Which Way the Wind Blows?By
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.