Impact on Landscape and Wyoming
Here's what we think: This wind farm is a game-changer.
This cannot be understated. The Chokecherry Sierra Madre wind farm redefines Carbon County and, although it provides short- and, arguably, long-term monitory gains, it doesn't furnish enough benefits to raze our outdoors culture.
Land use regulation almost always triggers property-rights objection. In this case, a vocal minority of the eight landowners that have signed with the promoter assert that their "private property rights" should let them force industrial development into the Northern Laramie Range. This is nonsense.
The U.S. Supreme Court settled the issue nearly a century ago: Reasonable restriction on land use, established through appropriate public process, is not a "taking" of private property.
Before you obediently give over this state to a massive waste of money and environmental damage, research the turbines and learn why this cannot work. (And not the page the sellers put out -- they want money and really don't appear to care about honesty. There are many letters to editors in other states from people who were lied to by the wind developers.) Then advocate for power that does work, does not leave the East Coast in the dark and is commercially viable.
In this surreal debate, perhaps it's worth remembering that though it has been four centuries since Cervantes' character Sancho pointed out to Don Quixote, "Look, your worship ... what we see there are not giants but windmills, and what seem to be their arms are the vanes that turned by the wind make the millstone go," we still must look at things honestly for what they are, not just for what our fantasies want them to be.
I returned to Wyoming last summer after a 10-month trip. Arriving home, I was surprised and dismayed to see that tall, futuristic-appearing windmills had popped up in various parts of the Cowboy State ...the idea of windmills has not received thorough analysis. Willy-nilly construction of windmills is filled with unintended consequences harmful to Wyoming and other states in the Rocky Mountain West.
I have watched wind farms pop up all over southwest and southern Wyoming seemingly overnight. The irony is none of this power belongs to Wyoming. It is all for the good of other states. Why Wyoming? Is it because we are just a bunch of dumb cowboys and this is all our land is good for? A group wants to build a wind farm on top of White Mountain again with no longterm benefit to the people of Wyoming. Are the states that don't want this in their back yard stealing our scenic view and possibly even our wind?
This isn't a "clash of cultures" between "longtime ranch families" and "wealthy newcomers," and it's pure fantasy to say that anti-wind sentiment in the oil and gas industry motivates opposition to industrialization of the Northern Laramie Range. ...Industrialization of these mountains will destroy the business opportunities and property value of an unsullied Western mountain landscape, and the nonmonetary value of open space, silence and a black sky at night.
To reach the ultimate goal of wind producing 20 percent of the energy used in this country by 2030, tens of thousands of 200-foot-high turbines must be installed nationwide, with many of them slated for gusty public lands in Wyoming, Washington, Oregon and Idaho. That's sparked a fight that looks much like the one waged about natural gas in the past couple of decades.
Only this time the battle lines are drawn in unexpected places.
And turbines are still something of a novelty for most of us, so the "not in my backyard" mentality hasn't yet set in when it comes to wind farms. In fact, as we reported in the Energy Journal, groups of ranchers in eastern Wyoming -- seeing an opportunity to make some money without significantly disrupting their ag operations -- have banded together to market their properties to wind energy developers.
That, of course, could change. As turbines begin to spring up in more sensitive, pristine spots, or closer to residential areas, the novelty could wear off quickly.