John Richey of Chico is concerned about global warming and thinks that anything people can do to help the cause is worthwhile. With that in mind, Richey attended a meeting about wind turbines in Jacksboro on Monday night.
The speakers at the meeting ““ held before a packed house in the Jacksboro High School auditorium ““ were generally opposed to wind turbines.
A wind turbine is a machine that converts the energy in wind into electricity. Turbines usually stand 320 to 510 feet in the air and have rotors that are 250 to 340 feet in diameter.
Thomas Hewson Jr., with Energy Ventures Analysis in Arlington, Va., said wind turbines produce no air emissions, reduce dependence on fossil fuel, create temporary jobs and provide financial benefits to property owners.
But, he said, they also endanger birds, can be an aviation hazard and are very noisy.
The noise produced by wind turbines ranges from 100 to 105 decibels, Hewson said.
“That’s the equivalent of a rock ‘n roll band,” he said.
Dennis Murphy with General Electric Energy, a producer of wind turbines, said this may be true of some of the older wind farms, but is not of the newer farms.
“Obviously, they’re not noiseless, but I think for the most part anyone who has been to a newer wind farm would tell you that they are relatively quiet,” he said.
Hewson said studies have also shown that property values decline by 26 percent on a home located within one mile of a wind turbine farm and by 18 percent if it is located more than one mile from the farm.
“They are also only producing a small amount of their full capacity,” he said. “They produced at 28 percent in 2004 and 29 percent in 2005.”
Steve Thompson with the law firm Steven E. Thompson and Associates, said, “When they say they’re going to build that plant and have wind turbines working for 50,000 homes, that’s assuming they’re working at 100 percent capacity. They don’t. They work at 30 percent at best.”
Jack Hunt, director of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, said people are accustomed to their electricity coming on as soon as they flip a switch and that wind turbines slow that process.
“You don’t want to have to wait for your lights to come on when the turbine machine decides to start turning,” he said.
Murphy said that while the turbines may not operate at 100 percent of their total capacity, they do meet the demand.
“Wind is a variable resource and you need to build 10 times more to replace one megawatt of regular power,” Hewson said.
About 40 acres of clear land is needed per turbine.
The cost of erecting wind turbines is partially offset by federal and state tax credits, Hewson said. Federal credits could equal 60 percent of the project cost and state credits, 25 percent.
Murphy said this only adds to the benefit of wind turbines.
“It does not fully fund them, but it definitely makes them more affordable,” he said.
Homeowners who allow wind turbines to be placed on their property are reimbursed. They typically have to sign a multi-year contract. They also cannot develop their land during that time.
The arguments against wind turbines were not enough to sway Richey. He agrees more with what Murphy describes.
“Clearly, you’re talking about an energy source that has zero emissions,” Murphy said. “It’s an extremely competitive technology in terms of cost of electricity and no fuel costs.”
Richey’s concern is in decreasing the use of fossil fuel by whatever means.
“If we don’t do something about fossil fuel, it’s going to be over for our kids,” he said.
The United States currently generates a little more than 1 percent of its total electricity from wind.
By Christina Lane