A Populist Revolt Against Wind? It’s Happening

“With each oversized, out-of-scale, in-your-face wind project presented, scores of people join the not-so-quiet ‘war on wind’ raging nationwide…. While Big Media and Big Wind are busy forcing the vision they want, communities are taking aggressive action to limit wind’s negative impacts and will ultimately lead to far fewer projects being built.”

Lisa Linowes – June 27, 2016

A journalist recently contacted windaction.org with questions about Colorado’s latest wind project sponsored by utility giant, Xcel Energy. The 600 MW, 300 turbine, $1.04 billion Rush Creek wind ‘farm’, if built, will span 150 square miles of Colorado’s sensitive eastern grasslands. To deliver the energy to market, Xcel must also construct a 90-mile 345 kv transmission line along a 150-foot wide right-of-way. The project is massive by any measure and the largest considered by the state. Yet, according to the reporter, no one local has raised any concerns which explains the call. Even the reporter — a freelancer from New Jersey where just five turbines (9 MW) spin — admitted having no idea wind had issues.

And why would anyone …?

Big media coverage is dominated by feel-good stories of cheap renewables (and now, apparently, cheap storage) overtaking coal and nuclear. The press, prodded by industry mouthpieces, never misses an opportunity to advocate for federal and state subsidies and their sister mandates that spur green ‘investment’ and leave the public believing that a world of all renewables, all the time is almost here. 

Nice vision, but far from real. In fact, with each oversized, out-of-scale, in-your-face wind project presented, scores of people join the not-so-quiet “war on wind” raging nationwide. For proof, just look at a few of the news stories from the last 45 days:

1)    In Indiana, a judge ruled Rush County’s decision to impose larger safety setback distances on the Flat Rock wind facility (180 MW) was reasonable to protect health and preserve property values. The decision is likely to end the project. Another suit pending in Fayette Circuit Court against a NextEra project argues the decommissioning plan violates county regulations. And in Henry County, the Planning Commission denied two applications to erect meteorological towers used for measuring wind speed and direction. The towers are the first step in siting a wind project. Each vote to deny was met with applause and a standing ovation from the public.

2)    Blowback over wind turbines impairing military operations prompted the North Carolina state senate to pass a bill restricting turbine sites. State leaders recognized the importance of protecting the economic benefits derived from hosting military bases, including thousands of jobs. Local benefits delivered by wind pale in comparison. Similar concerns are being raised in New York and Texas, where the Texas legislature is also considering a bill to protect military base missions.

3)    A proposal to erect 2-dozen turbines standing up to 660-feet tall in Cumberland County, Tennessee has outraged residents and caught the attention of Senator Lamar Alexander, Congresswoman Diane Black, State Senator Paul Bailey (R-Sparta) and Representative Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville), all of whom are united in their opposition to the project. Senator Bailey highlighted one of the many failings of the proposal when he wrote “The wind turbine project proposed for Cumberland County would take us in the wrong direction for economic development in the Upper Cumberland. Tourism is over a $17 billion industry in Tennessee and it would be a step backwards to mar our scenic beauty with unsightly turbines.”

4)    Wyoming’s Joint Revenue Committee has asked its staff to draft two bills that would increase taxes on wind, including one that would require wind developers to transfer a portion of the federal wind production tax credit to state coffers. When Converse County commissioner, Jim Willox, insisted the severance tax on oil and gas can’t be compared to a tax on wind since the fossil industry removes (severs) non-renewable products from the ground and are forever lost, State Senator Cale Case snapped back that wind turbines destroyed viewsheds. “With wind, that viewshed is lost forever. It is severed,” he said. Talk of taxing wind has delayed the outlandish 1,000 turbine, 3,000 MW Chokecherry Sierra Madre. [1]

5)    In Vermont, the electorate is inflamed over the visual, environmental and health impacts of the spinning towers. Governor Peter Shumlin has been described as one who “loves wind turbines and hates the people who live next to them.” He is leaving office this year to the delight of many. At least three of the candidates vying for his seat – Bruce Lisman, Peter Galbraith, Brooke Paige  – are openly running on a ‘NO Wind’ platform.

We could go on describing the intense fights now happening in New York, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, New Hampshire, Maine, Oklahoma, Ohio, Oregon, Massachusetts … you get the picture. But don’t expect big media to notice. After all, these fights don’t fit the national narrative honed by the wind industry that up-plays the image of turbines operating in concert with man and nature and downplays, or flatly denies the harms. While big media and big wind are busy forcing the vision they want, communities are taking aggressive action to limit wind’s negative impacts and will ultimately lead to far fewer projects being built.

[1] The State of Wyoming is the only state that imposes a wind energy tax which equates to $1 per MWh.


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