When somebody talks about bringing millions of dollars in tax revenues and economic activity to an area, it’s an attention getter.
Pioneer Green Energy says the two massive wind-energy sites it plans to construct in Etowah and Cherokee counties will produce those kinds of benefits, along with cheap, clean and renewable power.
Representatives of the company, which is based in Austin, Texas, discussed their plans this week following a meeting of the Etowah County Commission. They will be the first wind farms in Alabama, and are projected to be in operation next year.
An agreement already is in place for the Cherokee County site to sell power to the Tennessee Valley Authority. No such deal has been reached for the Etowah County site, which would be on Lookout Mountain.
However, company officials said that site, which will cost up to $120 million to build, will be capable of generating power for 24,000 homes. The payoff? An estimated $1.14 million in tax revenue and between $2.3 million and $3.7 million in economic activity.
That sounds like a massive jolt of good news for Etowah County. So why were some local residents concerned enough to turn out for this week’s meeting?
These turbines – and there could be up to 40 – will stand roughly a football field tall. They will have to carry red lights to warn approaching aircraft.
Some homeowners in the area weren’t thrilled about the idea of seeing that scene on their horizons, but company officials reassured them that the turbines would be at least 2,000 feet away from the closest residence and emit a noise level equivalent to the average refrigerator.
Other issues have been attributed to wind power – periodic equipment failure, ice forming on and being thrown off the turbines’ blades, soil erosion, the towers interfering with radar signals and, above all, dangers to wildlife. Birds and bats have been known to literally fly into the spinning blades.
Pioneer Green Energy said it’s still doing research on the potential impact to wildlife and adjacent residents from the wind farms. We hope it produces a plan for ensuring the impact is lessened if this project moves forward.
We’d love to see the promised benefits from this wind farm, but we’ll express our own caution through the axiom often attributed to medicine’s Hippocratic Oath, but which actually comes from the Latin phrase “primum non nocere” – “first, do no harm.”
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