2008

3 December 2008: Work with energy facts, or have wind taken out of your sails

Work with energy facts – or have the wind taken out of your sails

A wind farm on the heights above Georgetown will bring with it a permanent change not only on the landscape but also on the economic future of Clear Creek County.

Being downhill from four 14’ers, including the two highest points along the continental divide, and two mountain passes, people in Georgetown know something wind. Down the road I might go with that as an apt metaphor about local affairs, but for now I use it in the literal sense.

The news about finding, extricating, and paying for future energy sources is not comforting within the context of modern Americans’ penchant for easy and cheap fixes.

The debate over whether we have peaked in oil production, despite the recent plunge of gas prices, is not some esoteric debate. Oil is a finite resource, and the question comes down to whether we have peaked or how soon we will.

Coal is economically viable and reliable, but from mining to burning it is fraught with danger to human and environmental health.

Nuclear energy’s stock has been on the ascendant with environmental gods such as James Lovelock, who in Revenge of Gaia advocates for its resurrection, climbing back on board, but the problem of what to do with the waste is vexing and unresolved. Perhaps the few hundred mine shafts polka-dotting the mountains around Clear Creek might provide an answer.

OK, don’t get into a snit; I am not advocating that…yet.

Even ballyhooed hydro-electric plants require damming up a river much to the chagrin of native fish stock. Sound arguments are being set forth for the decommissioning of Glen Forks Dam on the Colorado River due to the environmental havoc it has wrought.

The point is that with any energy production there are going to be trade offs. Pick your poison, at times literally.

The debate about wind energy should be about its feasibility, effectiveness, and impact on human and animal health with an eye to its aesthetic appeal: Is there a need? Can it work given the altitude and terrain? How well will it work? What will be the challenges of constructing and maintaining it? What will be the economic costs and benefits? How well will it blend in with the natural environment? What will be the trade offs?

Recently I interviewed individuals from both sides of the debate on KYGT.

Local activist Kathy Hunninen, who has a Ph.D in Environmental Science and has consulted for 20 years in human health assessment for environmental hazards, voices a number of concerns not only with this proposed site but also with wind energy itself.

She argues that the impacts far outweigh the benefits particularly with regard to human and environmental health.

The potential for noise is one of her major fears, citing a number of experts including Rick James of E-Coustic Solutions and Dr. Nina Pierpont of Wind Turbine Syndrome who argue that there might be unforeseen consequences of wind farms that would be destructive to human and animal life.

Wind turbine syndrome, Pierpont holds, arises from turbines producing low-frequency noise that might cause motion disorders and vertigo and from the motion casting shadows that can cause panic.

Hunninen lists ten myths she sees about wind farms from the motives of developers to the question about if and how much of a decrease in the fossil-fuel footprint can be had by getting wind towers on the grid.

On a subsequent show, representatives of Clear Creek Power, Ryan Sterret, Kerry Ann McHugh, and Sarah Kaminski, set forth CCP’s rationale, vision, and basic plan. They argue that the myths set forth about wind farms are in themselves myths, baseless arguments less substantial than the wind itself.

Sterett directs us to authorities to debunk such myths, including the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), which takes exception, for example, to an ABC news broadcast about loud sound emanating from a wind tower, maintaining that several factors combined to create that false impression, the boom microphone that amplifies sound for one.

Clear Creek Power is planning on holding several community meetings throughout the county. Whether you are for or against wind farms or in the “I need to learn more about wind energy and farms by getting more information camp,” it would be great if you can attend.

Prior to that, you can do some homework by listening to the discussions I had with the proponents by going to www.kygt.org, clicking on the News link and then on my show Western Exposure, and by going to the websites for the organizations mentioned above: www.e-coustic.com; www.windturbinesyndrome.com; and www.awea.org.

When dealing with anything, especially something of this magnitude, it is wise to base one’s point of view not on myths but on facts. Otherwise, you will be seen as being full of wind and, thus, having the wind being taken out of your sails when it comes to the debate.

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