Letter from Mars Hill (Maine)

Nov 5, 2009



Given the noise shadow of a wind turbine, this statement may be true—but cruelly irrelevant.

—Wendy Todd, Mars Hill Wind Farm (11/5/09)

My name is Wendy Todd and I am from Mars Hill, Maine. I grew up in Mars Hill, on a farm that has been in my family for generations. After getting married, my husband Perrin and I moved to southern Maine. About five years ago we moved back to the County to raise our children and enjoy the rural living that we both grew up with. Shortly after moving into our new home at the base of Mars Hill Mountain, construction began on the Mars Hill Wind Farm. The entire project went on line in March of 2007.

The wind turbines have changed our lives forever.

There are 18 families who live under a mile and downwind of the Mars Hill wind project who have been negatively impacted by these massive turbines. We all want for people to understand what is at stake when turbines move into your community. The 28, GE 1.5 megawatt turbines here in Mars Hill have destroyed a way of life that many have cherished for generations. It is an industrial facility that covers over 3 miles. It has destroyed wildlife habitat, breathtaking views, and property values. It has forever scarred the mountain. It has disturbed streams, ponds and wetlands. Safety issues with ice throw, risks of fire and tower collapse are all things that neighbors have to consider.

The noise created by the turbines can be unbearable at times. It causes disruption to sleep patterns, stress and anxiety to most who live downwind of the project. For some it causes headaches, pressure or ringing in the ears, inability to concentrate, feelings of unease, and dizziness. Others who suffer from migraines are saying that their migraines are worse and that their medications are no longer as effective in relieving the pain. Some of my neighbors have turned to medications and other therapies to cope. Most of us have had to alter something, either in our homes or personal lives, to cope with how the turbines have changed the environment. I am not talking about a simple nuisance, this is about life altering changes to the environment that can literally make people sick and change the way you live in your home and use your land. A large number of the families affected have considered leaving their homes.

Many in the acoustic and medical communities are calling for a 1.5 kilometer or greater set back for industrial wind turbines from homes, schools, and medical facilities for reasons of health and well being. Proper setbacks are the only way to provide protection.

I truly believe it is only a matter of time before the scientific data will be there to force more stringent regulation on this industry, but for now you have to protect yourselves because no one else is able to do so. Your friends in Mars Hill are begging that you listen and heed our warnings before you too find yourself in this nightmare.

Many promises were made to our town through the information period before construction began. Talk of job creation, reductions in carbon emissions, and reductions in our taxes were all very appealing. Many inaccurate, false statements were given about the noise issue. We were told that we would have to be within 500 feet of the project to hear anything at all from the turbines and that there would be no noise at all at the base of the mountain. Shadow flicker was never discussed.

The extent of how huge the construction phase would be or what kind of disruption we as citizens should expect was not discussed either. The Mars Hill project was supposed to reduce carbon emissions by 65 million tons, yet when asked to show confirmation of that, they cannot show where any regional power plants have stopped or slowed production that would realize any carbon reductions at all.

The promise of jobs went mostly to large corporations and their employees from mid to southern Maine. Most local crews did not have the expertise to meet the needs of the developer.

They told us that property values tend to go up when turbines move in, but appraisals show a 20 percent to 50 percent devaluation of property depending on proximity and visibility of the turbines. One appraiser even said that some of our properties might never sell.

Mars Hill was the first project of its kind in our state but there should be no excuse for how little the people of Mars Hill knew about this process. Maine Department of Environmental Protection and the developer had a good understanding of what was going to take place but it was never communicated properly to the people of Mars Hill. One can only imagine how different things would be if the truth had been known. The state of Maine has not adopted rules that will protect its residents from this kind of project. At this point in time, individual communities must take action to protect their families because there are no wind industry guidelines that will. The developers hope that they can get in and operational before you understand the facts about wind. They make you feel that you would be a fool not support such a wonderful project. We were naïve and believed what the developer told us.

You are in a different place. So much new information is becoming available to communities who are considering wind. You are not alone. You have the chance and the responsibility to listen to all the information and choose wisely for your town. Any of the 18 families here in Mars Hill are willing to answer any questions or concerns that you may have regarding what life is like under industrial wind turbines. If you are not going to be affected personally ask yourself if a friend or neighbor will be. Protect each other. Ask lots of questions and use caution when listening to the developer. They are there to sell their project, not tell you all the negative things that can happen.

