Header image by reynermedia on flickr / creative commons 2.0
Today’s post comes from Renee in North Dakota
If you believe everything you hear from Moody’s and Forbes, North Dakota is rolling up the sidewalks and blowing away. That isn’t quite the case, but some people have lost jobs and are leaving the area. Conservative legislators are talking about State agencies needing to make cuts due to decreased tax revenue. (All they will have to do is not fill all the unfilled positions in State Government and they can make up the shortfall). The lines are still long in Walmart, though, and traffic can still be a problem in town.
Two weeks ago, our County Commission approved a conditional permit for the construction of a wind farm south of town between Dickinson and Schefield. A week later, the same County Commissioners ordered a moratorium on the approval of any other wind farms. The rationale was to see how the wind farm company treats the landowners and the communities that could be affected by the turbines.
The wind farm is a very controversial topic in our county. A few months ago, this same company tried to get a permit to construct a wind farm just east of Dickinson. Those turbines would have almost surrounded two small communities. There was such division and strife and upset among the people who would have been affected that the County Commission denied the permit. They reasoned that community peace and harmony were more important than the revenue that the company would bring to land owners and the county. The land owners in favor of the wind farm reasoned that they should be able to do what they want with their land, and what right had the County Commission to tell them otherwise. There are fewer land owners involved in the wind farm that was just approved, but letters to the editor from those impacted indicated that division and strife is happening in this case, too.
The first modern wind turbines in our county were put in place by the Holy Sisters at the Benedictine Priory east of town. One of the nuns was an engineer who reasoned that if they could supply their own electricity they could save money heating and cooling their enormous convent. She designed and managed the construction of much of the system. The Sacred Heart turbines are smaller than the ones that are being built now. I tend to think of wind energy as “good” energy, making less of an impact on the environment, but the controversy in the county has made me see that having a bunch of wind turbines on your property could be a real problem. I guess that they are quite noisy, they cast shadows that can be visually distressing, and they can be hazardous to migratory birds. Some of the landowners may have a wind turbine as close as 1700 feet from their front door. It also seems that wind energy companies are no more ethical or easier to work with than are oil companies. This is what the County Commissioners wanted to assess before they approved any more wind energy production.
It is hard to know what attitude to take regarding energy production. Oil pipelines leak. Oil tanker cars on trains explode. Fracking can contaminate the ground water. Coal plants destroy the atmosphere, and now wind farms cause division and strife in communities. The City of Dickinson just got an award from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government for its infrastructure prioritization policy for municipal building projects during our recent oil boom. Projects concerning life safety received the highest priority while those that affected all citizens and projects funded by outside grants came next. Someone made some good decisions at the right time, and I guess we will be ready when the boom comes again. It remains to be seen if our county becomes covered with wind turbines. I am glad I don’t have to make that decision.
Which way does the wind blow?