The Sage Grouse

Yes In My Backyard

For decades nearly every enviro group in the USA kept calling for no nukes, no hydro, no coal, no more oil; let’s have solar and wind energy instead.  The Audubon Society Magazine has been featuring global warming articles for twenty years; a small sample of the anti-carbon lobby.

Wind is not economically competitive with fossil fuels, but state legislatures are mandating “clean” electricity, and utilities are being forced to build wind farms.  Some may be doing it for public relations reasons too.  Perception is reality, say car salesmen and utility “green energy” cheerleaders.

But the reality presented by fields of windmills is not a rosy picture.  Sage-grouse habitat, rancher opposition, viewshed impacts, noise, Environmental Impact Statement requirements, impact on land value, raptor deaths, transmission lines; the obstacles are piling up.

Everyone is piling on windmills, but here’s a good question:  Why should our open spaces be uglified so that Californians can feel virtuous that their air conditioners are not burning coal or gas?

My parallel suggestions:  If you don’t want wild horses to be rounded up and slaughtered, adopt one yourself.  If you want your electricity to come from a windmill, build one yourself.

Seriously, the way to reduce webs of high-voltage lines carrying wind power to market is to build small-scale, local sources of heat and power.  If everyone built a solar water heater on their roof, the need for electricity for water heating would be slashed.  I saw them all over on my recent trip to Peru; it’s not a complex technology.  If people with wind built their own small wind generators, a similar result would occur.  Every rooftop provides a ready location for solar electric generation.  No, a photovoltaic system on your house will probably not run your air conditioner, but it would help.

Let’s put it to Diemer True (newly-minted enviro?), a leading opponent of wind farms and power lines:

What is the right mix of incentives and politics to put decentralized energy    sources in everyone’s back yard?

New slogan:  Yes In My Back Yard.

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Published on June 27, 2010

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