Throw out the fact that Pioneer Green Energy is planning to develop wind farms on Lookout Mountain in Etowah and Cherokee counties, which has drawn intense local interest (and court cases).
Throw out the projections – or selling points – of more jobs and revenue from those farms.
Throw out the arguments from those who think wind is a key to this country’s future energy independence, and those who see the turbines that harness it as scenery-blighting, ear-assaulting, health-impairing, eagle-killing monstrosities.
A bill by Sen. Phil Williams, R-Rainbow City, imposing statewide regulations on the wind industry is a good thing because it will, as Williams insists, create a level playing field.
Williams’ bill, which has overwhelming support from state governmental agencies and utilities, passed the Senate last week by a 24-0 margin, and we’ll be surprised if it doesn’t get similar support in the House.
First, it will subject the wind industry to regulations that providers of other energy sources – oil, coal, nuclear and natural gas – already face, and place it under the control of the Public Service Commission like those competitors.
That’s in line with the current attitude in Washington. A federal tax credit that had been in place since 1993, and had helped subsidize the wind industry (creating some scenarios where wind farms were, to undercut other providers, paid to provide power, the same as them selling it for less than nothing), expired at the end of last year.
The chances of it being renewed, as in the past, seem small. There’s a sense that the wind industry needs to compete, and either fail or succeed, in the free market. We agree, not just about wind but about other alternative energy sources, even though we appreciate the desirability of green energy.
However, after two decades of subsidies, only a bit more than 4 percent of electricity in the U.S. is produced by wind. It’s going to be decades if not centuries before that changes, and giving alternative energy sources perpetual special status won’t hurry the process.
More specifically, Williams’ bill requires wind developers to take out bonds to guard against projects being abandoned and turbines being left to rust, institutes decibel limits for the noise turbines produce and sets up specific setbacks for how far the turbines must be from adjacent property and structures (with allowances for property owners who sign waivers).
Wind developers say those regulations will kill projects in Alabama. We aren’t energy experts, so we won’t pass judgment, other than saying developers should be able to offer evidence to back up that claim and deserve fair consideration if they can prove the regulations are unfair.
If the federal tax credit is gone for good, the people developing wind farms are likely to be true believers in the cause. They deserve a fair shot. They shouldn’t expect that shot to be unsupervised or unregulated.
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