I’m jealous of John Rogers.
John is a Senior Energy Analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists, and he recently visited an upstate New York wind farm, where he got to climb to the top of a wind turbine, something I’m still waiting to experience.
More importantly, John learned how the Maple Ridge wind farm has greatly benefited local towns. Here are a few highlights from his experience:
The excitement in the surrounding community, though, isn’t fueled by light bulbs or heart-palpitating ascents. It comes from having those turbines as an important part of everyday life.
Tom Schneeberger, who sits on the school board and whose wife owns and runs Gary’s Restaurant, a local diner (and, with local schoolkids, put out a book on the project), talks excitedly about Maple Ridge. There’ve been “all kinds of ways that the [wind] project has helped to sustain our way of living here,” he says—in the school, for road maintenance, even for upgrading the grandstand at the local fairgrounds.
Strengthening schools and lowering taxes
Local School Superintendent Cheryl Steckley, who works on the front lines of school budget issues, speaks about the positive effects of the wind project’s annual payments (known as “PILOT” payments), half of which go to the school district:
“In the initial year of the PILOT, taxes were dropped. For the next seven years taxes were held stable. We had two years where our taxes increased less than two percent. And we are now stabilized again. So the true tax rate to our residents has been cut in half from what it was… in the initial stages of the pilot. So it’s had an amazing impact on our school district.”
For her, Maple Ridge has meant stabilized taxes, better school facilities, and expanded school programs.
Boosting local business
For Martinsburg resident Terry Thisse, the project has meant income for hosting turbines on his land, increased activity for his local business, and lower taxes and better municipal services for the people he serves as town supervisor. When he and other decision makers were considering the costs and benefits of the project when it was first proposed, he says, “it turned out to be a no-brainer.”
Keeping the family farm in the family
Bill and Patty Burke host seven wind turbines on land that’s been in his family for five generations. Bill is particularly effusive in his discussion of the wind farm (which may explain why he also works part time for the wind farm giving tours). He talks glowingly about the check that arrives every three months in the mailbox—“income off the land where there’s no expenses involved.” The turbines “have been a godsend to our being able to stay in this house,” he says. “A great asset… a blessing to our goals in life.”
You can read about John’s full experience here, and check out a video from his trip below: