Wednesday, November 24, 2021


Flyer going around town

Solar energy is disturbing the peace here on Christian Hill in Lovell, Maine. Residents are angry because they didn’t know anything about a huge, multi-million-dollar, 171 acre, solar-panel project that will be visible from our hill. What really ticks them off is that, by the time they found out about it, it was already too late to do anything about it. Locals have been calling me and knocking on my door wanting to know what to do. According to what I have been able to learn so far, not much, because Lovell doesn’t have an ordinance to regulate these things and I suspect the solar company knew that.

I'll be seeing solar panels just to the left of the birdhouse

I knew nothing either until about two weeks ago. Even though the site abuts my property, I was never notified. To say that annoys me is understatement. A friend and I purchased 30 acres of overgrown former apple orchard enclosed by stone walls on Christian Hill over forty years ago. The land slopes down from the road, which is a big disadvantage in every way but one: there’s a beautiful view westward toward the White Mountain National Forest in neighboring New Hampshire. 

From my back porch
Solar panels would replace pines & hardwoods on the bottom

After splitting the thirty acres down the middle, my wife and I built a home on our half and moved into it in 1988. For the next several years, I personally reopened the view by cutting down enough trees for eight cords of wood every summer. I split it by hand and burned it to keep us warm each winter until I had cleared my half of the overgrown apple orchard.

Solar Panels would be under the cloud in the center

I had stabilized the disturbed soil around our new house with a conservation mix but our gravel driveway remained a challenge. Thunderstorms opened gullies every summer until we figured out where to install ditches and culverts. Then I hired an excavator to remove the stumps left in the former orchard and stabilized the disturbed soil with more conservation mix. I get it bush-hogged each year now to maintain the field and preserve our vista. It’s been a lot of work and expense, but the scenery always made it worthwhile.

My granddaughters Solar panels would dominate the view to the left of the birch tree

Lovell’s proposed solar project, however, will ruin that view. If it goes through as proposed, about half our panorama will be of hundreds black solar panels. My forty years of hard work has increased the value of our property, but whatever it’s worth will be considerably diminished if our view is spoiled by acre after acre of ugly black solar panels.

The solar company that would destroy my vista calls itself “Walden Renewables,” probably to conjure bucolic images a la Henry David Thoreau. However, row after parallel row of fifteen-foot-high, black solar solar panels is anything but bucolic. The 600-page Walden Renewables application to the Town of Lovell suggests we visualize sheep grazing beneath their black monstrosities and promises to decommission them after thirty years. Then, they say, the land would be open pasture. But if I live that long, I’ll be a hundred years old. Maybe I’ll get to watch them finally disassemble the monstrous things from a rocking chair on my back porch.

This view would be ruined

These huge collections of panels not only look ugly, but their transformers are noisy. It’s not a loud noise, but it can be annoying because it’s a “Pure Tone.” According to Michael Bahtiarian, a sound engineer at Acentech: “In my opinion, when a person is bothered by sound, it is more likely the presence of a Pure Tone that is bothering them rather than just the sound level. At the wrong frequencies, a Pure Tone can be a highly annoying sound” It’s about as loud as a vacuum cleaner.

Solar panels would replace the snow-covered pines

Lest you think this is just a local problem we’re dealing with, check out a November 2nd New York Times account: “Approximately 0.5 percent of U.S. land would need to be covered with solar panels to achieve the decarbonization goals proposed by the Biden administration in April, according to a study by the Energy Department." That’s 190,000 square miles, folks, and they’re not going to be built in cities. Expect to see them just about everywhere you look when you go for that nice, peaceful ride in the country.

Solar panels would replace the pines in the mist

Walden Renewables started quietly buying up leases in Lovell last February, but didn’t submit their application until October after all the summer people went home. Sneaky, huh? From what I can gather, the project will be visible from Kezar Lake where most of them own property. They have deeper pockets than us locals and have always helped enormously during previous fights against a nuclear-waste dump, a series of GWEN towers the Pentagon proposed to help generals communicate after a nuclear attack had killed the rest of us, and several other battles against huge projects by outsiders.