What can you do to learn more? Attend local meetings, listen, and visit a few Web sites on the impacts of industrial wind and wind turbine syndrome. Educate yourselves now before it is too late. Defend your ridgelines, your homes and your way of life. No one else will do it for you. Once the project is approved there is no hope and no turning back.

  1. Comment by Art Giacalone on 11/06/2009 at 11:56 am

    My thanks to Wendy Todd for sharing this information, and to Dr. Nina Pierpont for ensuring that Wendy’s all-too-accurate depiction of the travesty that accompanies industrial-scale wind development is disseminated as widely as possible. Wind developers have been irresponsible and deceptive when selling their projects, and woefully negligent when addressing the problems endured by nearby residents once the “farms” are operating. Government officials and agencies alone have the power and resources to prevent these horror stories. Sadly, they have failed miserably when it comes to protecting families, the character of rural America, and the environment.

    Editor’s note: For those who don’t know, Art Giacalone is a Harvard-trained lawyer living in western NY State. He has been heavily involved for years in trying to protect individuals like Wendy Todd, and their communities, from Big Wind. He is a man of tremendous courage and moral fiber. A man whom Nina & I admire enormously. Click here for his website.

  2. Comment by John Gilbert on 11/06/2009 at 5:06 pm

    I’m a summer resident of South Marysburgh on the eastern area of the south shore region of Prince Edward County (PEC) Ontario. From age 12 in my various sailboats I’ve seen all islands and coastline from Toronto to Brockville, Ontario and Rochester to Alexandria Bay, NY. In 1995 I bought a cottage there because I had learned in my voyages that The Point Traverse area of South Marysburgh was the the most remote location.

    Three years ago my brother Barrie a retired wildlife professor chose to settle on Wolfe Island for the same wildlife / remote reasons, but his dreams are now buried under 86 monster wind turbines. Wolfe Island now an Industrial Park is called “Freak Island”.

    Grrrr. It’s legal to glorify illegal action in Canada as long as one does not refer to specific targets so if you hear of country boys having fun shooting the blades off turbines in America, let me know. I don’t own a gun but just can’t help smiling at the thought. A Canadian is just like an American, except he has universal health care and no gun. I would rather with all your horrific shooters they consider targeting monster machines instead of people.

    J. Gilbert – godhas4legs@gmail.com


  3. Comment by Vincent M. on 01/12/2010 at 11:34 am

    @ Wendy Todd from Mars Hill, Maine.

    After a month of studying the theme I was about to take things a little less serious. Than I red the last paragraph of your letter:
    “Educate yourselves now before it is too late. Defend your ridgelines, your homes and your way of life. No one else will do it for you. Once the project is approved there is no hope and no turning back.”
    And it encouraged me to continue, even dough my wife and some neighbours think I’m overreacting.

    In Belgium, in 2005, a former top politician opposed to the building of an offshore windmill farm near the town of ‘Ostend’. In those days we all thought he was crazy to do so, how could someone oppose to the building of clean energy providers? The public opinion proved itself very positive towards green energy and our political leaders all started profiling themselves greener than green.

    In reality, this minister had a different motivation, he wanted to reserve his share in the gold rush that would occur some time later. As of today he’s the CEO of a firm that wants to plant hundreds of turbines all over the Belgian countryside.

    I invite you to have a look on the map and you’ll understand that what we, in one of the most dense populated parts of Europe, define as rural is more likely a pre-urban region in the US or in Canada. You’ll also understand the nature of our problem. We live “on the countryside” close to the last an open space in the neighborhood, it’s bearly 1300 by 600 meters and located near a 6-lane highway, a major railroad, a big industrial firm, a dump and a water purification station, all within a 1500m radius. Today, we face ourselves fighting against the plans to raise 13 turbines within 300 to 1400meters of our homes.

    To achieve this: noise regulations where altered with 9db and setbacks where minimised to close to nothing. The government “assumes that for a distance of 250 meters the inconveniences from a turbine can be reduced to an acceptable minimum”.
    At any level, we have no support from the politicians we elected, we hardly have financial resources to pay for technical and legal knowledge. That’s why I was fighting to get this injustice investigated by newspapers, television or environmental organisations. But all of them are afraid to differ from the public opinion and seem to claim that a little collateral damage is acceptable if for the greater good.
    If – by accident – we get the media, they depict us as conservative, dumb or ignorant peasants.

    We still have a long way to go, but I’m persuaded we can stop these insane projects, whose only existence is to plunder the treasuries.

    Kind regards,

    (Flanders, Belgium)

    * just type “belgie, vlekkem” in Google maps and you’ll notice that there’s not much open space in Flanders

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