The Valley, May 2014
Count Your Blessings While You Can by Dennis Pagen Look around and count your blessings. We live in central Pennsylvania where traffic is light, threats are few, neighbors are neighborly, the air is clean and streams run clear. And, we have our mountains. From nearly every location in our valleys, the mountains hover over us like a comforting parent. They protect us from some weather extremes and define our perspectives. Their green slopes are soothing and represent a wildness that may be the connection to the natural world we all need for sanity. Even if we never venture to climb them, they hold out a promise. They offer us nourishment for our psyche. The mountains we call Buffalo, Stone, Shade, Blacklog and Jacks have withstood the slow wearing of weather for eons—literally. But they can lose nearly everything they represent in a few short years—literally. Industrial wind turbines are coming to our mountaintops. And despite their classification in the minds of many folks as “green” energy, they are actually a shade we can best describe as “olive drab.” They are a messing in disguise. I confess I consider myself an amateur naturalist and an environmentalist without portfolio. I love the forests that run up and along the endless mountains. I care about preserving our natural heritage and keeping the natural beauty around us beautiful. So why wouldn’t I embrace the clean promise of wind turbines to help
offset drilling, fracking, burning and nuclear reactors to feed our energy cravings? I used to. But a little education goes a long way and here is what I found out. Wind turbines are most efficient when they are sited in ample wind flows. The more wind the better (up to the point the wind becomes too strong for even the high-tech blade materials). In our region, that puts wind turbines up on the highest ridges. The wind accelerates over our ridges like water over a submerged log. Even though we get some tree-stripping storms in our valleys, it is up on top of the ridges where the squirrels hunker down in their bunkers when a cold front barrels south. Another location wrinkle is that single ridges are better than multiple ridges because an additional ridge weakens the flow in certain wind directions. Thus, it is our mountaintops that are threatened by wind turbine development. Specifically, it’s the singular spectacular formations of Jacks and Stone Mountains that are the planned victims in our region. One problem with the current industrial wind turbine design is that they are only about 25% efficient despite their futuristic appearance. They do not capture all the potential wind energy since they have trouble always facing the wind, the blades have tip vortices (losses due to turbulence) and a minimum wind speed is required to turn their massive rotors. In addition, our mountains do not have very good wind resources and
even when the wind does blow, lining our valley, picketing our A road has to be built along the it is not constant. In fact, a single mountains and disturbing our ridge for installation and service. wind turbine only produces about quiet starlight, some significant There will be erosion, degrada2 megawatts of power. As a result, tion of runoff water and loss of quality of life will be lost. Immean individual wind project needs diately and permanently. wildlife habitat. We may not care to erect at least 20 wind turbines Fortunately we don’t have to for some of the critters living up to make the economics pay off. wring our hands and feel helpless on our mountain (rattlesnakes and Here’s a little statistic to in the face of the onslaught of bats, for example), but they all afdigest: Pennsylvania has five development and money politics. fect us directly by helping control nuclear power plants which There is an active group helping other wildlife we all find worricombined generate about 40% of prevent the invasion of industrial some—ticks and mosquitoes as the state’s electricity. To produce wind turbines into our area. This well as crop-destroying rodents. this much power from industrial group is S.O.A.R.—Save Our None of the outcome of wind turwind turbines, about 3,600 miles Allegheny Ridges. Some of the bine emplacement is green except of Pennsylvania’s mountain members have long been involved in regard to the money changing tops would have to be covered in successful fights to stop the hands. with over 19,188 turbine towers, despoiling of our natural heritage. “You don’t know what each rated at 2 megawatts, with You can become part of the soluyou’ve got until you lose it” is a 5 turbines per mile. Essentially, tion with your neighbors by writcliché we all have grown up with. the whole state would have to be ing to Save Our Allegheny Ridges Most clichés have an element covered with wind turbines for us P. O. Box 178 Everett, PA 15537 of truth and this one speaks so to feel much of a jolt of juice from elegantly that it was the catch or checking on line at www. wind power. SaveOurAlleghenyRidges.org phrase for a hit song in the early Imagine how the countryside 60s—the ultimate endorsement There is a story about an old would look, if in every direction in our pop culture. Anyone with a farmer from Iowa who moved to you see hundreds of white giants memory can look back and see an Colorado. After some time there, a flashing in the sun. Actually, you erosion of quality of life. Rememneighbor asked him how he liked don’t have to imagine it; all you ber when we didn’t have to lock the mountains. “They sure are have to do is wait around doing our doors, you could eat the fish pretty, I suppose,” he replied, as nearly nothing and both sides of you caught with little contaminahe looked around, “But they sure the Big Valley—Jacks and Stone tion worry, your kids could walk do block the view!” It’s all a matMountain—will soon be lined home from school? The list is ter of perspective. Here in central with the austere towers. Make no long. Such erosion tends to occur Pennsylvania we are blessed with mistake about it, while modern gradually, so we often barely the mountains whether they block wind towers look elegant at first notice it. In truth, here in the Big the view or not. But our blessings glance (and admittedly on second Valley we are insulated from some will be squandered if we allow glance), they soon lose their of the quality of life losses. But our views to be forever defaced. charm and take on the appearance make no mistake about it; with What will it do to our psyches? of an alien blight on the land. giant gesticulating wind turbines a They are no more aesthetic than the thousands of seesaw oil wells that worry the American West. Their blades slice 450 feet and higher into the sky—nearly half the mountain height. Their collective hum and flicker during the day and blinking red lights at night disturb the peace. They will be like constant tics at • Reliable Propane & Heating Oil Delivery the borders of our vision. • Budget Payment Plan Call today Wind to • 24/7 Emergency Service le arn about our turbines cannot NE be magically w CustOmER • Heating Equipment Service Plans dropped in place sPECiAls! • Safety Trained Professionals like a leggy Lego. Their masts are • Over 80 Years Experience massive; their blades are like the wings of a Boeing 787. There must be a Our Business is Customer Satisfaction substantial reduction of the narrow mountaintop for 717-248-5476 • 1-800-PROPANE (776-7263) their platform.
Expect More from Your Fuel Supplier!
“Fair & Balanced” means Spin gets Equal Time
The Valley is a FREE monthly newspaper serving Mifflin and surrounding counties in central Pennsylvania.