A debate in northeastern Oklahoma over two proposed wind farms has a familiar ring to it: Green energy is just fine, unless it isn’t.
Officials with the Nature Conservancy’s Tallgrass Prairie Preserve in Osage County have been busy in recent weeks providing potential donors with tours of the area, featuring the mating practices of the greater prairie chicken. “A little education never hurts,” Bob Hamilton, the preserve’s director, told the Tulsa World.
Officials with the preserve fear that the wind farms planned for nearby private property will affect the habitat, and thus the population, of the greater prairie chicken. Hamilton says his staff isn’t trying to be obstructionists, but that “wind blows in many areas.”
“Let’s just prioritize the areas that we are going to develop,” he said. “Let’s be smart about it, make sure that it is truly green.”
That’s the rub. Green energy – wind, solar, electric, etc. – is all the rage these days, particularly with the current administration in Washington. Companies are trying to get on board, but many in the wind power industry are meeting resistance because of objections to the huge windmills.
A classic example was provided several years by the late U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy, who thought green energy was a swell idea until there came a proposal to set up a wind farm in the Atlantic Ocean that would have soiled the view from the family’s compound on Cape Cod.
Here in Oklahoma, some companies have run into roadblocks regarding the location of transmission lines needed to move the electricity from the turbines. The animal habitat issue has also been raised more than once.
Two out-of-state companies, one from Kansas and the other from Missouri, are planning to build 150-megawatt wind farms in Osage County. They have leased the land for the farms, which will each have more than 100 windmills spread out over thousands of acres.
An official with TradeWind Energy of Lenexa, Kan., says its decision to locate in Osage County came after the company conducted numerous studies over the past five years. Those include studies regarding the greater prairie chicken. He says range management practices in general, and not solely wind power generation, have had the greatest effect on the birds’ habitat. The World noted that the greater prairie population in Oklahoma fell sharply in the 1990s.
Hamilton says taxpayers should have a say in this issue because of federal tax incentives provided to the wind industry. The other side says those same taxpayers, as electricity consumers, want the lowest price available “regardless how green it is.” Yet another factor in this case: the Osage Nation’s concerns over mineral rights.
Something tells us this green energy tussle is just revving up.
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