Writing in today’s Wall Street Journal, Jeffrey Ball discovers there are people who don’t want renewable energy projects going up in their backyards—the "new NIMBYs," he calls them, fueling a "backlash" against solar and wind plants.
But Ball only tells one side of this story. It is true that in some places, people aren’t excited about wind turbines on their ridgelines; he even quotes a couple of them. So did The New York Times, back in 2006—the people raising a ruckus about these sorts of projects may be NIMBYs, but they’re hardly new. And the idea that this constitutes a "backlash" against renewable power is also a wild overstatement. The main drivers behind grumbling over turbine construction, as I reported for Greenwire in 2007, are shoestring operations that cherry-pick studies to scare small communities about the negative effects of wind energy. Yes, for example, turbines do kill a few thousand birds a year—but it's not that many in the grand scheme of things, and there are pretty reliable ways to site turbines away from migratory corridors. (Plus, NASA technology is on the case). Finally, you want to compare the damage from wind and solar plants to the lifecycle effects of coal? Go ahead.
Still, this bit from Ball’s piece was interesting:
At a wind-energy conference in Wyoming last month, Gov. Freudenthal, a Democrat, delivered a stern warning to wind-turbine developers, telling them to make sure their projects don't harm a small bird called the sage grouse.
"What I have is an obsession with making sure that the economy of this state continues to function, and it won't if that bird gets listed," according to his office's transcript of his remarks.
Anything that nudges the sage grouse toward the federal government's list of endangered species, he explained, would trigger land-use restrictions that would jeopardize Wyoming's main economic engine: the production of coal, oil and natural gas.
So, go ahead and build your turbines, but just make sure they don't get in the way of drilling!