I have a triple dilemma and hope you will help.
Frankly, I am baffled. Since messages we have shared at this site have looked at the “power of the masses”, perhaps your collective wisdom can help me sort this out. This is a bit complicated so please excuse this missive’s length.
I have never considered myself a Don Quixote. Chasing dreams is great. Merri and I do this a lot, but we usually chase the dreams we believe are realistic and good for all. Windmill chasing has never seemed to make a lot of sense.
Before I get ahead of myself though let me share a quote sent to me by Astrologer, Blaine Watson.
The title is Autobiography in Five Short Chapters and it is been attributed to Portia Nelson:
I am on a road
There is a deep hole
I fall in
I am lost desperate
It is not my fault
It takes an eternity to find a way out.
I am on the same road
There is a deep hole
I pretend not to see it
I fall in again
I cannot believe I am in the same situation
But it is not my fault
It takes a long time to find a way out.
I am on the same road
There is a deep hole
I see that it is there
I fall in again
It is habit
My eyes are open
I know where I am
It is my fault
I come out immediately.
I am on the same road
There is a deep hole
I walk around it.
I walk on another road.
The reason for beginning with this story is I have in the past seen plenty of town hall squabbles. Now there is another brewing and it would sure be nice to walk another road. Merri and I were observers to a great city wide fight while living in Naples years ago. We lived smack dab in the middle of Old Naples and big money wanted to turn that rustic, old residential, gracious living into a touristy high traffic, historical area. The battle was terrible, caused the mayor and city manger to get fired, created rifts in old neighborhoods, broke up friendships and made neighbors into enemies.
Big money eventually won. Merri and I simply packed up and moved. We walked on another road.
We were well rewarded for selling out but the money was not the issue. We were in Old Naples for the peace and quiet. Not to make money off the crowds.
So we moved to the most remote, beautiful, quiet part of North Carolina, up in pristine Ashe County. If you have been reading my messages for long you know how we have been encouraging people to come visit us for the nature, fresh water, clear skies and dark, star studded nights.
Our efforts have met with some success. We set up a conference center and have attracted thousands of visitors in the last decade who have stayed at our low impact farm. The delegates have come from all over the world. Argentina, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Ecuador, France, England, Finland, Netherlands, Germany, India, New Zealand as well as from almost every state in the Union to name a few.
These people have not only spent plenty while here but have invested millions in Ashe County. Most people in Ashe County do not know this because as planned, everything here at the farm is natural, in keeping with the county’s history and architecture and low key. Little cabins and old farm houses, even a seminar center on Little Horse Creek that looks like an old Ashe County barn. But we have proved one thing. Farmers can keep their land as it has been and make money.
Most people in this area don’t even know the place exists, except the Penningtons, the Burns, the Greers, the Hamms and the other numerous Ashe families that have found employment on the farm.
We bought as much land as we could, 252 acres so we owned the ridge lines all the way round. We promised dark nights, sounds of the birds and nature. This is a place of natural beauty where our delegates can relax and learn from our seminars, at the same time.
We bought ridge to ridge so big money could not come in and ruin our peace and quiet again. We built our dream house well back in the land so that every inch of property we could see is ours. Here is our front yard with our hound dog Ma (a puppy someone cast off on John Alley Rd.) and our five horses below (saved from the glue factory to live out their lives in peace). Every bit of this view is our land, clear up to and a bit over the ridge. We paid extra to preserve all this and so no one can spoil the view. Right?
This is the beginning of the dilemma that could create another community division. Hopefully we can help avoid this and walk a different road. This is why I find myself perhaps chasing windmills now.
Years ago I wrote this message about loggers:
“Investing in Wood Ancient green fingers sway in a gentle winter’s sun, singing the wind. Nature’s lullaby calls to tiny wrens that flit with the giants near meadow’s edge. Silent songs reach the porch and my eyes droop. Then another crack and a crash cuts harshly through this peace like a knife stabbing my heart. The loggers have struck again and as each falling hardwood becomes timber I am reminded of the potential of investing in wood that will not be cut.
