TAOS – Living off the grid doesn’t necessarily mean you want to live next to a wind farm, even if it is designed to generate electrical power from a renewable energy source.
A well-known Taos attorney’s proposal to develop a wind farm has angered some residents near the site, including people in the Cielito Lindo subdivision, where homes rely primarily on solar energy.
Eliu Romero is scheduled to ask Taos County commissioners Tuesday to approve land-use code variances to allow a 40-turbine wind farm on private land west of Taos owned by his sons.
Romero said he and his partner in Taos Wind Power, Bill Lockwood, have stopped pursuing approval of a second wind farm in the area for the time being.
Residents in the off-the-grid subdivision near the proposed Taos Wind Farm site began resisting it the minute they learned of the project. They are concerned about health impacts of noise and low-frequency vibrations from wind turbines, flashing strobe lights changing the night sky, turbine blades killing birds and giant structures forever changing the open plateau’s landscape.
Members of the group started a Web site – www.talkingwind.com – to post their latest findings on the impacts of wind farms.
Several of the residents, including Pamela Rosenberg, an officer in the subdivision’s homeowners association, chipped in money to hire a noise specialist and other experts to review the Taos Wind Power proposals. Among them was Nina Pierpont, a pediatrician trained at John Hopkins School of Medicine, whose book about the health impacts of wind turbine noise is due out early next year.
The group became increasingly convinced the wind farm was a bad idea. They bristle at the NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) label. “I am a great proponent for renewables, but not so as to sacrifice the health and well-being of life so that a few can cash in,” Rosenberg wrote in a recent e-mail.
In an opinion piece published in The Taos News a couple of months ago, Romero’s sister, Fabi Romero, long a proponent of good planning, which sometimes put her at odds with her brother in the past, was highly supportive of the wind farm. She was disparaging of the Cielito Lindo residents who opposed it.
“The proponents claim to live in a ‘sustainable community’; a community of houses on 10-20 acre lots. They drive over 20 miles to work, get groceries and take their children to school,” Romero said. “That is absolutely not sustainable.”
But Charlee Myers, a 17-year resident of Tres Piedras, said there’s “a smelly fish” with the wind project. To start with, he doesn’t think there’s enough wind to power the turbines. For another, he said, the almost 400-foot height of the towers plus turbines would totally change the rural sagebrush landscape.
“No one would care if it was a bunch of 20-foot wind turbines,” said Meyers, owner of Mesa and Mountain Construction. “But these are 20 or 30 stories high. They’re massive.”
Eliu Romero said the plan calls for placing one wind turbine for each 40 to 50 acres. He said the closest turbine to a Cielito Lindo house would be 1,000 feet away.
He said the company is still gathering wind data. “No one is going to put up $2 million for a turbine if they’re not convinced there is enough wind,” he said.
Eliu Romero said the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish had approved the wind farm.
But Rachel Jankowitz, a state Department of Game and Fish habitat specialist, said the agency doesn’t approve or disprove of wind projects. It has no authority to do so. All it can do is list potential impacts of wind farms on wildlife and make recommendations on how to reduce those impacts.
She said Taos County planners and some of the residents near the proposed sites, but not the developers, had contacted her about the projects.
Eliu Romero said the wind farm could pump $1 million a year into Taos County coffers from taxes on energy produced. Moreover, he said wind is an important, homegrown way for the country to reduce its dependence on foreign oil.
He said Kit Carson Electric Cooperative, which serves Taos County, is interested in purchasing some of the power.
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