When something comes along and seems too good to be true, it usually is. Such is the story with industrial wind energy in Vermont. The devil is always in the details and, as more projects are getting proposed in Vermont, more people are getting educated on what these details are and what the real costs are as compared to the stated benefits.
In addition to taxpayers and ratepayers who are subsidizing these projects, there is a huge cost burden placed on neighbors who pay in loss of quality of life, loss of use of their own property, and loss of sleep that affects overall health as a result of the noise and low-frequency vibration that can impact people up to two miles away in mountainous regions. Developers know this and offer compensation for a “noise easement” on complaining neighbors’ land. However, people who accept money, paid out over several years, must sign non-disparagement and confidentiality contracts with the developers. In other words, getting compensated for a noise easement means they can never speak of their symptoms, or declining health, nor sue the developer. Many people around the world in this same situation have abandoned their homes since they are unable to sell them and must move to protect their health.
This is unspeakably unfair. At present, unlike most development models, industrial wind developers assume extremely low levels of risk and investors can expect to receive 20 percent return on their investment or more as compared to 2 percent on a 20-year U.S. treasury bond. In short, the subsidies and other financial support offered by federal and state governments to developers of these projects provide returns that are 10 times higher than investors can expect to receive from the federal government itself. Sadly, these projects are so non-risky and lucrative, you can expect them in your neighborhood regardless of whether they make environmental sense. So there is no reason why people who are affected should not be compensated for the fair market value of their property before a project goes in so that they have the opportunity to move if necessary.
It is also unfair that developers can go into a community that would be little affected by a project, get a “yes” vote for their project by offering to give that town a lot of money, when all the impacts are felt on the other side of the mountain or in other non-host communities. Just check out the situation in Sheffield and Lowell to see how this has worked so far. It is hardly surprising that people are protesting. Just ask Carol and Paul Brouha in Sutton. If these projects were so great for us, why aren’t they more transparent? Why aren’t legitimate concerns being honestly addressed? Why should neighbors be expected to pay with their health and quality of life? Until these and other injustices are rectified, expect more protests.
SANDY and JIM WILBUR