Common sense isn't.
This didn't start out to be an anti-wind power article. It just turns out that way. We went for a ride to exercise the 4-wheel-drive on our SUV on a random Sunday afternoon, and we decided to try to find the new wind power site that articles in the paper had publicized. Thinking about it now, green power supporters probably cringe when they think about how an American family can still afford enough gas to drive a 3-ton, 4-wheel-drive vehicle up miles of windy dirt roads into the mountains, just for recreation. To be perfectly clear, I mean "windy" like "curvy" because the wind wasn't blowing much on the day we went. For that matter, it was fairly overcast, too - Not a real good day to be depending on solar and wind for your electricity.
About a week later, after I read the Oak Ridger Newspaper article ( 9/19/00 ) (archive, 2002) announcing that testing of the plant was about to begin, I started to feel like we had really unknowingly made a religious pilgrimage to see the latest in wind power. [ Click here to see my commentary on the full article. ] However, if I had any pangs of guilt about wasting gas to visit the site, I felt better after reading that TVA Chairman Craven Crowell rode in his helicopter when he visited. And he must be TVA's #1 green power supporter, by definition. When I compared the hype with the reality, this became an anti-wind power article.
The wind power plant is in a fairly remote and difficult to reach location on Buffalo Mountain. Buffalo Mountain is north of Windrock Mountain, which is north of Oliver Springs and northwest of Oak Ridge in Eastern Tennessee.
According to the Oak Ridger Newspaper article on 9/19/00 (archive, 2002), "Locating the turbines atop a 3,300-foot-high reclaimed strip mine was both symbolic and practical."The article continues to say,
"This was a strip mine and now we have turned it into something that is very friendly to the environment."- Jim Keiffer, TVA senior vice president for marketing.
But Buffalo Mountain, a second choice after Chattanooga residents objected to what they considered unsightly turbines being installed on Lookout Mountain, also offered a flattened, treeless mountain top with road access and TVA transmission lines nearby.From an earlier Oak Ridger Newspaper article on 3/28/00 (archive, 2002),
"This is going away from dirty coal, which not only causes air pollution problems but leaves a legacy of scarred land, and going toward a source that is more benign and clearly has no emissions."- Stephen Smith, executive director of the grassroots Tennessee Valley Energy Reform Coalition.
Does it look like the mountain top was "treeless" and "scarred land" before the wind power station was installed? Maybe once, and perhaps still in a few places, but for the most part it appeared to have recovered fairly well. Now, however, thanks to the installation of the wind power plant, the land has been returned to its previous condition - just after being strip mined.
Below is a view looking north from Windrock Mountain toward the station in the distance (barely visible in the image). Other than the transmission line route, does the area look like it was treeless and scarred?
Below is a view to the south towards Oak Ridge, from Windrock Mountain. This shows some of the newly added telephone poles along the dirt road. Does it look like the mountain tops were treeless? Also note what a pleasing addition to the view and environment the new power lines make - very friendly. And, you have to like the way the telephone poles were located practically in the road!
A view slightly to the left of the previous one, further illustrating how shrubs, weeds, and trees, etc. were growing back onto the mountains:
The size of the towers is impressive. On a fairly clear day, they are visible from Oak Ridge, about 8-9 miles away. As the 9/19/00 (archive, 2002) Oak Ridger article stated,The three wind turbines rise nearly 300 feet into the sky.
"Amazing"- TVA Chairman Craven Crowell
Photo from www.tngreen.com (archive, 2000) (and probably, originally from TVA):
In the next couple photos, note the remaining trees in the background, and the treeless, shrubless, grassless, nearly lifeless, graveled-over, non-environmentally-friendly surface in the foreground, or near the turbines. The old strip mine has been replaced. It could be that the particular location was barren just before the power site was prepared, but I am skeptical. Is there a significant difference between the condition of the land after the strip mine versus now with the wind power plant? I think the land is worse off now than before the wind power plant.
Why does it bother me? A couple reasons. One, by way of disclaimer or truth in advertising, I am a technical person, and I am tired of the "green" lies. Two, I previously went up into this area to try to view a meteor shower. It is fairly remote, and I thought it would be dark. It turns out Windrock Mountain holds a communications facility, which has bright and blinking lights on at night. Now we added three 300 feet tall towers, which also have flashing lights in addition to their spinning "turbine" blades. Try to get a good view of the stars under that!
How much substance is behind the story we are being told about "wind power" being environmentally friendly? As shown in the picture at right, the answer is a big, hollow zero!
(photo from Oak Ridger)
- My Commentary on "Testing of wind turbines today"
- Tom Dunigan's East Tennessee mountain bike rides description of Windrock Mountain area. Includes more 2-D and 3-D maps, and some photos.
- Renewable Energy: Not Cheap, Not "Green" (archive, 2000) by Robert L. Bradley, Jr. ( Cato Institute Policy Analysis No. 280)
- The entire document is fairly large, ~300 KB of html text, so I requested and received permission to provide selected excerpts from the report. Here are the Executive Summary, Introduction, and the section on Problems of Wind Power.
- Hard Green : Saving the Environment from the Environmentalists (A Conservative Manifesto) by Peter W. Huber (Old Home Page (archive, 2005), or Manhattan Institute page)
|Quote of the moment|
|Ere the blabbing eastern scout, The nice morn, on th' Indian steep From her cabin'd loop-hole peep.|
|~ John Milton, Comus. Line 138. ~|
Common sense isn't.
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Disclaimer Fine Print: This site is personal, and is independent of TVA or any other organization. Use of the abbreviation "TVA" is purely for descriptive purposes (for example, to distinguish from wind power plants on Buffalo Ridge in Minnesota). No endorsement, no approval, and no involvement by TVA is implied.
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