An honest debate on wind power is about as rare as a stiff breeze on a hot August afternoon.
Advocates for wind fail to note the unreliability or the storage deficiencies. The wind might not be there on that hot day with peak power needs, which is why reliance on fossil fuel is still necessary to power all those cellphones and air conditioners.
Opponents highlight the tax credit that props up the wind industry, but they conveniently ignore other subsidies — for ethanol, rural water and even the mortgage interest credit for housing — that help boost country living or the rural economy.
Some critics even throw out canards about the carbon footprint and waste generated in the manufacture and transport of these massive steel turbine assemblies. Funny, but that’s the same argument Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez uses to resist just about anything manufactured in an industrial society.
No, the emerging opposition in Buchanan County seems to acknowledge the merits of alternative energy while asserting that wind farms aren’t a good fit so close to St. Joseph, because of density of population. A new group, Friends of Buchanan County, seeks a 1-mile buffer zone between wind turbines and adjacent landowners.
The Buchanan County Commission will have to determine whether this proposed buffer zone is a legitimate offer or a poison pill. We’re dubious, because this opposition group believes wind farms are incompatible with Buchanan County’s best land use. So why offer any buffer zone?
The commission would be wise to consider their bluff. Wind turbine setbacks range from more than a mile in Germany to 2,000 feet in Denmark to 1,000 feet in many U.S. states.
In the United States, wind farm critics allege that setback requirements were drawn arbitrarily by the industry, a fair complaint. So seek an outside opinion, not from manufacturers or homeowners with a vested interest. Base it on measurable factors like ice throw and noise.
The two sides may never see eye to eye, but the commission’s job here is to gather facts and not to take spoon-fed arguments from one side or another. Nor does the commission only have landowners to consider. Rural school districts, and even rural library districts, could see increased revenue gains from wind farm development. They also have an interest in the outcome.
The debate over wind farms resembles another rural development issue that bedevils county commissions. Some rural neighbors aren’t too thrilled to have concentrated animal feeding operations in their backyard, so the state came up with a buffer zone for hog farms.
It’s 1,000 to 3,000 feet, depending on the size of the farm. Which would you rather live next to, a wind turbine or a 10,000-sow farrowing operation?