Gov. Brown’s recent announcement that he plans to forge ahead with aggressive renewable energy policies in California may well leave all of us paying more for electricity that is provided from less than environmentally friendly sources. Right here in Yolo County, aggressive plans are underway to “harvest wind energy” by planting huge wind turbines on rural farmland in the Dunnigan hills. Landowners, lured by the promise of huge profits from lease agreements, are reluctant to turn down the developers who are eager to cash in on stimulus funding before it dwindles. What too few people are paying attention to is just how green “green energy” really is. Much of it is not the benign enterprise that renewable energy advocates want you to believe. Often the “green” refers more to the cash it puts in the energy developers’ pockets than it does to its environmentally-friendly nature. Wind energy is one such enterprise. While we are led to believe that it is the energy source of the future, many important facts are omitted.
To begin with, the electricity generated by wind turbines is much more costly than that from conventional power stations. Wind is an unreliable power source, and as such, the increased cost to maintain “back up” power sources translates to higher electricity rates for customers.
Wind farms are not good neighbors. Residents up to 3 miles downwind in otherwise quiet rural areas suffer significant noise pollution, especially at night. In addition, the strobe effect,
shadow flicker, and reflected light from the blades results in light disturbances experienced by nearby residents both inside and outside their homes.
The massive size of the wind turbines (300 foot towers and 100 foot blades) create an unparalleled visual effect on a landscape. Once they are built, they remain in place for 25-30 years or more. Even if the turbines themselves are deconstructed, the huge foundations on which they are built remain indefinitely. The aesthetic degradation that results from these monstrous turbines cannot be denied. The novel attraction of early wind farms has run its course. Even the developers admit this. Tourist sites have seen a drastic drop in income when turbines are erected nearby.
The Dunnigan hills are some of the most highly erodible land in the state. Wind farm construction requires heavy equipment, and getting all the equipment, as well as the huge tower sections and rotor blades into these undeveloped area only increases erosion factor.
Wind turbines pose a significant risk to birds and bats. Considerable evidence from around the world shows that spinning blades have killed huge numbers of birds. The turbines at Altamont Pass, the largest wind-farm development area in the world, killed an estimated 5,500 birds a year. Bats kills are also a serious problem. Air pressure changes created by the giant turbines pose a serious threat to bat populations.
The sad truth is that in economically challenging time, local governments are desperate to secure revenue any way they can and Yolo County is no exception. Renewable energy projects are another way to obtain revenue. While there are trade-offs necessary to living in a technologically advanced industrial society, assuming that all renewable energy sources are preferable is simply short-sighted and erroneous. One needs to look below the surface to find the truth.
LESLIE PFARDRESHER, Zamora
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