Read a Pacific Northwest, liberal perspective on world, national, and local politics. From majestic Redmond, Washington - the Northwest Progressive Institute Official Blog.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Opposition to wind power is unfounded

Seattle P-I reporter Lisa Stiffler has a great article this morning about NIMBYist opposition to wind power projects past, present, and future:
When Roberta Hoctor let the government erect a 60-foot experimental wind turbine on her ranch above the Columbia River Gorge almost 30 years ago, her neighbors thought she was nuts.

Your TV reception will go fuzzy, they warned her.

Your radio will be on the blink.

You've got to keep your cattle away from the tower and whirling blade.

"I said to these people, 'Have you seen these work?' " said Hoctor, 72. "You should see how these things work before you start saying these things."
The typical whining ranges from the mildly absurd to outright foolishness:
Opposition over turbines has surfaced for projects scattered around the nation -- a trend that could intensify as remote sites quickly are snatched up.

Residents and landowners say the machines -- which are more than half as tall as Seattle's Space Needle -- are ugly, trashing unspoiled views and reducing property values. They're concerned about the flickering shadows caused by the spinning blades and the blinking strobe light on each tower.
You know what's really ugly, what actually does trash views, reduce property values, inflame the climate crisis, and contaminate our air and water? Coal fired power plants. That's what we need to be opposed to.

Noise is not a factor, as this quote from a representative of Puget Sound Energy, standing below the turbines on the Wild Horse site illustrates:
"That's kind of a surprise to some folks -- that you can have a normal conversation," utility spokesman Brian Lenz said as the blades spun overhead.
Flickering shadows and blinking strobe lights - please.

As for ugliness, it's true that aesthetic pollution is in the eye of the beholder...but many people find wind turbines to be majestic and attractive. They are perhaps the most graceful structures we humans can put up on a landscape. I certainly wouldn't mind living next door to a wind farm, and I suspect most Americans wouldn't either. Of course, I can understand that people often feel resistant to change when it impacts their neighborhood, whether that be rural, suburban, or urban.

But we need to change. We are dependent on energy sources that are not sustainable. Wind farms represent an investment in clean, renewable energy and are critical to our future. Several have already been built in Washington, and more have been proposed. Unfortunately, a contingent of Not in My Backyarders have been holding up construction of a new project in Kittitas County:
In the Kittitas Valley between Cle Elum and Ellensburg, developers have tried for five years to get approval for a wind farm.

Kittitas County commissioners sided with a group of residents opposed to the 65-turbine project, ruling last year that the proposed wind farm was incompatible with local zoning rules. The state Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council recently reversed that decision, recommending approval of the wind farm, which is being proposed by Portuguese-owned Horizon Wind Energy.

After being asked by Gov. Chris Gregoire to take a second look at the project, the council last week recommended it again, but with revisions that could put the turbines farther away from some homes.

Gregoire has two months to either approve or reject the proposal.
We strongly urge Governor Gregoire to approve this proposal. Accommodations have already been made to appease the impacted residents. It is time to allow the turbines to go up and send the message that Washington will continue to be a leader in the deployment of green power.

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