Green NIMBY

An early wind farm in the Tehachapi Mountains ...

Image via Wikipedia

NIMBY (an acronym for “Not In My Back Yard”), advocates have been the stumbling block for hundreds of public works projects over the years.  Of course I can fully understand why someone would object to having a Fire Station built next door to their home and having to listen to sirens at all hours of the day and night, the same holds true to hospitals with the addition of heavy traffic .  Schools also pose a perceived nascence to neighborhoods; children cut across yards and scale fences instead of following sidewalks in an effort to find a more direct route to school or home.  In addition, streets in front of or around schools are crowded with automobiles and busses during drop-off and pick-up times mornings and afternoons. 

But like it or not, schools, hospitals and fire houses must be located in or close to neighborhoods’ that they serve.  Most parents don’t want their children bussed five or more miles away to attend school.  Likewise, when your house is on fire or you need medical assistance, you want emergency response time to be as quick as possible.   

However, when it comes to renewable energy projects such as large solar collector arrays or wind turbines the decision as to where to locate the project is a little different.  Sure, you have to locate wind turbines where there is wind but there are a lot of areas that fit that bill.  Another criteria for both solar and wind energy generation plants is access to transmission lines that carry the energy to needed areas.  Given those two factors there still maybe many ideal and palatable choices for the location of these projects, you simply have to work through the environmental and public concerns.

On the one hand, do you locate these projects near highways to allow easy access and less costly construction?  After all, the highway already impedes upon the land and with highways there is usually some sort of development even if it is a gas station and small store miles from the nearest town.  Some people think that it is objectionable to place a solar field near a highway because it spoils the view of nature for motorists as they drive through the area.  These people would rather see the project built somewhere where it cannot be seen.  The question is, where would that place be located? 

If you look at a forestry map of Nevada, Arizona, and California you will soon realize that there is a lot of hidden beauty across each of the states.  To see this beauty you might have to abandon the main highway for a more rural route and perhaps take a little hike.  There are hundreds of people who enjoy exploring the beautiful mountains, meadows, valleys, rivers, and lakes that are hidden beyond the horizon of the towns and cities.  Would you have these virgin areas of nature disturbed in order to mask the construction and operation of solar and wind energy projects that you can see from the highway or edge of town?

The US 95 corridor north of Las Vegas near Amargosa Springs in Nye County has been targeted as a likely corridor for solar energy projects.  It sits along a major highway and is logical in terms of access to the operation and linking into the existing transmission network.  Likewise, there is a spot near the California-Nevada border town of Primm for a large solar generation facility.  Controversy has preceded both projects as they are said to impact the natural beauty.  In reality the natural beauty was impacted (in the case of Primm), when four casinos, a shopping mall and an interstate highway were built.

Mountain tops are a little tougher to justify when it comes to wind energy but again it comes down to being realistic as to whether or not we want green energy.  Here in the west, there are a lot of ridges and valley terrains that act as wind tunnels generating a fairly consistent flow of energy.  Due to the barren or should I say treeless nature of these ridges, not much clearing of is needed so the area is ideal for generating electricity.  One such area identified for a wind generating farm is outside the old mining town of Searchlight, Nevada about sixty miles south of Las Vegas along U.S. Highway 95.  You can read about Searchlight’s origin and history here http://tinyurl.com/2wr7ogq. To many, driving through town is like going back in time.  All along the road and dotting the hilly landscape are abandon mines, buildings and mining equipment.  Some would call it ugly, some would call it rustic, some would call it beautiful.  It is all in the eye of the beholder.  The following web site (http://tinyurl.com/2ukoxk6) describes the proposed wind generating farm and the negative impact as seen by residents and a few ecological scientists. 

As I said, wind farms are a little tougher to justify especially here in what is called the high desert region of the southwest.  Wind maps clearly show this area not to be particularly suited for wind energy generation due to the inconsistency of both direction and speed.  Therefore I would tend to agree that we should think very hard about where we place this wind farms. 

That said, I do believe if an area has commercial development that is already visible for long distances and there is a consistent wind to justify wind energy generation, we should by all means build the farm.  One such site worth a look might be in the area of APEX Nevada, where industry already exists and the mountains create a funnel effect that could be sufficient for wind generation.

Not every place is pristine and there is certainly enough land along designated highway corridors that building clean energy plants would not disturb either the nature or one’s view of nature.  In fact, given some of the industrial garbage that lines I-15 as you drive through Las Vegas, a solar plant or wind farm would be a rather pleasant sight.

About craigruark

Craig A. Ruark is a freelance writer, journalist, and marketing and PR professional. In 2008, Craig became one of the first non-technical persons to become an Accredited Professional by the U.S. Green Building Council for ‘Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design” (LEED AP). Over the years he has immersed himself in the subject of “sustainability” and by combining this knowledge with his expertise in marketing and advertising, has published a book titled “Marketing Your Green Side,” which is available through Amazon. Craig is an avid fitness participant, sailor, SCUBA diver, enjoys singing Karaoke, listening to jazz, and is working on his next book.
This entry was posted in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR),, Green, Sustainability. Bookmark the permalink.

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