Last week a guest editorial extolled the potential of wind turbines as a boundless energy source. We all have a nostalgic, mental picture of a single, old-style windmill silhouetted against an evening sky. Picturesque, isn't it? However, that is not what would be built today! Our beautiful, open countryside would become an industrial complex. The closest image I can think of is the oil fields in Oklahoma. Enormous rigs as far as the eye can see. At least those structures only move up and down, but these giants (over 300 feet tall at the hub) will have 174-foot long blades that spin almost 200 mph at the tip. Is this really the look we want to create in our county?
The article stated that in 2013, 4% of U.S. electricity was produced from wind, and in 2016 it was 4.4%. Not much growth for three years' efforts. The fact is, our energy consumption grows faster than the wind industry, so it will probably never be a significant factor. Even so, it receives almost half of all federal energy subsidy funds in return for this minimal contribution!
The various companies currently operating in Palo Alto County would have us believe that their proposed 177-turbine project is all but a done deal. In fact, a neighbor of mine was approached just a week or so ago for permission to cross his land with connecting cables. When he declined, the man insinuated that they would be able to do so anyway. This is not true. If you don't give them permission, they cannot cross your land! What disturbs me most is the unscrupulous but highly effective tactic of implying that things are going to happen anyway, so you might as well get your piece of the pie. I believe that such tactics are not ethical. If your product is really as good as you say, you shouldn't need to lie to get people to buy it. Nor should you need to resort to scare tactics to get cooperation.
The truth is that most of the people who actually live where the project is supposed to go don't want it. Most of the land signed up belongs to people who live somewhere else and just want the free money (I presume). But it isn't really free. So far, there have been no provisions made to cover the cost of decommissioning these behemoths. That cost has been estimated at anywhere from $90,000 to $200,000 EACH. Who will pay for this? If the wind company is not pinned down before construction, it will be you and me. I know I don't have that kind of money lying around! Furthermore, it won't remove the tons of concrete and rebar underground.
I know our world needs energy and we need to find clean, responsible ways of providing it, but I don't think this is the answer. We need to keep looking for solutions, but we mustn't jump on every bandwagon that goes by.