Monday, December 27, 2021


“Too cheap to meter” was a claim made by proponents of nuclear power plants to generate electricity in the 1950s. We’ve since learned that was wildly optimistic. Since then we’ve heard similar pie-in-the-sky claims made by proponents of “renewable energy” touting wind and solar electric generating projects in Maine and just about everywhere else. “It’s free; it’s limitless; it’s clean," and so forth.

Those power sources can work so long as the wind is blowing and the sun is shining. They don’t generate anything during calm, still nights, however, when people still need electricity. The old-fashioned, nuclear and fossil-fuel generators have to back up production of electricity at these times. Wind farms can also be very noisy, kill a lot of birds, and they can be unsightly as well protruding up to 650 feet above the hilltops on which they’re usually sited. The same people who enjoy looking at paintings of quaint, Dutch windmills can be put off seeing hills covered by enormous, modern windmills.

Lately we’re learning the drawbacks of industrial solar farms already built, under construction, and proposed in Maine. They’re noisy. They’re huge: The one proposed for Lovell would cover and area twice the size of the one in Fryeburg. Walden Renewables, the firm that got the enormous Fryeburg project approved, has sold it to a Canadian firm while it’s still being built. They promise, however, they wouldn’t do that to Lovell and we can trust them, right?

Lately we’re learning that solar panels are built in China using slaves. Even those built in Vietnam and elsewhere have in them key components like polysilicon produced in Xinjiang Province using Uyghur Muslim forced labor. Just this week, President Biden signed a bipartisan bill banning imports from Xinjiang Province that was opposed by Apple and Nike. Good for him. Does that ban include solar panels? I certainly hope so.

Back in 1986 we here in Lovell learned about one of the downsides of nuclear power when the US Department of Energy proposed burying highly radioactive spent fuel rods in the granite “batholith” that underlies southern Maine between Lovell and the City of Westbrook. However, within three months of the DOE’s proposal the Chernobyl nuclear power plant melted down in Russia’s Ural Mountains. That was only seven years after the Three Mile Island meltdown in Pennsylvania and the nuclear industry took a big hit. Within weeks, the US Department of Energy scrapped their plans for a nuclear waste dump in Maine.

One thing I don’t understand about Maine leftists is their opposition to the Clean Energy Corridor and their orchestration of its defeat on a recent referendum. The now-defunct corridor proposal would use an already-existing passageway for its power lines over most of its route and bring surplus hydroelectricity from a facility on Canada’s Hudson Bay. Quebec Hydro is a renewable power source. Yes, some additional trees would be cut to expand the corridor, but the operation produces no emissions. Isn’t zero emissions what the left wants?

We all depend on a reliable supply of electricity and we’re rudely reminded of that every time there is a power failure. It is in our interest to keep the supply steady and we should understand that renewable sources, with the possible exception of hydroelectricity, are not reliable. They’re intermittent and we need back-up sources. Nuclear power is close to 100% reliable and while it too has its drawbacks, like how to safely dispose of the waste, but it may well be our best choice at this point.

Meanwhile we have Walden Renewables LLC posing as Lovell’s best choice. It will produce no emissions; it will reduce our electric bills; it will provide tax revenue. But we have so ask ourselves: Is Walden really an industrial wolf in environmentalist sheep’s clothing?

“My, what big fields of solar panels you have,” we say. “The better to serve you with,” says Walden. “How ugly they are,” we say. “They’re only visible from 0.14% of the town,” says Walden. “What huge piles of waste you’ll leave when you’re gone,” we say. “We’ve included decommissioning costs in our proposal,” says Walden. But we don’t know what those costs will be in thirty years,” we say. “We’ve planned for that,” says Walden. “But there are toxic materials in your panels,” we say. “We’ll take care of those,” says Walden.

“And then three’s this,” says Walden. “Sheep can graze under our solar panels. We’ll even plant special, nutritious grass for them! It’s all in our proposal.”

Walden Renewables. It sounds so Thoreau-like, doesn’t it? With a name like that, we can trust them, right?

