GADSDEN, Alabama – When Mitzi Gibbs Eaker first heard about the proposed windmill farms a Texas-based company plans on building in Etowah and Cherokee County, she didn’t think it was a bad idea.
“We’re going to have to make sacrifices, because we’re running out of resources,” she said. “If that’s what’s next for Alabama, I thought, then so be it.”
But after some research, she said, she soon became convinced that the turbines will not produce enough energy to justify their construction. She also feels the turbines will spoil the scenic view of the ridge that runs near her family’s property.
“We are wasting our mountain if this happens,” she said. “We do not have the wind to justify a project like this.”
Eaker is involved with a group opposing the project by Pioneer Green Energy, which plans turbines to begin construction later this year. She spoke this morning to the Connections meeting of the Downtown Gadsden merchants. Her group recently established a website, No Wind, meant to organize opposition.
Pioneer Green officials say new technology will allow windmill farms to flourish in the Southeast, a part of the nation that has seen very little wind energy development. The company announced earlier this summer that it has acquired all the land rights it needs for the project to proceed. A group of landowners is currently suing to stop the project. State Sen. Phil Williams (R-Rainbow City) has proposed a bill which would regulate wind farms through the Alabama Department of Environmental Management.
Eaker said the group is trying to get residents to realize what will be lost if the turbines are built. She pointed to the potential environmental impact to wildlife in the area. Ginny Shaver, a Cherokee County resident, said residents are afraid of what the turbines will do to tourism, as well as property values and quality of life.
“It’s not going to be the windfall they’re saying,” she said. “What little we gain, we’ll lose a lot more.”