We’ve not taken a stand on the viability of the wind projects being planned in Etowah and Cherokee counties, No. 1, because we’re not scientists, and No. 2, because it’s hard to get a handle on an issue this contentious – and it rivals some of the biggies.
A little research shows some folks think wind power is clean, safe and crucial to this country’s quest for energy independence. Others view wind turbines as eyesores and earsores akin to the plagues that befell Pharaoh in Exodus.
There’s not a lot of middle ground, but there is a lot of noise from the opposing sides, offering their respective spins, anywhere there’s a venue open for comment.
However, we support the efforts of Sen. Phil Williams, R-Rainbow City, to set down some basic rules for these projects and others being planned by developers in Alabama, and hope they are successful even though the legislative session is winding down.
Williams is offering the Alabama Wind Energy Conversion Systems Act of 2013. It would require wind-farm developers – Pioneer Green Energy, in the case of the Etowah and Cherokee projects – to put enough “financial assurance” (cash or bond) in place before proceeding with a wind farm to cover decommissioning costs should the project go bust. They also would be required to post $1 million in assurance to cover damages to adjacent properties.
Developers also would have to obtain permits from the Alabama Department of Environmental Management before proceeding. That would involve a visual simulation of the project, detailed information on where the turbines would be and how far they would be from property lines (they would have to be 1,000 feet away from any residences) and a plan for returning the site to its original, pre-project state.
The turbines would have to be fenced in, designated by signs and not able to be climbed by trespassers fueled by more bravery (or various combustibles) than good sense.
Wind developers naturally aren’t thrilled with this proposal, although they concede much of what it aims to accomplish is valid. They say it will produce overregulation and bureaucracy that could stifle wind development in Alabama.
Of course we’ve heard that before from folks with big plans, when confronted with a “hold on just a second” from government and the community that could prevent them from doing what they want to do, exactly how they want to do it.
The Etowah and Cherokee projects could be an economic boon to this area. A New York town, whose regulations were the model for Williams’ bill, was able to do away with property taxes because of the revenue produced by a huge wind farm.
Such success hasn’t been universal, however. There are bankrupt and abandoned wind turbines in the U.S.
If that happens here, we don’t think it should leave a mark on the land.