Some of the unique and, for us, most exciting aspects of our work at Mass Energy and People’s Power & Light are our site visits to local sources of renewable energy.
Since we only buy renewable energy from New England projects on behalf of our members, it’s not hard to bring them right to the source of their electricity. And not only that, but many developers and owners are keen to share their particular story.
Sister Turbines in Gloucester, MA
Wind Turbine at the Berkshire East Ski Resort
Hull 1 Turbine in Hull, MA
Why are renewable energy tours so important to us?
Our tours are partly driven by our wish to educate the public on the nature of and justification for our green power programs. But we also want to achieve something greater: changing hearts and minds. We are building the political will to shift our power grid to renewable energy.
When our members meet each other in front of the wind turbines that they helped to build, they form a bond based on the realization that they are engaged in a collective effort to achieve something they could not achieve alone. Their monthly contributions for green power are multiplying, because a community-scale wind turbine doesn’t just serve one household; it has the potential to serve hundreds.
Larry Chretien at our 2015 Summer Boat Cruise to Hull 1 in Hull, MA
Our tours attract those interested in wind turbine technology, but they also attract average people wondering about turbines. For those folks, myths and mysteries surround these majestic structures which now dot the landscape of our lives. Why?
- A neighbor told them that he/she heard that a wind turbine was causing seizures and other health problems. They are curious if we’ve heard such reports, and if they’re true. We often point them to a DPH/DOER 2012 study that showed turbines to be harmless when properly sited.
- They’ve read countless negative articles in the paper about how homes near wind turbines are devastated: swooshing blades keeping people up at night and property values plunging (which is not true). The media loves a sensational story, but our experience with dozens of turbines across the state has been that residents live peacefully and prosperously among wind turbines—prosperously in that, in some cases, the turbine is saving the municipality money (like in Gloucester or Lynn). Take a look at the photo above and you’ll see that we hold conversations at a pleasant volume while standing at the base of our turbines.
- How about that birds and bats were threatened by the placement of wind turbines? Isn’t that a legitimate concern? Not according to Mass Audubon Society, who maintains that climate change poses a far greater risk to local wildlife and supports properly sited wind turbines. But not only that—other realities of our everyday lives pose a greater threat too. At a 2013 event at Holy Name High School one of our turbine managers, when asked if he had found any dead birds around the turbine, answered, “No, but we’ve had a few of them die from flying into the school building.”
We strive to provide answers for these folks through our knowledge and our experience working with communities that host wind turbines. We’ve even got a fact sheet! But our talking points only go so far. Our tours are incredibly important because beyond the hype, the media, and the fact sheets, people can come and see for themselves.
Building the political will
With sustained strong winds, New England has an infinite energy supply that has the technical potential to provide much of the electricity we need at an affordable cost. Among the many solutions in place to achieve goals, such as an 80% emissions reduction by 2050 per a national goal AND the MA Global Warming Solutions Act, is the investment in the local technologies that we want to see replace our current energy system. We need the political will and the policy to enhance that investment. And political will comes from people having personal experiences that remind them that renewable energy is good.
That said, we are mindful that our turbine tours are inspired by the individual sense of responsibility that each and every one of us has to end, not only our local, but also global dependency on fossil fuels. Should we fail to heed the compelling call to commit to renewable energy and energy efficiency, we will see the spread of what has already happened to so many places in the world: sea level rise in the island nations of the Pacific, droughts in highly water starved states like California, or the melting polar ice caps.
We host these tours because we believe that a stronger understanding of and active participation in supporting green power projects will put us in the best position to battle the forces of climate change.
Being part of the solution
Moving forward, we will work on engaging tour participants in this conversation in hopes that it will leave people feeling more conversant in these issues. We hope to encourage more of you to support green power not only through Mass Energy’s and People’s Power & Light’s green power programs, but with your voting and consumer power in other arenas and with your neighborly power to illuminate those around you.
Last spring, we hosted a boat cruise to our wind turbine project in Hull, MA that attracted over 200 people. Later in the summer, we also held a Wind Festival at the stunning Berkshire East Ski Resort in Charlemont, MA. And then in the fall, we were joined by more enthusiastic tour-goers at Lynn, MA’s new wind turbine and Sandywoods Farm’s wind turbine in Tiverton, RI. In 2016, our tour season began a couple of weeks ago with a wind, solar, and geothermal tour at Mount St. Mary’s Abbey in Wrentham. As we look forward to more tours, we hope you will join us, and bring your neighbors.
With your help, and the power of many to achieve something bigger (such as the construction of a wind turbine, which is no small feat!), we can say to our children and grandchildren that their world was almost lost… but instead of letting it collapse around us, we did something.
If you have suggestions that you would like to share about our turbine tours, let us know! We want to know what you would like to see at our tours. Email Anna Vanderspek and Erin Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at the office at 617-524-3950 ext. 5. Your feedback is greatly appreciated!
Want to attend our next tour? Check out our tours page to see this summer's line-up!