Fact is the wind companies are getting by with murder. They are allowed by eager politicians and a handful of agenda-driven groups to flippantly throw out boilerplate numbers that have no basis in scientific fact. They don’t produce facts because they don’t have to. Wind is in vogue and the uninformed but trusting public is not getting the data to make informed decisions about wind’s appropriate use.
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.
Wyoming has already seen many negative effects of the "split estate" concept, which allows mineral rights to be sold separately from surface rights. Five years ago the Legislature passed a law that requires developers to make reasonable accommodation of existing surface uses, which has greatly reduced some -- but not all -- of the conflicts.
"It's taken 125 years to sort out the relationship just between the mineral owners and the surface owners." noted Dennis Stickley, a University of Wyoming law professor. "We'll have another 100 years of litigation and conflicts between wind rights and surface rights."
Converse County's experience with Duke Energy and property taxes the company owes should serve as a cautionary tale for all Wyoming counties counting on wind energy development to improve their economy. It should also spur state lawmakers to re-examine tax exemptions they've approved to help bring more wind farms to Wyoming.
Supporting wind turbines with the nation trillions of dollars in debt, with their minimal or nonexistent contributions to global warming and virtually no useful power generation, enormous cost and the "feel good" reason for their existence is like supporting an unemployed person taking his unemployment check and buying a hot tub.
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.
This "visual inventory" is being done through a series of public meetings so the scenic value of these lands can be considered prior to the approval of future wind energy projects.
Developers have been constructing on average 200 or more wind turbines for the past several years, and the industry is looking at adding at least another 3,000 wind turbines during the next decade.
Wyoming's ambitions to become a major exporter of electricity carry with them some negatives along with the positives.
One of the negatives is the fact that more power lines are going to crisscross the state. In some cases, that will mean traversing private land whose owners don't want the lines, public land where people don't want to see them for aesthetic reasons, and habitat that sustains a variety of Wyoming's prized wildlife.
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.
Now, visualize row upon row of wind turbines on some of our most precious vistas and landscapes -- the Chugwater Bluffs, the Laramie Range, Elk Mountain, and the Upper North Platte River Valley.
This is not the Wyoming we want. If we are not careful, this is the Wyoming we may get.
The governor and Legislature have demonstrated good leadership on this issue. This needs to continue.
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?
Rocky Mountain Power, in cooperation with the BLM, is planning to run a major electrical transmission line corridor across Commissary Ridge at the southern end of the Wyoming Range, north of Kemmerer and west of LaBarge. This power line will destroy wildlife habitat and pollute the scenic beauty of the landscape with its imposing size. Although installation of this line will cause our power rates to increase, its intent is not to provide additional power to Wyoming, but to residents in the overcrowded states to our west.
State lawmakers have determined that major industrial developments, including wind farms, warrant government scrutiny because of potential impacts beyond the land where they're located, be it private, state or federal. That's a sound policy. And because Wyoming's abundant wildlife is treasured by the state's people, it's appropriate that our wildlife management agency have a say in projects that could harm that valuable resource.
Why the rush for wind energy farms? Many will say yes the wind is free, so go for it. True the wind is free, but when the wind does not blow no electrical power is made. When this happens somewhere on the electrical grid coal-fired boilers will pick up the load. If we over-balance the electrical load on the grid with too much or too many wind turbines we may not be able to balance the electrical grid system.
A proposed excise tax on wind energy in Wyoming was improved by the House Revenue Committee, which trimmed it by two-thirds and delayed the tax's implementation by a year. Both moves should help allay critics' fears that such a tax will make the fledgling industry choose other states to build wind turbine projects.
The law still weighs heavily in favor of industry and against landowners. The fact is, in Wyoming it's still not just the government that can take private land -- private companies can as well. And it's not just for major power lines, roads and other things that can be construed as benefiting the general public. Improving a company's bottom line can be reason enough.
In the past couple of years, a new wrinkle has been added to the eminent domain debate: wind energy.
Poor wind farmers, they say if they are taxed it will kill their industry. I say so be it, let it wither and die, the wind industry is so heavily subsidized that it cannot stand on its own.
We do not have state income tax, because oil, gas, and coal pay so much in taxes. Wind energy equals higher taxes, does that make anyone feel better?
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.