The area lit up would be all solar panels

Lovell’s Planning Board will consider the Walden Renewables application at its regular meeting Wednesday, December 1st. It will be at the Lovell Town Hall because they expect a lot of people.

 I hope they’re right.

Saturday, November 13, 2021


How long before you call 911 and hear elevator music interspersed with a robot voice saying: “Your call is very important to us. Please stay on the line and an operator will be with you shortly.”

That’s what we’re coming to. Some places are there already. Next time you have a medical emergency, you may not get the treatment you need. After waiting for your 911 call to be answered, you might wait a long time for an ambulance. A health care professional who worked in hospitals around the country for the past few years is telling me that our emergency rooms are so jammed, patients they used to be able to save are dying.

There aren’t enough nurses. There aren’t enough doctors There aren’t enough aides. There aren’t enough EMTs. It was a critical situation almost everywhere prior to onset of Covid. Writing three weeks ago in US News & World Report, ER physician Sharon Anoush Chekijian said: “Even before the pandemic, it felt like the emergency department was shouldering the lion's share of primary care: We'd provide treatment for hypertension, refill prescriptions when calls to the doctor's office went unanswered and manage chronically elevated blood sugar. Behavioral health patients with nowhere else to go would arrive one after the other by ambulance… Now COVID-19 has laid bare medicine's house of cards.”

Our ERs are teetering on the edge. The recent vaccination mandate from Maine Governor Janet Mills caused a surge of staff resignations, as have similar mandates across the country. According to the October 1st Lewiston Sun-Journal: “‘It has a huge impact on the existing labor shortage,’ said Dr. John Alexander. Central Maine Healthcare is the parent organization of Central Maine Medical Center (CMMC) in Lewiston, Bridgton Hospital and Rumford Hospital, as well as Maine Urgent Care and a primary care network. ‘In addition, to be honest, a lot of the people, a lot of frontline caregivers who have worked through this pandemic are tired,’ he said.”

I asked the health care professional who first alerted me to the problem why hospitals don’t just hire more staff. She said they’re just not out there and nursing schools aren’t graduating them fast enough either. Neither is there enough staff qualified to teach nursing students. Salaries at all levels are way too low. Hospital administrators. However, are paid well. Ten years ago the CMMC CEO was paid over $857,000 for fiscal 2011. What is it today? I wasn’t able to find data. My guess would be over a million per annum.

The Emergency Medical Treatment & Labor Act (EMTALA) passed in 1986 mandating that emergency rooms treat everyone who shows up. They must be screened, stabilized, then passed on to an appropriate hospital or they stay in the ER.

ER staff see patients suffering and dying every shift for lack of care. They see loved ones grieving too. CEOs do not see these things. They see spreadsheets of profit and loss. Kate Wells of Michigan Radio writes: “Inside the emergency department at Sparrow Hospital in Lansing, Michigan, staff members are struggling to care for patients showing up much sicker than they’ve ever seen.Tiffani Dusang, the ER’s nursing director, practically vibrates with pent-up anxiety, looking at patients lying on a long line of stretchers pushed up against the beige walls of the hospital hallways. “It’s hard to watch,” she said in a warm Texas twang. But there’s nothing she can do. The ER’s 72 rooms are already filled. “I always feel very, very bad when I walk down the hallway and see that people are in pain, or needing to sleep, or needing quiet. But they have to be in the hallway with, as you can see, 10 or 15 people walking by every minute,” Dusang said. …“I cannot tell you how many of them [the nurses] tell me they went home crying” after their shifts.” 

Dr. Chekijian in US News says: “The bottom line is this: The house of medicine in the U.S. is a house of cards that has already started its crashing descent into collapse.” 

I just turned seventy last spring and this is a disconcerting scenario for my demographic, the cohort most likely to need health care. Prone to chronic blood clots, I’ve spent many hours in emergency rooms over the past thirty years, the last few times on a stretcher in a hallway because the ER was overcrowded. I watched nurses scurrying about trying to tend to us all and hated to add to their stress by asking any more of them.

The last time I did that was three years ago. What will it be like the next time? I hate to think.