Over the last several weeks a couple of loggers have been ravaging the hillside nearby a neighbor’s roadway as they clear cut the forest there. The ability of three men with a caterpillar, chained skidder and some saws to decimate a glorious forest into a pile of mud, slash and debris is incredible. Each falling tree grabbed at my soul and I was angry. So I walked off my wooden porch attached to my wooden house, strode over my wooden bridge and hiked up wooden steps here to my all hardwood office. Suddenly I thought “Jeeze”, those guys are working for people just like me who create the demand. The loss of that forest is not their fault, its mine and all the others who use ever increasing amounts of wood. This reminded me of the urgent need for forest mitigation and sustainable forestry. There needs to be a balance between our need to use wood and our need to have forests. Fortunately there are ways we can work towards better wood equilibrium in a profitable way. One reason I bought heavily forested land in North Carolina and Ecuador is that I believe the value of uncut forests for recreation, oxygen production and wildlife habitat will soar. I am betting a lot of money on this and the wonderful thing is, even if I am wrong the process is such a joy. But I don’t think I am wrong.“
I have to thank my neighbor. He owns all the land running on the other side of the ridge and about three acres or so of land that cuts deeply into ours. When he decided to log this, I offered to buy the timber and leave it standing to protect the environment. He went ahead and cut instead. The cutting blessed me because it started me thinking about the damage and with this grew thoughts about balance. This led me down what has been a very successful and I hope, sustainable for all, path.
This was a blessing as it helped me realize that investing in balance and especially the environment is something really important that humanity needs to do.
From this understanding came our Multi-Currency Portfolio system that has done so well.
This understanding also led me this year to help convince Jyske Bank to create a Green Portfolio we could track. This portfolio is up 86% in the last four months. This is no small matter because it helps Jyske Bank become even more enthused about green investing.
Jyske Bank is the second largest Danish bank, with 450,000 domestic clients, 35,000 international clients, USD 23 Billion in total assets, and a Moody’s rating of A1. Jyske Bank’s Private Banking division is a business unit of the Jyske Bank Group, catering exclusively for international private investors from 180 different countries and Denmark is ranked by Moody’s as the safest country in the world to have a bank account in. In short Jyske’s commitment to green investing can have an impact around the world.
So those loggers accomplished more than they thought, I am sure.
Yet now the neighbor has crossed my path again as he has applied to place 28 wind turbines on the land adjoining ours. They could be 365 feet high each, with lights on the spinning propellers. 28 propellers could rise above the ridge line into our view and create a slashing strobe effect all through what had previously been dark and starry nights
The proponents for these turbines say they are beautiful. I think not!
Yet I do like the idea of wind power. In fact one of the six shares that we selected with Jyske for the green portfolio we currently track is the Danish wind turbine manufacturer Vestas, the very company my neighbor proposes to buy turbines from.
This development has the potential to ruin our conferences in Ashe County for sure. Yet society needs more non polluting alternative energy.
Here I am at the farm with my grandson, Garren. I like to think about my business but also want to think about him and our granddaughter Sequoia and their children and grandchildren.
This thinking of the grandchildren and beyond causes me to look beyond the here and now for the correct decision.
Sure I want to protect my front yard view. Yes, I would like to see my business at the farm continue to grow.
Yet I also want to assure that Garren and all your grandkids and theirs will have a healthy environment to live in too. Wind power is good but is a mega watt wind power station really suited for Ashe County and its ancient, gentle hills? The developers are talking about land that will be seized through eminent domain for huge power lines, etc. I wonder what all of us up here in the Blue Ridge will lose for this power?
I observed a similar dilemma when growing up in Oregon on the Columbia River. The John Day Dam was built to generate clean, hydro electricity. Yet the same dam forced the town of Arlington to be relocated, misplaced 5,000 Celilo Indians and helped nearly eradicate a previously huge Chinook salmon population.
Is this any better than dams that clog the rivers?
I am searching for the right answer.
Other farmers have obviously had this problem before. For example the web site about a wind turbine factory in Devon England begins:
“This is not a wind ‘farm’; it is a power station; a huge industrial development in the open countryside, visible from most parts of North Devon. The proposed 110m high turbines are twice the height of Nelson’s Column, and there will be 22 of them.”
Another friend who is building a home in the area shared this:
“Gary, Regarding the wind farm being proposed near your property. I will add to the conversation a few things I have learned about wind, hydro, and solar power. Please do not take my information as being technically accurate. My information is largely anecdotal, as is much information in this “alternative” field. My conversation is meant only to inspire creativity and perhaps reveal previously unseen avenues. My perspective is Green, though I realize that the movement toward Green must be made holistically, inviting all affected into a mutual and therefore sustainable comprehensive movement. Good technology and limited resources must not be squandered or thrown after bad, as I believe would be the case if noisy technology were forced into tranquil areas. Such contortions are contrary to the benefit of the Green movement. Each method of alternative energy has its appropriate application. Energy will flow naturally down these appropriate channels.
