In one community after another, recent efforts to develop “wind farms” in the United States have resulted in a storm of controversy. Like Don Quixote, Cervantes’ literary protagonist who believed that windmills were giant monsters trying to attack him, today’s wind farm opponents have similarly made monsters out of the industrial-sized, electricity-generating windmills being proposed throughout the country. In many ways, there concerns are only slightly more grounded in reality than those of Quixote.
Few would argue that there is a critical need to free ourselves from our dependence on foreign petrochemicals. Wind is a renewable energy resource that does not pollute or contribute to global climate change, or help to prop up fundamentalist governments that support terrorism. To be sure, wind farms alone will not save the planet, but they are undoubtedly a step in the right direction. Yet wherever they have been proposed, property owners have risen up to say: not in my backyard! Citing lowered property values, spoiled view sheds, loud noise and even disrupted bird migration routes, wind farm critics have mobilized quite effectively to prevent wind farm developments.
In nearby Cherry Valley, residents successfully blocked a proposed wind farm citing many of the fears mentioned above. The same company who proposed the Cherry Valley wind farm –Reunion Power of Vermont – has recently been in negotiations to develop a wind farm on county-owned land in the Towns of Fulton and Richmondville. Do residents have an obligation to inform themselves of the details and potential ramifications of this project? Do Town and County officials have an obligation to listen carefully to the concerns of residents? Needless to say, the answer is yes!
But let’s not lose sight of the bigger picture here: diminished property values and negatively impacted views should not be deal breakers when there’s a much higher public good involved. Any major public works project, new development or piece of infrastructure carries the risk of negatively impacting some of its neighbors. However, if NIMBY was the rule we went by, we’d have no airports, power plants, highways, trains, mines, or anything else that might negatively impact somebody’s property values somewhere. If something has the potential to catastrophically diminish a community’s quality of life, with no significant public good, then by all means, most people would and should oppose it. But I don’t believe that’s the case here.
That being said, critics are right to point out that residents and property owners should get involved. There are ways of mitigating the negative effects of wind farms. But these will only be proposed and implemented if people educate themselves and get involved in the process. So by all means, read up on this and get involved.
But after all is said and done, we can’t lose sight of the fact that young men and women are making the ultimate sacrifice everyday in Iraq to support our dependence on foreign oil. Therefore, don’t expect me to feel bad for somebody who complains that a wind farm is going to lower their property values, all the while tooling around in their SUVs sucking in that Middle Eastern oil like it was going out of style.