As fast as developers seek approval for new renewable energy projects, people opposed to having their predominantly rural communities invaded by transmission lines, wind turbines, and solar arrays mount a counterattack.
Resistance has spread from coast to coast, and the battles are fought in city halls, local boards of health, and – if all else fails – the courts.
Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia mandate that utilities purchase a certain percentage of the electricity they supply from renewable sources, usually taxpayer-subsidized wind and solar energy. Wind and solar power, along with hydropower, is produced in areas far removed from population centers, meaning it must be transmitted on powerlines that can stretch for hundreds of miles. Industrial wind turbines are often hundreds of feet tall and are so noisy that their health effects on local residents are coming under closer medical scrutiny.
Small wonder that the natives are getting restless.
Wisconsin residents have banded against the proposed 125-mile Cardinal-Hickory Creek transmission line to be built west of Milwaukee. They are appealing state regulators’ approval of the powerline, a project of American Transmission Co.
In New Mexico, local residents, including actor and filmmaker Robert Redford, an avowed environmentalist, successfully fought Hunt Power’s proposal to build a 30-mile transmission line that would add capacity for more renewable power. Opposition was so fierce that the Dallas-based company threw in the towel last August and withdrew its federal application for what would have been the Verde Transmission line north of Santa Fe.
The Wall Street Journal (Dec. 31) reports that, in the Pacific Northwest, opposition is growing to a proposed 300-mile powerline that would transmit mostly hydro and solar power from eastern Washington through northeastern Oregon into Idaho, terminating near Boise. Idaho Power’s project would cost $1.2 billion and has riled up residents fearful that the transmission line will disrupt elk and deer herds, add to the wildfire threat, and spoil views of the Oregon Trail, where, the Journal notes, remnants of pioneers’ wagon tracks are still visible.
Idaho power has already been forced to abandon its original route in the face of threatened lawsuits by landowners and is now looking at two alternative routes. But they, too, are opposed by separate groups of landowners who have threatened their own lawsuits.
Resistance in the Empire State
Meanwhile, across the country in western New York, giant wind turbines have raised the ire of local residents. Responding to growing number of health complaints by local residents, the Chautauqua County Board of Health is considering a range of measures to regulate the limit of new industrial wind turbines. The board may even recommend a moratorium on new turbine construction until more is known about their health effects. The biggest concern: noise.
“There are numerous studies that have concluded that industrial wind energy can have serious detrimental health effects, with the primary cause agent being infrasound,” physicist John Droz, founder of the Alliance for Wise Energy Decisions, told Environment & Climate News (Dec. 2).
Elsewhere in western New York, in the November 5 elections a coalition of organizations opposed to the proposed 106-square-mile Alle Catt wind project took majorities on the boards of supervisors in two towns slated to serve as sites for the project’s turbines and the supervisor’s position in a third host town.
Project developer Invenergy has proposed erecting 116 600-foot-tall turbines within four small jurisdictions near Lake Erie.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has set an unachievable goal of 100% renewable energy for the Empire State by 2050. That means more monstrosities like Alle-Catt and more resistance from people who stand to be the victims of the rush to “clean” energy.