Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Wind turbines are healthy choice for Maine

Lewiston Sun Journal
August 13, 2006

Op-Ed: Ed Miller

Air pollution is a significant problem in Maine and can pose serious health risks, especially for the more than 120,000 people with lung disease. Combine that with Maine's unwanted distinction of having one of the highest lung disease rates in the country, and you've got a public health crisis that must be addressed promptly and aggressively.

That's why the American Lung Association of Maine enthusiastically supports the Redington Wind Farm project.

Air pollution in Maine is largely a result of our fossil fuel-based energy and transportation systems. These are the same sources that are responsible for global warming. If nothing is done to reduce these harmful emissions, the health risk to Maine people will increase every year.

Doing nothing is not an option. Corrective action will require a sustained and aggressive combination of energy efficiency, conservation, and increased clean fuel capacity, including solar, biofuel and wind.

Is the investment in clean energy worth it?

To put it in perspective, at least $150 million in health costs are incurred every year in Maine just as a result of lung disease. The costs from heart disease are even higher. It is clear that air pollution contributes to these costs. The reality is, we can't afford not to take action.

Wind power is viable and necessary, yet underdeveloped. But Maine's capacity to host wind farms is limited. Our organization has been very interested in the potential of community-level wind power to meet more of our energy needs.

Last summer, along with Coastal Enterprises Inc. and the Jebediah Foundation, we sponsored a study to explore community wind power. The result is our report, "A Feasibility Study for Community Wind Projects in Maine."

The fact is, we had hoped that community windmills might become as common as community water towers or cell towers. But we found that even when looking at smaller scale projects, only 15 sites in Maine have the right combination of factors, including wind speed, to make community wind projects a viable option.

The bottom line is that not every community can have its own turbine. As a result, large-scale projects are absolutely vital and Redington is one of the few opportunities for large-scale significant wind power in Maine.

This is not just a local issue. All Maine people have a stake in the Redington Wind Farm project because all Maine people are affected by air pollution. Even if you do not have asthma or lung disease, you probably know someone who does. Those susceptible to the effects of air pollution include the active as well as the sick.

A recent survey of hikers in Acadia National Park found 50 percent had respiratory allergies, 20 percent had asthma, and 15 percent had heart disease or hypertension. We need to work together across the state to improve health and prevent costly disease.

It's time to look at Redington for what it is - an important step on Maine's road to energy independence, healthier air and healthier lungs. The American Lung Association of Maine is pleased to support this project as a means to addressing the costly and devastating effects of lung disease in Maine.

Edward Miller is CEO of the American Lung Association of Maine.

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