Renewable energy v. renewable energy

 

Setbacks are an ongoing theme for NGOs and renewable energy companies that are promoting the use of sustainable resources. Now wind farms are hearing about another setback – a physical one, that is, and for justifiable reasons. The funny thing is, they’re hearing it from other renewable energy advocates.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that an off-the-grid community is resisting the development of a wind farm just west of Taos, NM. Residents are concerned about health risks from low-frequency vibrations, flashing strobe lights, annoying shadows, turbines killing birds and bats, and landscape blight. However, a larger issue is at hand.

Keely Meagan’s opinion article in a December issue of The New Mexican is headlined, “Regulation must precede wind-power building.” She’s referring to the state and federal regulations that need to be created in order to facilitate our nation’s switch from nonrenewable to renewable energy sources. Meagan notes that county regulations have no influence on wind farms proposed on state-leased land.

Many residents in the Cielito Lindo subdivision of Taos, where homes rely primarily on solar energy, have vocalized their objections online at talkingwind.com and also at a Taos County Planning Commission meeting. The group of 18 solar-powered homes lies adjacent to the proposed site. In December, the Commission approved variances for the towering turbines, a move that many feel violate county land-use regulations.

The county limit for structure height is 27 feet, but anyone can apply for exemptions. And though the bulk of the citizens at the meeting were against the wind farm, according to The New Mexican, the commission granted a 425-foot limit for the proposed turbines – a height almost 16 times the county limit.

David Carpenter, president of the Cielito Lindo subdivision, says, “An industrial anything is not appropriate out here.”

A similar situation in Wisconsin led concerned citizens to draw up wind ordinances. And now a couple of wind energy companies have signed the New York Wind Power Code of Ethics.

Taos Wind Power, the wind energy company whose 27 wind turbines are in development, has thousands of acres of land in New Mexico, Colorado, and Montana slated for future wind development. But proposed wind farms may see new hurdles in the near future.

A meeting last week in Santa Fe brought residents, clean energy advocates, state officials, and two wind industry representatives together for a conversation. Regarding the meeting, Meagan, who represents the New Mexico Citizens Alliance for Responsible Energy and Sustainability, said in an email, "Big wind is no longer quite so clean, green and easy as portrayed by the corporations profiting from wind." She stressed that community needs must be considered for alternative energy development.

Bill Lockwood, president and CEO of Taos Wind Power, says he was unaware about last week's meeting. "I live here, I have a wife here, I have a son here. I've lived out there on the mesa with solar panels. I'm walking the talk."

A book by medical practitioner Nina Pierpont about the health impacts of wind turbine noise is due later this year. Her clinical name for it is Wind Turbine Syndrome. Lockwood maintains that Pierpont's research has no scientific evidence.