A growing number of Maine’s residents are supporting wind power as one of the many energy alternatives our state sorely needs.

A statewide poll conducted last year shows that more than 85 percent of residents support Maine’s wind industry because of the numerous environmental and economic benefits it brings to our state.

More recently, Dr. Charles Colgan, our former state economist, published a study showing that Maine’s wind power industry is one of only a few economic sectors that achieved growth over the last few years.

Opponents of wind power are correct when they assert that wind energy is neither a perfect nor singular solution to our national and state energy crisis.

On that point, we can agree. We also can agree that wind turbines are visible in the landscape and do make sound during their operation.

Where I begin to diverge in my thinking, likely along with the vast number of other wind power supporters, is that these impacts are acceptable. On balance, properly sited and developed wind power has fewer impacts than most of the other choices we have to power our economy.

Simply stated, the development of wind power projects in Maine does represent a step in the right direction — toward a new energy future that will provide economic stability, reliability and improved environmental conditions.

Maine’s emerging wind industry offers numerous opportunities for our state’s struggling economy. These projects represent major investments that support communities and people throughout Maine, especially in rural areas where economic conditions have been very challenging.

Beyond supporting good-paying, skilled jobs, Maine’s wind industry also generates millions of dollars of much-needed tax revenue and supports myriad other industries and dozens of small businesses across the state, not to mention new opportunities for land conservation and recreational trail development.

Opponents minimize these points and tell us that beyond the initial construction, wind power projects provide only a handful of jobs. What they fail to mention is that those are only the direct jobs, the ones created for the operation and maintenance of a specific wind power project.

Frankly, I believe that in this economy, every single job is important, especially those that provide above-average wages and good benefits for Maine families. And let’s not dismiss the hundreds of other jobs supported by Maine’s abundant supply of wind, from construction jobs and the vendors needed to the dozens of small businesses in the host communities where these projects are located.

Sure, many of these people had jobs already, but the work required to keep them busy (and from being laid off) has to come from somewhere and be paid for by someone. Money must flow through our local businesses to keep the doors open. Billions of dollars leave our state every year to pay for energy from away, so it is wonderful to have some flowing in for a change.

Opponents have said that the public funds involved in supporting wind power should focus on weatherizing homes and other work related to conserving energy.

I agree that energy efficiency is important, but would point out that this work also is being done. Federal dollars leverage private money to make our homes and businesses more energy efficient, just as they leverage the private investments that make up the vast majority of wind project costs.

Maine can “walk and chew gum at the same time.” We can and should be updating our energy generation infrastructure at the same time that we work on other important improvements to reduce how much we use.

Another similar argument that opponents throw around without regard to facts is that wind power development necessarily will lead to less tourism.

As one of only very few full-time economic development professionals in Franklin County, attracting tourists and supporting them spending a wonderful time in Maine is a key part of my work. If I thought that wind power development was going to work against this part of my efforts, I would not be such a strong supporter.

The fact is that there is plenty of space — both geographically and economically — for tourism and wind power development to coexist.

Maine people support wind power for very basic reasons: It supports environmental and economic health and makes us more self-reliant in our energy use.

We have a strong, limitless natural resource, investors willing to tap into, and local workers eager to help. Let’s be grateful for this opportunity and seize it for the common good.

Alison Hagerstrom is executive director of the Greater Franklin Development Corp., Farmington.

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