Monday, December 13, 2021


Lovell’s old Town Hall was packed, standing room only. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I arrived but energy permeated the room. If any present supported the proposed location of 170,000 solar panels in rural Lovell, Maine by Walden Renewables LLC, they were silent. Five people representing the company were the only ones to utter anything positive, but then they were paid to do that. No one spoke in favor. 

From the Portland Press Herald

No one spoke against solar energy either. Rather, they objected to where Walden Renewables wanted to put row after row of their big, ugly, black panels. In the 100 square miles of Lovell, the company chose a venue that would ruin one of the nicest mountain views in our picturesque town. One hundred eighty acres of carbon-consuming trees would be clearcut and replaced with 170,000 solar panels, ostensibly to mitigate climate change.  It would also mar the vista along Christian Hill Road where I happen to live. The photo above depicts only 30,000 panels. The one proposed for Lovell would be five or six times that.

My backyard - Solar panels would fill the hillside below the mountains

It was gratifying to hear how many people describe how beautiful the views are from Christian Hill — how when traveling north or south through Lovell, they choose to drive our road instead of Route 5, the main north/south thoroughfare through town. It’s a slower, less-direct path but more scenic and relaxing. That path would also would take one over Hatch’s Hill, which is part of the old “‘Scoggin Trail,” an ancient north/south path used for centuries by the Pequawket Indians to go from the Saco River Valley to the Androscoggin River Valley. The views from Hatch’s Hill have not been tended and are being gradually obscured by vegetative growth.

Looking at 180 acres of hillside covered by 170,000 solar panels would render the viewer an entirely different feeling than what it would replace — hillsides of forest that change with the seasons and with the time of day. Walden Renewables tries hard to balance that with hollow verbiage about forestalling global warming and providing clean energy, but it doesn’t wash. Aside from the visual ugliness there are other issues. An acquaintance recently sent this along:

The main problem with solar arrays is the chemicals needed to process silicate into the silicon used in the panels. To make pure enough silicon requires processing it with hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid, nitric acid, hydrogen fluoride, trichloroethane, and acetone. In addition, they also need gallium, arsenide, copper-indium-gallium-diselenide, and cadmium-telluride, which also are highly toxic. Silicon dust is a hazard to the workers, and the panels cannot be recycled.

Posting the above paragraph in a web search produced several links. Typical was a link called: “Debunking the debunkers/Andrew Tobias” in which Tobias contended that some of the article from which the paragraph came contained errors. The errors he cited, however, were minor and he was forced to let most of the article’s claims stand on their own merit.

All 170,000 solar panels Walden Renewables would erect here would be made in China, America’s biggest enemy. Although Walden promises to fund the decommissioning of their panels after they’re obsolete in 20-30 years, what happens of they go bankrupt in the meantime? Would the landowners who leased their land to Walden be stuck with them? Would the Town of Lovell be? Would China take them back? Fat chance. According to an article in Discover Magazine: “It often costs companies more to recycle a solar panel than to produce a solar panel.”

Particularly grating on me is that I’m involuntarily paying for the solar panels that Walden would install to destroy my view. The solar industry is heavily subsidized by state and federal tax credits, tax exemptions, sales tax exemptions, rebates, and grants. Do you pay taxes? Then your money goes into these things whether you like it or not. If it didn’t, Walden Renewables wouldn’t exist. Without taxpayer subsidies, solar arrays like this wouldn’t be viable business ventures.

People testifying at the Lovell Planning Board meeting overwhelmingly said they were blindsided by this project. Many, including me, were angry about that. When a moratorium was called for to give citizens more time to consider the 600-page application however, the board voted 3-2 against recommending the moratorium — not on its merits, but because the board lacks legal counsel at this time. Citizens in opposition to the siting of the solar project are afraid the Planning Board will vote to accept the 600-page application and thereby commit itself to a specific timetable for acting on it.

Lovell citizens felt blindsided by this huge, Walden Renewables application and declared they need much more time to consider it. Commensurately, Lovell’s Planning Board seemed taken aback by the vociferous citizen reaction. Now we'll have to see what they do at their next meeting January 5th.