Running on the wind

One sight always catches our breath as we drive Route 9 across what sometimes feels like the fringe of civilization as we’ve known it. And, for the uninitiated, the state highway from Bangor to Calais can become pretty monotonous in its long uninhabited stretches. As they say, make sure you have a full tank of fuel before you tackle it.

On a clear day, from a dozen miles away you might catch glimpses of a corner of the windfarms on Weaver Ridge and adjoining hills in Hancock County – I’ve counted at least 30 towers before the road dips away – but there are more tucked away in the high terrain. Still, nothing can prepare you for that first flash of the big blades turning gently in the air right in front of your face, or so it seems.

Each blade weighs 1½ tons, even though it appears svelte.

They dance gracefully – sometimes as a solo, then as a pair, or four. You spot them to your left but they suddenly show up on your right – the roadway twists along the slope. As those slip behind you, more giants rise above the hedge of forest. And all too soon, you’ve moved on.

The towers and their blades are bigger than you’d suspect. In fact, at the moment, they’re the tallest wind-powered electrical generators onshore in America, though much larger ones are projected for offshore installation.

The hub stands 382 feet above the ground – that’s more than the length of a football field – and the blade tips reach to 585 feet.

Wind generation accounts for nearly a third of the electrical production in Maine, though the state also imports a fourth of its electricity from Canada, largely Hydro Quebec.

I am baffled by the “not-in-my-backyard” opponents to similar windfarms. They still want energy for their computers and refrigerators and lighting, right?

A tractor-trailer rig could easily be parked in the gearbox or “cabin” attached to the hub.

As if these “spoil the view”? I find them mesmerizing, even enhancing as a kind of sculpture and a reminder of the currents in the air itself. They definitely look better than a toxic oil refinery – and there’s no awful smell. For that matter, they strike me as much more attractive than a television transmitter or cell phone tower as a hilltop crown. And they do remind us of the charming Dutch windmills in a much smaller scale.

The latest installation, 22 Vesta towers and turbines, cost $150 million and went into full operation earlier this year.

Sometimes they seem to play peek-a-boo as you drive.

Roughly every six hours

At high tide, Eastport’s breakwater pier resembles harbors just about anywhere. The far side of the pier is, though, a deep water port capable of docking a giant cruise ship.

 

It is a working port, after all.

 

In just six hours, though, the change in the water level is breathtaking. Yes, this is the dock on the upper left in the top photo. The tide varies up to 24 feet twice a day. It’s part of Fundy Bay.

 

The dark band illustrates how far the tide has dropped. The U.S. Coast Guard station above it gives you a height comparison.

 

At John Locke’s mill site on the Isinglass River

The stream looks tranquil now, but when swollen by spring rains and melting snowpack, the rush shoots out horizontally from the ledge above. Maybe someday I’ll get of photo of that for comparison.
Another trickle meanders from the other side of the falls when the river runs low in late summer and early autumn.
The mill sat here. The last of it was washed away by flooding in 1898.
Stonework just upstream is all that remains of a bridge that also washed away in 1898, a reminder of how dramatically the river can rise and gather force.
On a pleasant fall day, the pool allows for curious exploration.