Winds of Change
Although I disagree with Don Hendershot by about 180 degrees on wind development in the mountains, I’m glad he’s started the conversation again.
As Don mentioned, NC State Senators Nesbitt, Queen and Snow attempted to turn the wind energy siting bill, SB1068, into a ban on wind development in western North Carolina. What a terrible mistake and a waste it would have been had they succeeded.
Originally SB1068 was a well thought-out plan to provide for responsible, thoughtful guidelines in harnessing a clean, safe, renewable resource that is thankfully abundant in the western part of North Carolina. The proposed guidelines in the original bill would prohibit wind projects in major popular viewsheds, in environmentally sensitive areas and in areas of historical significance. Further, the guidelines would give discretion to local governments to decide which remaining potential wind sites would be open or closed to development. Even with these “overlays” of prohibited areas, comprehensive scientific studies at Appalachian State University estimate there would still be well over 1000 megawatts of readily available wind resources to develop in western North Carolina. This translates into thousands of green jobs, significant new tax revenue streams for local, rural communities, new sources of income for struggling small farms and rural land owners.
Developing these wind resources also means we could help save mountain ridgetops, trees, sensitive species of plants and animals, trout, birds and people from the effects of acid rain, high ozone levels, mercury toxicity, arsenic, dioxins, hydrogen chloride, hydrogen fluoride, lead, cadmium, barium and other heavy metals being spewed into the air by Duke Energy’s new Cliffside coal-burning power plant in Rutherford County, NC.
Cliffside, if it ever gets completed, will be an 800 megawatt coal-burning power plant. Duke Energy is currently asking for an 18% rate hike to complete Cliffside. But, by combining measures designed to reduce energy consumption with an aggressive program to develop wind in the west (which is the least expensive option of producing energy), we can avoid completing Cliffside and even begin phasing out some of the other old coal plants in North Carolina. This plan would really benefit the ridgetops of western North Carolina, as well as the health and economy of the residents who live here.
Instead, we burn coal derived from devastating mountain top removal mining in West Virginia, Kentucky and East Tennessee, so we can supposedly “save” the mountains of western North Carolina from wind energy development.
How ironic that, in 2007, Senators Nesbitt, Queen and Snow all voted to enable rate-payer funding of new coal-burning power plants in North Carolina, including Cliffside, and now, self-righteously proclaim their intent to “save” the mountains by banning wind turbines.
These three anti-wind legislative crusaders were defeated in their attempt to ban wind by a huge groundswell of public outrage that materialized through an overnight grassroots organizing effort in early July of this year. It was heartening to see democracy in action during this short period. Unlike the impression Don tried to convey about merely a “push button” revolution through sites like aire-nc.org, this was an amazing collaborative effort by many organizations and individuals statewide. The Canary Coalition was an integral part of this campaign and I can testify to the fact that thousands of phone calls, emails, written letters and visits to legislators materialized because wind energy development is a popular idea. Surveys consistently show that most people like the way windmills look, what they do for the environment and what they promise for the economy.