When the Allen Farm’s 165-foot meteorological tower went up a couple of years ago in front of our Chilmark property, I wondered what the future would be like if a wind turbine were built. Our Vineyard history, especially the exquisite beauty and peace of our hilltop home, has been precious to us. My husband’s ancestor, John Eddy, first came to the Vineyard in 1660 as a blacksmith. More recently, my husband has enjoyed the company of five generations of his family here. In that frozen winter of 1976-1977, Ralph built our house; we were married here and had our first son here; we raised goats, opened a store and a construction business. Our kids had 20 years of Community Center and their summer jobs here; our eldest was married here and lived here. Looking forward, we had hoped to live here again in upcoming retirement.
As I researched wind turbines, however, I learned not only of some real problems but also of a very troubling pattern in the wind industry; that is, a travesty of justice. I say travesty because of its mockery of the basic rights of citizens, the tyranny over unwilling subjects, the “taking” of property (enjoyment, value, habitability) and of income, and the trauma that envelops so many lives — all without acknowledgment, remedy or compensation. This is not a “T” party I’d like to attend, but it has come to Chilmark and into my home. I have thought back to the years I lived here, when the Vineyard fought off McDonalds and threatened to secede from Massachusetts over sharing a representative, and I have wondered how the Vineyard today has so calmly accepted the obvious wrongs of the wind juggernaut, especially when its community spirit was so extraordinary.
Last November, the Allen Farm’s 150-foot turbine was built, exhibiting usual turbine effects: engine and blade noises, light reflections and shadow flicker, visual impairment, property devaluation (and abandonment) and the distracting motion of blades. The turbine was placed within our only view, a south-facing view toward sun and ocean, about 1,300 feet from us. From our hilltop, we hear its noise outside and inside our home through our lovely bird and ocean melodies. We see light reflections as it is highlighted boldly by morning and evening sun, and the motion of blades interrupting landscape, sky and ocean. (This motion is intolerable to me as an unavoidable and constant demand on my senses, and it feels menacing. It affects the same defensive feature of the brain that fast-moving commercials play upon to get your attention.) We cannot escape the motion of the blades even in our home, except in the back hall or northeast bedroom.
My only visit was early in June; though I had cabinets to refinish, I packed the doors and left early, harried out of my home by the whirlygig blades, 63 feet in diameter, constantly moving in my vision, even inside my house through the large south-facing windows and reflections in our east windows and bathroom. Oppressed by the machine, I cancelled all other visits and annual celebrations. (Ralph’s visits since March feel the same.) I dread the thought of this being our reality for 20 years. Will I outlast the turbine to come back at age 81, or will the bigger and better be up then, such as the multiple 900-kilowatt, 230-foot turbines the MET tower was to evaluate?
Can it be acceptable to the Vineyard that our property, welfare and future have been taken from us; that my husband and I will return to the Vineyard only to keep our house from mouldering away? And with so many farms able to profit from the same lucrative subsidies, are you ready for your neighboring turbine?
Barbara Schlesinger lives in Chilmark and Malvern, Pa.