Which Way the Wind Blows?


Cartoon by Phil Hands

With the Gulf Oil Disaster, Heath Shuler screening On Coal River in Washington DC, and last year’s Coal-Ash Spill in Tennessee, we southeasterners are more than ready for a new conversation on our energy future.

When citizens rose up back in 2006 to defeat the proposed construction of a peaking power plant in Woodfin, we were told by industry officials that there would soon be brownouts and that elderly people would die in their homes unless we decided to burn diesel fuel for energy upwind of west Asheville.

Despite the sea change in Americans’ perception of our fuel sources, there is no emphasis on diversifying the commercial power sources in western North Carolina. Last year when the topic of wind power came up, our Raleigh representation asserted that protecting views was more important than addressing our power needs. They passed a bill limiting the heights of wind turbines to 100 feet, knowing full well that the shortest commercial wind turbines stand 200 feet tall.

Today’s Asheville Citizen-Times reports on a poll taken by Public Policy Polling:

New polling organized by Taylor found that 61 percent of WNC residents thought the 100-foot limit was too restrictive, far too restrictive or inappropriate.

Only 21 percent said it was appropriate.

If commercial turbines were built across WNC, even in scenic spots, they could generate about 10,000 megawatts of power, Taylor said.

But that’s not going to happen. It would mean building turbines at popular locations like Grandfather Mountain and Mount Mitchell.

Even if commercial turbines were only built where they wouldn’t harm views from parks or the Blue Ridge Parkway, for example, they could still generate 760 megawatts, Taylor said.

According to the American Wind Energy Association, if all 760 megawatts were brought online, wind turbines in WNC could power between 170,000 and 230,000 homes.
If all 760 megawatts came online, it would also mean the creation of 2,280 short-term jobs and about 350 permanent jobs, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, an offshoot of the U.S. Department of Energy.

In an era where cheap energy is proving to be more costly than we’d ever imagined, it’s vital that we diversify our energy portfolio to include wind.

Categories : Energy, Environment


  1. Bill says:

    There are enough locations in Western NC that are not in the popular spots to replace the power plants we have or are contemplating. Change is scary for some people and they will hang on to any reason to deny the situation. We just need strong leadership,which is seriously lacking!

  2. Tom Sullivan says:

    Here is the bigger question. Nine major sources of commercial energy in this country (in no particular order): oil, coal, gas, solar, wind, nuclear, hydro, biofuels/biomass, geothermal.

    If you talk about cleaner energy, everyone focuses on wind and solar. Are we going to replace the other seven with those two? I think not. So who on the left is ready to make the tough choices?

    Which of the others are we ready to accept more of? Hydro and nuclear are the only non-greenhouse gas emitting technologies in that mix. If you say no to those, then what?

    Leadership is about making the tough calls, not the no-brainers. We don’t need leaders for the no-brainers.

    If we want to lead, we have to make the call. If we don’t, someone else will.

  3. D. Dial says:

    Having a hard time understanding why hydro electric dams are not being seriously considered.

  4. Big Ivy says:

    I’m sorry to be the dolt once again but what are the drawbacks to geothermal?

  5. shadmarsh says:

    For me the major drawback to nuclear is that the plants take a very long time to build and they do not last long, plus you know the radioactive waste, but I still see nuclear energy is a better alternative to more coal fired power plants.
    Hydro electric damns are sticky, they massively restructure the environment in the area they are built, fundamentally alter the ecosystems, and usually end up displacing people, and you just can’t put them anywhere, but they are clean.

    I don’t know enough about geothermic energy to know of any drawbacks other than accidentally drilling into hell and letting setting Nixon free.

    Of all the “green” energy sources currently viable wind is the best bet, its drawbacks are minimal when compared to the massive amounts of energy that wind farms can produce. They do kill a lot of birds tho, but so does BP.

  6. We are too prone to thinking of production as the only source of energy. There are, alternatively, negawatts or watts that can be “gained” by saving rather than more expending. But we must choose our negawatts carefully. We want to achieve a true load reduction, not a just a means by which more people share the same load.

  7. Jim Donato says:

    Eleven years ago I was in Andalucia, Spain and driving down to the coast near Malaga, we saw huge wind turbines being installed during that week on the cliffs overlooking the coastline north of Africa. As they were placed in operation while we were there for a fortnight, we marveled at the beauty of the windmills as they were installed and came online.

    I can’t agree with anyone who says they’re an eyesore. For me, they don’t detract from the aesthetics of a ridge top in the same way that real estate development does. The former speaks of harmony with nature and the latter speaks of arrogance and the dominance of man over nature. It’s madness to turn your nose up at the closest thing to free energy available. Sure, collecting solar energy through photovoltaic panels requires a huge capital investment but wind turbines are dead simple as machines go. I would think that the widespread use of wind power would have happened decades ago given that no great leap of technology is required to harness the kinetic energy of wind.

  8. Big Ivy says:

    In my befuddled way of thinking, it seems to me that if we were serious about significantly decreasing use of oil and coal we would have to look at wind, solar, and geothermal; all of which would be quite expensive to implement and tie into a national grid. I guess natural gas would also be a component of a sensible long range plan. I shy away from nuclear power plants because I can’t help but imagine an accident that could make the Deep Water Horizon situation look mild.

    Among the things necessary to make a change would be national and political will to make the change and a willingness to NOT START MULTIPLE WARS.

    I really don’t see any of this as a realistic probability. 🙁

  9. Tom Sullivan says:

    Is there anyone out there developing a coherent plan for getting us off of fossil fuels? More wind and solar is a no-brainer idea but not a plan. All of the available technologies have geographic and technical limitations and other downsides. We will need a plan for a new mix.

    It will require us to make tough, imperfect and maybe risky choices unless we expect the tooth fairy to deliver a new clean perfectly environmental technology to replace them all. You guys are making my point. Anyone can make the easy choices.

    Our thinking on nuclear technology, for example, is colored by TMI. That was 30 years ago, the last year Chevrolet produced the Nova. Pre- PC. Pre-Internet. Dams displace people and destroy wildlife habitat. It was always so. But they’re clean.

    So what’s the plan? Are there credible groups working on them?

  10. Tom Sullivan says:

    England and Germany are way ahead of us on small solar. I have the study somewhere.

  11. Jim Reeves says:

    Tanks,APCs,humvees,bombers, etc. all require petroleum. The military/industrial/financial/political gangsters that control “our” government need their slippery partners, big oil, to further subjugate the world and take their resources, while privately profiting, passing the costs onto the “taxpayer”. No amount of “green” posturing for “sustainability” will change that.

  12. Keith says:

    Most credible group’s website:

  13. eemilla says:

    A couple of months ago we changed our rate plan with Progress Energy to time of use, which means we pay a higher rate during peak hours (summer 6a-9p, winter 6a-1p and 4p-9p Monday through Friday excluding major holidays), and we’ve saved $15 both months by using major appliances in the off peak hours. Using programs like this to encourage conservation and conscious energy use should also be apart of any plan to reduce fossil fuel use.