Northwest Renewable News

Your Daily Source for Renewable Energy News in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana & Northern California

Wind farms – the wind blows free and so does the criticism November 18, 2009

Our Views

Probably no one is totally surprised that some criticism is starting to circulate concerning the proliferation of wind generator towers that are now starting to dot the landscapes in this region.

There have been several ‘letters to the editor’ in large and small newspapers where the writers have decried the loss of the ‘pristine prairies’ now that these towers have sprouted up in concentrated, scattered locations where experts have determined the wind flow is best suited for electrical production.

It was just a few years ago that many people invested a lot of thought, planning and, for some, even money into these first wind farm ventures, extolling the benefits of being able to supply clean, electrical power without burning fossil fuels, thus lessening the carbon footprint of electrical generation.

Well, those first efforts paid off, and public utilities realized the huge potential the region has for electrical generation.

And it has meant an additional income source for farmers as they have signed easements allowing the construction of these wind farms and the needed electrical transmission lines. It seems like everyone should be happy – a clean and fairly reliable source of electrical energy that will benefit all electrical consumers (and that’s all of us).

But it turns out that some who have chosen to live on a small acreage in the country and ended up with their residence close to a wind farm are now complaining that the pristine view of the prairie has been destroyed, they can hear a constant low-level noise from the generators and bats and birds are being killed in huge numbers. And they pose the question: “What have we gotten ourselves into now? This should have been thought out more thoroughly.”

Now some of these are the same people who have been fretting over the stack emissions from fossil fuel fired power plants, but when a cleaner alternative comes along they are opposed to that as well. Perhaps we can look to history and learn to not jump to judgment so quickly when it comes to new technology.

In a recent edition of a Sunday newspaper supplement there was an article that asked: “What are the things we should be truly worried about?” The article mentioned the situation in New York City at the start of the 1900s, when the electric streetcars and the automobile started to replace the horses that were used as a source of power for just about everything.

There had to be alarmists at that time as well, who predicted gloom and doom if the horses were replaced by these machines, despite the fact that the horse manure was piling up around the city at a rate of nearly 5 million pounds a day and at times it lined the streets like banks of snow and was piled up to 60 feet high in vacant lots. That can happen when you have over 200,000 horses with each producing around 24 pounds of manure a day. That must have created a wonderful aroma and think of the fly problem.

We’re not dealing with horse manure anymore, but we are looking at new technology that lessens our dependence on fossil fuel. And let us not forget that the world does not have an endless supply of fossil fuel. For that reason, along with many others, it’s important to develop alternative sources of power and this appears to fill the bill for a clean, affordable source of electricity.

Our region has some of the most scenic prairie countryside in the nation, and we empathize with those who enjoy those views because we love them, too. But these wind generators are only located in certain areas. There still remains a lot of beautiful prairie scenery for us to enjoy.

We should be giving some credit to those who had the foresight to make us a major player in this quest for electrical generation capacity. Besides reducing our carbon footprint and dependence on fossil fuels, wind-generated electricity is also providing extra income for producers and helping the rural economy in those areas.

Is it the perfect solution? No. But it is a positive step in the right direction.

Prairie Star – http://www.theprairiestar.com/articles/2009/11/18/ag_news/opinion/edit1.txt

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