Yes, areas known as the “wind belt” in both South Dakota and Nebraska are a tempting target (no pun intended) for turbines promising lucrative pay-offs for landowners (upon whose land the structures would be erected), as well as tax moneys for local communities and counties struggling to finance a laundry list of public services.
Consequently, it’s “the goose that laid the golden egg” from a financial standpoint.
That helps to explain why, back in 2009, a large number of farmers and ranchers owning property in Tripp, Perkins and Ziebach counties in South Dakota where l grew up were quick to sign up, or to first take contract offers to their attorneys for analysis and advice.
For me, the opportunity amounted to a paradox of sorts – with the proposed payout for a two-megawatt turbine a hefty $12,000 per year (multiplied by 15 or 16 turbines per 640-acre section) on one hand, versus the not-so-appealing prospect of an unaesthetic landscape (they stood 356 feet high on a 56-foot diameter base, and had three 112-foot blades) on the other.
The money kept whispering in my ear, “take me, take me” – attempting to divert my attention from other worthy considerations – like the potential effect on wildfowl, the necessity to build access roads, the availability of overhead transmission lines, the need to construct underground transformers, and the securing of easements across neighboring property.
Also of consequence was the question of the ultimate beneficiary from the power generated (not that China or other foreign entities were on my mind at the time).
Would it serve the needs of local communities and the state, or would it be transferred elsewhere, possibly even out of the country? Of course, although I was aware that President Obama wanted 25 percent of the nation’s electricity created by solar power and wind in the next 10 years, and had earmarked $42 billion in stimulus money for expanding it, l managed to dismiss that incongruity summarily – given the by then well established disconnect existing between politics and common sense.
Anyway, the decision eventually came down to being true to my roots.
First, the windmills that I knew growing up still provide a bittersweet yearning for things of the past that remain dear to our heritage – independence, imagination, harmony with nature, and a lack of pretense. Given the gift of sensory perception, the old windmills could reveal a lot about the folks who came and went. (Will turbines ever do that?)
Second, the land was homesteaded by my grandparents back in 1907 over 110 years ago. No one but family has ever lived there – except for Native Americans who regularly camped along Thunder Butte Creek in centuries prior.
Word has it that both Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull and their followers frequented the scene. A peaceful, relaxed and secluded life-sustaining spot? By all means!
In the end, the presence of turbines seemed like an unwelcome intrusion disrespecting the traditions of our ancestors. And, the spectre of haunting visits from disappointed spirits held scant appeal; hence, my conscience dictated the choice, which is always a good thing!
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