Like most problems, solutions often come with serious side effects as well. In the nation’s search for energy, wind power has been touted as the new panacea to reduce greenhouse gas emission and to reduce the country’s dependency on foreign energy. Recent technological changes and tax incentives have greatly accelerated wind development in the United States. Wind power in New England has started to dot the landscape and along with it has come considerable controversy. Ken Kimball, AMC, will discuss the present and potential use of wind power throughout the state as well as challenges in siting wind projects.

Dr. Ken Kimball is the research director for the Appalachian Mountain Club.  Before joining the AMC staff in 1983, Ken worked as an environmental consultant, a research scientist at Cornell, and as a research scientist in Iran for the Smithsonian Institute-Peace Corps Environmental Program, a low point in his career where he was working on the Caspian Sea at minus 89 feet below sea level. Ken has explored numerous ecosystems around the world from Nepal to Africa to Central America. Ken’s portfolio at AMC includes overseeing terrestrial and river ecosystem protection and wind power siting initiatives in the northeast.

Thousands of megawatts of new generating capacity have been installed recently from central US and plains states to Texas, where the wind source is strong, consistent and homogenously spread across the land. New England winds are more limited with the exception of the coastal areas, offshore and mountain ridges. Because wind regionally is a very inconsistent power source, its capacity efficiency is much lower than many other energy sources. Size can make up the difference and that is where much of the conflict surrounding the issue comes from. Wind turbines today are almost 500 feet high and when located on the windy higher ridges their visual reach across the landscape is considerable. Add on an array of red blinking lights to the reflective white towers as required by the Federal Aviation Administration and they can be visible 30 or more miles away. Because of the turbines’ size, the large scale cut-and-fill needed to build access roads on steep slopes to handle the large assembly cranes and clearings for the turbines represents wholesale modifications of mountains. Wind farms have been associated with increased bird and bat mortality due to the large sweep of multiple rotors aligned along ridgelines.

New Hampshire today has three major wind farms with many more in the planning phase. Maine and Vermont are seeing similar trends. Like fracking for natural gas the regulatory arena is playing catch up in trying to determine where and how this technology would best serve the region with the least impact. Dr. Kimball will describe ongoing trends of wind power in New England, AMC’s efforts to get state’s to develop better siting policies, and what technologies to reduce some of the visual and ecological impacts should be required.

The Eco-Forum lunchtime lecture series is sponsored by The Flatbread Company of North Conway, the Rock House Mountain Baker, and Frontside Grind Coffee and Espresso. It is presented at noon on the second Thursday of each month at the Tin Mountain Nature Learning Center in Albany. The public is urged to attend to learn more about salient issues facing our natural environment and to hear the views of thought-provoking speakers.