plant has already played a part in doing that. Gone are the days of lamp-lit rooms and gas-powered wringer washers. Many homes and summer cottages have all the modern conveniences you would find in mainland homes — washers, dryers, dishwashers, computers, microwaves, flat-screens and power tools. Further “gentrification” will likely happen with electricity at a lower price, used more freely, with less thought to conservation.
The “Yes” article also brings up the issue of sustainability. Anyone who lives on Monhegan and uses power conservatively knows that their monthly electric bill is not a major hindrance to sustainability; cutting it by less than 50 percent will not be the factor determining whether more come to the island to live. What we really need is more housing; we have the potential for adding more residents who already have jobs here but do not have year-round homes.
The island’s affordable housing organization, MISCA, has done a great job since its inception but is constantly challenged to keep up with (happily, hopefully) a potentially larger community. Another community benefit, offered by the project and touted to make the island more sustainable, is fiber optics. Among Protect Monhegan supporters are several who work from home through their computers. They find current Internet service adequate and do not find the offer of fiber optics of enough value to support the wind power project.
There is ultimately something unsustainable about depending on an arrangement that will be in place for only 20 years. After the proposed research is done, 12 miles of electrical cable bundled with fiber optics might be more of a detriment to sustainability when it has to be replaced. The current cost of electrical cable is $1,000,000.00 per mile times 12 miles between island and mainland; that is an expensive problem.
The Monhegan Plantation Power District maintains a system that was designed to switch back and forth between oil and alternative forms of energy. The newly installed micro turbines and solar panels up at the power plant are the beginning of the island’s own answer to reducing carbon emissions. I believe the island needs to continue to be responsible for the design of its own energy future on a scale that fits the island.
Island ecology, in both the natural/biological and the social sense, tends to be delicately balanced. It doesn’t take too much to upset either. As a person who has lived close to nature, I find it hard to believe that two huge structures that vibrate and spin and make sounds will not cause change in that delicate balance on the island and in the waters that surround it. I have a lot of faith in the resilience of nature but the interruption of bird and butterfly migrations, changes in wind and water currents, blinking red signal lights, new sounds above and below water, may have long range unintended consequences.
On the social side, I have watched while our island community has been overwhelmed, exhausted, and divided by this project, trying to keep up with the twisting and turning changes it has gone through. The stress of being a small entity working with or against large and powerful corporations has given many the feeling of helplessness giving way to apathy.
The threat of global warming is often being used as a fear tactic, a cudgel to silence objections, to make some feel guilty for seeing and expressing a different side of things. There are identifiable pros and cons to the issue, and each side has, at heart, strongly felt beliefs as to what would be best for the future of Monhegan, for Maine, and for the planet, for sustainable community with a healthy future. We all feel strongly that fossil fuel driven power must give way to more sustainable alternatives. I think most of us applaud the effort and research by UMO in developing the means to capture wind energy.
But I believe that people will not make changes in the ways they live from a sense of fear of the consequences of global warming, but instead because they find the miracle and majesty of earth worth saving. As we work towards ways of reducing human stress on the planet, we need to preserve and protect some of the places of natural beauty, places that are wild and not made less grand by human endeavor, that can be visited and experienced.
Many who venture out to the island have no idea what they will encounter and return moved and spell-bound. Many come again and again to walk through the virgin stand of red spruce in Cathedral Woods, to follow the trail to the bold headlands and stare across the ocean space with nothing between them and Spain, or to be a part of the magic of a full moon rising up out of a dark sea. The large scale of this proposed project and its flashing red lights in the night sky are not an appropriate fit and will destroy this kind of experience.
“In wildness is the preservation of the world,” said Thor-eau. That “wildness” is an increasingly precious gift, a legacy that needs to be cherished. The goal of Protect Monhegan is to see that that legacy is protected on this unique island and remains so for generations to come.
On Monhegan, we have already shown that we are more than capable of creating our own sustainable energy future. The Maine Aqua Ventus wind turbines will hurt us more than they will help us; they need to be moved.
Kathie Krause Iannicelli, Monhegan