Blinded by the wind

 

I find Jonathan Thompson's love affair with wind turbines hard to comprehend (HCN, 12/21/09 & 1/4/10). Perhaps he has been mesmerized by the slowly rotating turbines. Or is his dislike of the oil and gas industry such that he is willing to see the great vistas of the West destroyed in the name of renewable energy?

I do not come at this as a friend of the oil and gas industry. Until recently I was the national preservation officer of the Oregon California Trails Association (OCTA). Since 2001, I have been the lead person for OCTA dealing with oil and gas developments in Wyoming.

My work in Wyoming with the BLM, state historical preservation office, and developers has involved hundreds of drilling operations, even one with True Oil. Slowly, oil and gas firms have become more receptive to meeting their responsibilities, by avoiding some areas and using terrain and color schemes to reduce impacts where possible. These solutions are not applicable to wind turbines. Their visibility at 20 miles or more and their dynamic nature make them highly intrusive in any setting.

Even without consideration of the damage done to viewsheds, I believe that wind turbines and solar energy, as they are currently conceived, are bad solutions for the West. Wind turbines are effective only within a range of wind speeds. This and other factors limit their overall efficiency to about 30 percent. Long-distance transmission losses and other factors degrade this efficiency further.

Perhaps Diemer True is a late-comer to sensitivity about impacts to the great vistas of Wyoming, but that does not make his current position wrong. It is simplistic to attribute opposition to wind turbines to some kind of a conspiracy by oil and gas interests.

David J. Welch
Lacey, Washington

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