Proposed wind turbine project in Eddy County has many dangers
On March 28, EDF Renewables North America, a division of a French global energy conglomerate, announced the Oso Grande Wind Project, to be “located in southeastern New Mexico.” It includes a total of 61 wind generating turbines. The turbines’ electricity outputs “will be delivered to Tucson (Arizona) through existing transmission lines that connect to TEP’s transmission system in eastern Arizona,” (according to www.edf-re.com).
To be clear, I like the French just fine. And I like Tucson and Arizona even more. And, call it a flaw, but I like southeastern New Mexico best! So deliberations haven’t been easy.
Aside from all the well-known problems of giant wind turbines – catching fire, high electricity use while not generating electricity, falling over, excessive noise, becoming abandoned derelicts of bankrupt and defunct shell companies, and on and on and on – having been a lifelong proponent of private business and industry, it’s difficult to oppose a project that under different circumstances I might actually agree with. But Eddy County is unique in very important ways.
Eddy County has become an enormous and important industrial energy corridor. Our liquid and natural gas energy output has local, statewide, national, and even global energy and economic security significance. The work here has unique occupational needs and dangers. And then there’s the essential medical flights and military flight training that regularly occur in our area. So keeping our airways free of very tall obstructions is extremely important for everyone.
Also, world-famous Carlsbad Caverns is our most prominent tourism feature. It’s home to at least 17 species of migratory bats, including the Mexican free-tailed bat, which has been deemed a “species of special concern,” and the hoary bat lives in our area, too. These bats can fly more than 30 miles to reach their hunting grounds, and they eat many tons of insects each night, protecting us and our crops, and even pollinating crops and the important desert foliage around us. The lesser long-nosed bat was just delisted from the endangered species list in 2018. And it’s been clear since 2005 that hoary bats – and likely others – are especially harmed by wind turbines due to barotrauma. And every type of bird can be, and often is, damaged and killed by wind turbines. So, much more research is needed if we are ever going to remedy just those problems.
And just as important, in the last session, our Legislature passed the Energy Transition Act of 2019 in near party-line votes in both chambers.
In response to the ETA, Rep. Larry Scott of Hobbs wrote an excellent article published in the Albuquerque Journal (April 22) – and elsewhere – … titled: “Nobody did the math on NM’s Energy Transition Act,” where he explains just some flaws of the ETA. And Rep. Rod Montoya of Farmington also wrote an excellent article of his concerns about the ETA, the subterfuge surrounding it and ongoing issues of state governance, which was published (June 6 in the Albuquerque Journal under the headline “Energy secretary sold out NM ratepayers on ETA”).
… Chaves and Lea counties already have wind turbines up and running. And Chaves has approved its portion of the Oso Grande Wind Project as well. But Eddy, Lea and Chaves are very different counties. Chaves County Public Services Director Bill Williams has reportedly said: “… The transmission line goes across Eddy County,” (according to wind-watch.org). And what about a New Mexico company, PNM, and its largely self-inflicted needs for choice wind turbine locations under the demands of the ETA of 2019?
The Eddy County commissioners should take a long, hard look at the project. And although we want to be good neighbors and to be as business-friendly as possible, if all our concerns can’t be adequately addressed, the project should not be approved for Eddy County.