Last week, I was backpacking across our beautiful state of New Hampshire, which is 87% covered in forest. The state is made up of a series of wooded, rolling hills and mountains, with beautiful ridge lines. It’s a very pristine place with minimal development — it often makes you forget about the extent of human reach.
Midway through my trip, I came up on a large ridge line and — not realizing where I was — ended up staring right in the face of modern human development: A 24-megawatt wind farm recently developed by Iberdrola Renewables. A smile came across my face. ::continue::
I’ve visited many wind farms all around the world, but this was the first large-scale project I had seen up close in New Hampshire. The wind farm is very small compared to most projects being developed today. But it is huge for our state’s standards. Before this project, we only had about 1 MW of wind in New Hampshire.
It was a beautiful thing: 12 pieces of sculpture that complimented the landscape and made me feel like saying, “yes, please put more in my backyard.”
Of course, I am professionally and emotionally engaged with wind and other renewables. I’ve seen them, heard them and listened to people whose lives have been bettered by them. These turbines are both a source of pride and indirect financial gain; therefore, I have a deep sense of appreciation for them.
This is exactly the type of engagement we need to encourage if wind and other renewables are to become a larger piece of the energy mix. We can’t just throw up these machines and expect people to like them because we say they are good. People need to be involved in the process early on; they need to have a financial stake in a project; and we need to continue to tell stories about renewables in a way that makes them symbolic.
Renewables are an inherently intimate type of energy — shouldn’t the process of developing them be the same way?
I will be traveling up to Maine this coming week to the picturesque island of Vinalhaven, where the small community is constructing a 4.5 MW wind farm to meet all their energy needs. There was definitely some resistance to the project at first. But as the Fox Island Wind Farm CEO George Baker tells me, the lengthy and detailed stakeholder engagement process ensured a smoother ride for the project.
I’m going up to the island, which is 12 miles off the Maine coast, to learn more about how the process went, and about why this stakeholder process can make or break the success of a project. We’ll have plenty of material in our podcast coming up in the next couple of weeks, so stay tuned to that.