They are an environmentalist’s dream but possibly a neighborhood nightmare.
Clean and renewable, wind power turbines from 30 feet to 300 feet tall could pepper the Sonoma County landscape, especially at higher, visually prominent locations.
Their kilowatt-hours of electricity would be carbon-free and completely sustainable, wind power advocates say, but their presence might require a profound shift in sensibilities.
“You’re not going to ignore them,” said Alexandra von Meier, associate professor of energy management and design at Sonoma State University.
Von Meier said the county is speckled with prospective wind turbine sites and suggested that local governments should “make it easy” to tap the wind with whirling machines.
That notion, she said, could set off NIMBY (not in my back yard) alarms from Petaluma to Point Arena. But the era in which electricity is generated by large, ugly, greenhouse gas-belching power plants in someone else’s neighborhood may be ending, she said.
Small-scale solar and wind power facilities may be “the wave of the future,” said John Haig, Sonoma County General Services energy and sustainability manager.
While county agencies are contemplating large wind turbines on land they own, businesses and private landowners could also fit small installations on their property, a pattern known as “distributed generation,” said Cordel Stillman of the Sonoma County Water Agency.
The county may need to “balance the need” for sustainable energy versus pristine landscapes, a potentially tough choice, Haig said.
“We have beautiful hillsides and ridgelines,” he said.
What we might need, von Meier said, is “a shift in consciousness.”
By Guy Kovner
27 May 2008
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