Monday, September 23, 2013

Environmental Activists Battle Rain in Fight Against Wind

1DSC_0156 Frostburg, MD- Nearly hidden amidst the performers and vendors at the Frostburg Appalachian Festival was a small white tent full of anti-wind activists. The group, representatives from the Allegheny Highlands Alliance, was at the festival to inform and hopefully influence locals and students about the downside of the rapidly expanding wind farm projects in Maryland, West Virginia and Pennsylvania.
While it seems incongruous for a group that wants to protect the Appalachians to be protesting green energy, the group’s opposition is about location, rather than generation. The West Virginia representative for the group, John Terry, explained their opposition:
The wind in the Allegheny Highlands is just too poor for wind turbines. At most they run at their max speed for 10-15 minutes at a time, and then for less than eight days a year when the storms are particularly bad. We are talking about weather energy, not wind energy.
Terry then went on to complain that the data that is used to support the generation was intentionally skewed to misrepresent the power production from mountaintop wind farms in the are. Terry supported this by producing a map based on information from the Department of Energy showing that the wind strength in the Appalachian chain is significantly worse than the wind that can be produced offshore or in the Rocky Mountains. Terry does make one false claim in support of his argument, insisting wrongly that the Department of Energy is part of the Department of Commerce, rather than its own cabinet level entity.
1DSC_01541Despite that error, the Allegheny Highlands Alliance does offer quite a bit of information in support of their position, most of which can be found on the organization’s website. Terry explained that they oppose wind farms not because of sound or ruined views, but because they significantly damage the local environment. The two biggest issues Terry raises are forest fragmentation and disruption of migratory bird patterns. With ridge after ridge lined by windmills, Terry complains, birds are forced to run a near gauntlet to survive.
While the AHA was willing to talk to anyone interested in wind power, it was the rain that was their biggest opponent on the day. Steady rainfall hurt turnout for the Frostburg Appalachian Festival all day, with most of the crowd on hand huddled under the two music tents to stay dry. That wasn’t an option for the members of the Appalachian Highlands Alliance, however, as their small tent served mostly to protect their display information and handouts. That protection was rendered moot by mid-afternoon, as a heavy storm knocked over most of the signs and left members scrambling to protect their displays. The irony of anti-wind power activists being beaten by a thunderstorm was lost of Terry, however, who had to cut off our conversation to start packing up his materials.
1DSC_0155While Terry had most pressing issues at hand, he wasn’t the only member of the group to offer up their take on local wind generation. Dr. Wayne Spiggle, a member of the group and local physician, expressed his opinion that wind power was, in fact, “a scam, a scam that the public is paying for.” Spiggle went on to bemoan the lack of students on hand, since he feels that the University System of Maryland, and student tuition, is helping to underwrite the expansion of wind farms. His wife, Betty Spiggle, added in that the group “would love to come to Frostburg to talk to students,” but were still waiting for an invitation to campus.

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