The term “nimby” is an acronym for the phrase “not in my back yard.” It refers to opposition by residents to proposed developments in their local area, as well as support for strict land use regulations to prevent them. It implies that such residents are only opposing the development because it is close to them and that they would tolerate or support it if it were built farther away.
I imagine those Longmont residents who repeatedly call for more of their electrical power to be supplied by wind turbines might become “nimbyists” if all those wind turbines were going to be placed in Longmont. They would surely cite many justifications for their behavior, such as the wind is better out on the plains or similar claims but most would probably be reluctant to state what they really think. One recent letter writer to the Times-Call expressed that thought for all of them, essentially saying that the land out on the plains isn’t good for anything else. The implication being that those who live out there should just be thankful to have wind farm investments.
In fact, wind farm developers do try to capitalize on that idea, touting all the economic benefits that will accrue from having wind turbines in the area. Never mind that most of those benefits are largely illusory. Much of the cost of wind farms, often cited as a benefit, is the cost of the equipment which comes from outside the wind farm area and often from outside the country. Sometimes developers will even promise to set up a plant in the area to “manufacture” the wind turbines but, at most, they will only do assembly from components brought in from other areas.
The other big promise is to create jobs. But most wind farm jobs are short term construction jobs and most of them are filled by specialized workers who are brought in temporarily. And the tasks of maintaining the wind farm, which might result in a few “permanent” jobs, are often contracted with the equipment manufacturers so very few new local jobs are created. Some landowners where the towers are actually located will receive rent payments, but even much of this may not benefit the local economy if they are “absentee” landowners. And any benefit for the landowners is often negated anyway by the cost of cleaning up the mess left when the wind farm is abandoned after a relatively short time. Ask those residing near the southern tip of the Big Island of Hawaii.
Unfortunately some local political leaders are swayed by these arguments and leave areas under their jurisdiction without any wind energy development regulations to attract developers. A prime example of a situation like this appears to be occurring in the area around the small town of Fleming, near Sterling, in Logan County on the eastern Colorado plains. A subsidiary of a very large wind farm developer, NextEra Energy, is attempting to build a 40,000 acre wind farm with about 80 500-foot tall wind turbines. Secrecy enveloped this project until relatively recently. Land contracts for the project were obtained starting in 2014 or earlier but no public notice was given until late 2019. And not until April of this year did the NextEra subsidiary submit their permit request to the county.
That was when many residents learned for the first time that these 500-foot structures were to be built relatively near their homes, some homes within 1,500 feet of a tower and over 80 homes within a mile of one. That was when the residents also learned that the county had no setback requirements or other wind farm development regulations in place. And although they started working immediately to try to get regulations in place, they were told it was too late and generally ignored and rebuffed by county officials. They are now challenging the permitting process in court. More can be found at www.necowindtest.com.
I hope the next time Longmont eco-activists start calling for more wind turbines, they will be willing to have them plunked down in their own backyards and leave those out of the area alone.
Carl Brady is a retired engineer who has lived in Frederick for about 15 years.