JEROME – Drive along Interstate 84 long enough and you’ll begin to notice a trend: simple, but catchy billboards warning against the perils of wind energy.
The billboards share their message not in pictures, but with the word “wind” bolded bright red within the word “Swindle.” It’s a warning sprinkled from Jerome to American Falls, sponsored by the Energy Integrity Project, a recently formed group comprised of anti-wind energy activists.
The group sees a need to correct statements so far by supporters of wind energy that have been inaccurate or biased, said Tauna Christensen, the group’s executive director.
“The billboards are there to alert people of the fact that there was a lot of misinformation when wind entered our state,” Christensen said. “We’re hoping to bring back the attention to the public. It’s not all what they said it was going to be.”
Christensen’s main argument is that wind energy is expensive and does not save ratepayers money. By integrating wind energy with traditional power grids, even those in charge of overseeing Idaho’s energy regulations are confused about how much money wind energy saves the state, she said.
However, pro-wind activists aren’t too concerned about the group’s negative portrayal of wind energy.
Criticisms against wind energy’s costs and potential habitat damage have aexisted since its initial development, said Ross Spackman, College of Southern Idaho professor of environmental technology and water resource management.
“It’s important that people take a good look at how energy is produced,” Spackman said. “If you don’t like one energy source, then what are you going to do to replace it? We have a limited amount of options where we can come up with energy but it’s something we all need.”
Christensen’s criticism of Idaho wind energy farms doesn’t stop with billboards. Her group is also throwing its support behind a bill that would place a moratoriumon all future Idaho wind projects for the next two years.
The bill was first proposed during the 2011 Legislature, but it died soon after its introduction. This year, Rep. Erik Simpson, R-Idaho Falls, has been able to pass it narrowly through a House committee. However, Christensen said she’s not optimistic it’ll pass.
“Our legislatures need to have the best information that there is, so they can know the impact of wind energy before we allow more of it,” Christensen said. “But it’s a hard message to sell when you already have people making so much money off it.”
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