Posted by Timna Zemel (DRN Intern)
A shift toward a greater use of renewable energy sources is commendable and, in terms of humankind’s long term sustainability, the shift is unavoidable. The continued burning of coal and fossil fuels has an expiration date because of these resources’ limited long-term supply, but it is also imprudent because of its contribution to global warming.
It’s frustrating when people oppose the development of alternative energy sources, or take the “not in my backyard” attitude. The current opposition to the wind-farm project set for Campo reservation east of San Diego is a perfect example of this. The amount of power that the 160-megawatt wind farm would generate for San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) would be “enough for 104,000 homes at peak production,” and yet, various locals are quick to complain. The concerns that they have voiced regarding the wind turbines include their ugliness, noisiness, injuries to wildlife, and damage to property values.
To rebut, firstly, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But let’s just give the opposition ugliness, since it is subjective. Secondly, according to the American Wind Energy Association web site, only earlier wind turbine designs were noisy, and the noise “has been largely eliminated as a problem through improved engineering.” Thirdly, the injuries that wind turbines inflict on wildlife are principally to birds and bats, but “no matter how extensively wind is developed in the future, bird deaths from wind energy are unlikely to ever reach as high as 1% of those from other human-related sources such as hunters, house cats, buildings, and autos,” and “human disturbance of hibernating bats in caves is a far greater threat to species of concern.” Sure, the Renewable Energy Policy Project’s analytical report “The Effect of Wind Development on Local Property Values” showed that wind turbines do not diminish property values, but rather enhance them. Those findings, however, seem pretty unlikely. My common sense tells me that the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors’ report that “wind farms decrease the value of residential properties where the development is within view” is much more probable. Though I predict that as various renewable energy sources become much more common, the average housing market shopper will be much less affected by solar panels, greywater recycling systems, wind turbines, and the like.
Despite whatever hesitations San Diego residents may have, I urge them to put aside their reservations in the name of sustainability. If nobody is every willing to make even the smallest sacrifice—if one must view the installation of wind turbines as a sacrifice—then we all stand to lose in our society’s future development.