A wind turbine is a relatively straightforward concept.
Energy from the wind turns three propeller-type blades around a rotor, which is connected to a main shaft. Inside that shaft, a generator spins to create electricity.
That’s how the U.S. Energy Department describes it. Things get more complicated from there, not so much from the engineering aspects but with the politics surrounding wind energy, especially at the local level.
Depending on who you talk to, wind power either saves the planet or sponges off taxpayers, kills birds or saves rural schools, devalues property or allows those who live in rural areas to capitalize on an extra revenue source.
A favorite is the argument that wind turbines represent some kind of fraud because they might have to be decommissioned and dumped in a landfill some day. That could be an argument against just about anything made with human hands, when you get down to it.
But the reality is, at least in Buchanan County, opponents of wind turbines have been better organized and more forceful in their core argument: that a proposed wind energy project is incompatible with current and future development in rural Buchanan County.
That should count for something.
Up until now, it seemed as if the Buchanan County Commission would attempt to thread the needle with some type of buffer zone requirement that allowed commercial wind farm development, but only if a certain distance was maintained with the next nearest property owner.
This seems Solomonic on the surface but probably has the practical effect of making wind farm development difficult or impossible in this county.
Into this muddle steps the Buchanan County Planning and Zoning Commission, which gets the first opportunity to make a recommendation prior to the County Commission’s final decision.
The zoning board, in a meeting last week, made one of the more straightforward and honest statements in what has been a debate lurching between sanctimonious environmentalism and hyperbolic claims about future growth in the county.
If the county residents who stand to lose the most say they don’t want wind turbines, and they tend to dominate discussions at various meetings and forums on this topic, then why beat around the bush? The zoning board, on an 8-4 vote, recommended banning all commercial wind developments in Buchanan County.
In our view, the planning and zoning board’s vote represented a reasonable accommodation of property rights and a step toward finality in this long-simmering debate.
The County Commission would be wise to consider a similarly declarative statement. We’ve been dangling in the wind for too long.