“The first thing that comes to my mind is that the Appalachian Mountain region is only a marginal producer of natural winds. What I mean by this is that the annual average of wind quality (duration, speed, depth, consistency, etc.) is only marginal. Though there are a few high readings in your particular neck of the woods, Gary, it is kind of like saying that having a coconut farm anywhere in the Appalachians would only produce marginal crops. There are maps produced by the Alternative Energy movements and NOAA that indicate on a scale of one to 5 the areas that produce wind in sufficient quantities and qualities to sustain profitable wind farms. ‘One’ designating areas of poor wind quality, ‘Five’ designating areas of highest wind quality. That is why you think of Arizona as being a wind farm state. The entire state is designated with a lot of ‘Fives’. (These maps are available online under NOAA and ‘Alternative Energy’ or ‘Wind Generated Power’ search engine results.) The problem with wind farms in Arizona is that there are not sufficient population areas to utilize the energy produced by these farms. Costs for the transmission of this energy onto the grid and selling at “wholesale” prices erode profitability of the entire enterprise. The entire enterprise of wind generated power is only marginally profitable in the best of conditions. Industry analysts currently (no pun intended) predict that the payback for initial investment usually occurs in ten to twelve years. Any investor would analyze these only available calculations, and then wonder about future maintenance costs of outdated and aging equipment in the year 2018. Is this a sound investment at this time? Currently, I believe the status of wind generated energy is subsidized by large energy producers as a write-off, for good publicity, and for their research and development departments. These programs tend to be established in areas like Texas and Arizona, and away from population areas such as the eastern seaboard. Wind energy is also currently used for areas that are located far away from grid systems and where energy at any cost is required. Generating energy through wind and selling it back wholesale to the grid is widely believed to be only marginally profitable at this time…a hobby and pursuit for the wealthy and philanthropic.
“All these thoughts may not occur to your neighbor, though. Profitable or not, if erected, these windmills would be here to stay, churning day and night in your back yard. Some mitigation techniques might include moving of these 28 proposed sites onto areas that are naturally buffered from the adjacent properties.
I can not help myself from saying that I have during this whole writing envisioned you, Gary, don your saber and go at these windmills individually, Don Quixote style, damning them for their destruction of your peace and tranquility.
“Can this neighbor be talked in to solar power generation? I honestly believe this source to be more effective in the Appalachian area than is wind. PV power generators are quite effective and only marginally affected by cloud cover and cold conditions. They have no moving parts. Their technology is advanced further than windmill technology. I think holistically and over the long term, that PV power would be superior to wind generated power in this situation, though I know so few of the particulars and calculations.
“Leave the windmills for the wide expanses of the West.
“I hope my humble input was well taken and of use somewhere, somehow. Call upon me again if you wish. I am very interested in your success for the sake of your home and tranquility that you have worked so hard to achieve. With much love and concern.”
My father used to tell me that the best way through trouble is straight through it. I found this to be pretty helpful advice over the years and have added a maxim I often use when trying to sort out complex investing problems. “Let your investments be supported by truth.”
What is the truth? Is wind power sensible in Ashe County or could the $65 million the developers say they will spend be put to better use elsewhere?
Will Ashe County gain or lose? I do not see a lot of local employment come from this nor do I suspect that the $65 million is all Ashe money either. Will the county and the environment lose more through destruction of nature and beauty than it gains? Will the wind farm bring money from a few investors and leave others poorer because nature loving clients like mine will go elsewhere? Are there better options?
There is also the question of wildlife. Rare and endangered birds are in this area and my understanding is the wind turbines do not do them much good.
These are ponderous questions that communities face in so many places and rather than battle the opposition as we saw happen in Naples, wouldn’t it be better to come to some consensus.
Merri’s and my goal in this case it to make an intelligent decision for the here and now as well as the future. We would like our business to prosper and our home to be protected, but we want our heirs to have a clean environment too.
Any input you have would be appreciated. Does this make environmental sense? Is there more harm than good? Will the economy be improved or hurt? Is this one man’s attempt to make life out here better or to line his pockets without care for the neighborhood, society, community and environment as a whole?
Your thoughts and experiences would be appreciated.
P.S. Join us in Ashe County for our next International Investments and Business Made EZ Course. The windmills will not have arrived you can be sure. See https://www.garyascott.com/nccourse/