One criticism of renewable energy installations is that you are merely solving one problem by replacing it with another. Take wind turbines: do a search on wind energy in Twitter and you will see all kinds of conversations, with many of those 140 character blurbs spouting nasty comments about current and planned installations. Many protest heavy-handed tactics, spoiled views, and noise. I have retweeted some interesting articles on wind energy that had struck a nerve with these folks, resulting in nasty comments that escalated to the point at which I had to block those Tweeters.
Complaints about wind farms include worries over diminished property values, harmed wildlife, and marred views. Others have even stronger objections, claiming that the wind from turbines can cause sleeplessness, headaches, and nausea. I have walked and biked among wind turbines in several countries and have wondered if it is just a matter of engineering—but having never lived in the shadow of a wind farm, I cannot claim to be an authority. So what’s the middle ground between weaning ourselves from imported fossil fuels and not diminishing the way of life for those that live near facilities like wind farms?
New York-based Caithness Energy believes it has found a way to mollify those who object to a wind farm that it is developing in Oregon. One of its representatives has visited residents in Morrow County, Oregon, offering them a check for $5000 if they promised they would not complain about the noise from a planned wind farm. Locals in Ione, population of 321, said they were frustrated with the constant whoosh, whoosh, whoosh, of the turbines placed at a wind farm outside of their town. Now citizens elsewhere are becoming concerned. Attempts to resolve the issue became complicated: although Oregon has a law in the books that restricts wind turbines’ noise levels, the agency responsible for such enforcement was dissolved in 1991. Caithness hopes a proactive wad of cash will allow its project to proceed without a hitch.
What appears to be easy money, however, comes across as creepy to some who live in northeastern Oregon’s windswept hills. The offer to cut a check for $5K is not all that different from BP’s attempt to hush up Gulf Coast residents during the first week of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill with a check in the same amount of cash—public outcry led BP to quickly drop that idea. So some questions fester: did Caithness study the Oregon code and work with wind turbine engineers to find the best possible model? And did the company really think that a lump sum of cash really would quiet some residents? Or are these complainers really just upset that their land was not being leased? Finally, couldn’t the local reps find better responses to objections than platitudes over the nation’s energy goals and a greater good?
The folks we would like to hear from are those who live in northeastern Oregon—or if you live near a wind farm, are the complaints about wind farms overstated . . . or understated?