A large group of Lookout Mountain residents gathered Saturday, Sept. 25, to voice their opinions on a proposed wind farm on the mountain. The opinions ranged from skeptical to outright opposition.
According to residents, a land acquisition specialist from Iberdrola Renewables has been contacting residents in recent weeks about leasing their property for an 80-120 wind turbine project.
Iberdrola has currently completed 40 wind farms in 17 states, along with having several other projects in the works, according to its website.
The company is in the preliminary phases. “We have just begun the process of reaching homeowners,” Iberdrola communications manager Paul Copleman said.
“It is typical to have some land agreements to move forward with viability testing,” Copleman said.
“The concerns we are hearing aren’t ones we haven’t heard before,” he said. “Community acceptance is an important part of our projects.”
Upon obtaining a land agreement, Iberdrola would seek a permit, then erect a meteorological tower to measure wind speed, duration and direction.
Copleman maintains the initial process could take up to five years.
Wind farms’ “key issues will vary between regions and countries but common sense indicates that areas with special designations are best avoided,” according to Garrad Hassan, an organization that claims to be the world’s largest renewable energy consultant. “Low visibility from key areas of habitation or recreation is also desirable. If there are dwellings within a few hundred meters of the wind farm site noise or shadow flicker may prove an insuperable problem in some countries. Turbines can interfere with electromagnetic telecommunications signals.”
The meeting opposing the project was billed as a “grass roots movement to preserve the value, both monetary and spiritual, of our in investment in life here.”
Walker County commissioner Bebe Heiskell received a email invitation to the residents’ organizational meeting. She spoke to approximately 75 people in attendance, explaining her views against the project and how ordinances and permits work.
“They (Iberdrola) have been given approximately a billion dollars by the U.S. government to do some wind farms here,” Heiskell said. “Even though it may create jobs, what it might do to Walker County is certainly not worth our risking it.”
“It would virtually change the face of Lookout Mountain forever,” Heiskell said.
Heiskell is worried about what it could do to the water table, substantial blasting into the mountain limestone, and the long-term effects to properties after the 25-year leases are up.
Mary Ann Williams is a volunteer and vice president of the Lookout Mountain Conservancy. She was one of several speakers about the potential impact a massive project of this nature could bring.
The group’s mission is to protect the ecological, historic and scenic beauty of Lookout Mountain, which touches three states. (For more information on the group, visit http://lookoutmountainconservancy.org.)
Carl McClesky is a Cloudland resident for 25 years who owns 1,000 acres and a nearly finished dream home. McClesky questions the absoluteness of the contract, that the dollars being mentioned are based on consistently hitting 100 percent wind capacity.
McClesky quoted the National Meteorological Society, which rates wind production, giving the best ranking to the Midwest with an 8 of 10 possible points. “Here on Lookout Mountain, they rate it a zero,” McClesky said.
He doubts that the dollars being waved at residents would ever occur. “They are only going to generate a small fraction of that,” McClesky said. He fears that some landowners may commit land, only to realize minimal profit and irreparable damage.
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