NIMBYism (Not In My Back Yard driven opposition to some form of change) is a challenge to moves to a sensible energy future not just in America but around the globe. Whether solar panels, drying clothes outdoors, white roofing, subways, or otherwise, a good number of paths toward a better energy future face opposition from those outraged over perceived impositions on their way of life, or at least their views in some way. Perhaps the most visible battles: over wind turbine installations.
THE tiny Greek island of Serifos, a popular tourist destination, depends on its postcard views of sandy beaches, Cycladic homes and sunsets that blend sea and sky into a clean wash of color. So when a mining and energy company floated a plan earlier this year to build 87 industrial wind turbines on more than a third of the island, the Serifos mayor, Angeliki Synodinou, called it her “worst nightmare.”
She imagined supersize wind towers looming over the island, destroying romantic vistas, their turbines chopping the quiet like a swarm of helicopters. The project is now stalled, and Ms. Synodinou doesn’t regret it. “No one would come here,” she said. “Our island would be destroyed.”
One of the realities of the 21st century, NIMBYism is no longer a backyard activity. Greek opponents to wind turbines have easy (and immediate) access to battles over, for example, Cape Wind. And, they have an active ally in the Industrial Wind Action Group (IWAG), ready to provide information and support to opponents of wind projects anywhere, anytime … including in the New York Times
“These are not just one or two turbines spinning majestically in the blue sky and billowing clouds,” said Lisa Linowes, executive director of Industrial Wind Action Group, an international advocacy group based in New Hampshire that opposes wind farms.
As an aside, for a moment, “Industrial” is a very carefully chosen part of the title and quite directly derived from the heavily funded ($3.3 million in 2005 alone, with one-third from fossil-fuel magnate Bill Koch) anti-Cape Wind efforts:
“The phrase ‘industrial’ was the direct result of focus groups … It frightened people who thought they lived in a pristine environment.”
But, back to IWAG’s complaints and comments.
No, a modern industrial wind farm is likely to have 10s to 100s of wind turbines, spread over an extended period.
And, yes, these turbines do have an impact. They can kill birds, although well-sited and modern turbines kill very few, far fewer than would be killed by the avoided fossil-fuel pollution. Yes, turbines can cause noise. Far less than a diesel generator or, well, a gasoline fueled car driving by the house or, well, even the normal noise level of a modern office. And, yes, 100 meter high turbines are, well, big (actually, BIG) and can be intrusive on sightlines.
While many (most) view these spinning turbines as a welcome sight, a beautiful evocation of a cleaner, more prosperous future, there are those NIMBYists who call for a cleaner future, just as long as none of the cleaning is occurring from their back yards. They see the wind turbines, have their blood boiling in anger, and then flip the switch for fossil fuel powered electricity, blind to their direct link to the pollution of all of our backyards.
Now, the challenge I receive, would you take one of these in your backyard? Well, yes. (Actually, YES!!!)
But, it seems to me that in the United States and elsewhere, there is a value toward looking to compensating people quite directly for this visual BY (back-yard) impact. Near Serifos, on
Skyros, a low-key isle known for its diminutive Skyrian horse, the construction company EN.TE.KA has partnered with a local monastery to build between 70 and 85 turbines on a barren stretch in the island’s south owned by the Greek Orthodox Church. EN.TE.KA’s managing director, Constantinos Philippidis, said the turbines were expected to bring in yearly revenues of at least 2.5 million euros (about $3.73 million) for the island.
Yes, assure that the local community receives a portion of the funds. But, as a step further, wind turbine products should provide some share of their generated electricity for free to those whose ‘back yard’ has a visual impact. (Honestly, a limited amount of energy so not as to discourage an energy smart / energy efficient future.)
The NY Times article is reasonably good, but it is frustrating that it doesn’t cite from the serious literature developing around these issues, such as the 190 page Investigation into the Potential Impact of Wind Farms on Tourism in Scotland which found both positives and negatives, providing paths for controlling the second through thoughtful placement of wind turbines. And, around the world, actual impacts seem to be on the positive side of the equation. In Northern Greece, “the 41-turbine wind park on Panachaiko Mountain near the northern Peloponnesian city of Patras has even become a much-photographed landmark.” This is typical of wind turbines around the world.
But, back to Serifos, where
opponents started rallying against the proposed wind farm this past summer, arguing that the turbines are unsightly and noisy.
It’s an argument that irritates Mr. Tsipouridis of the Hellenic Wind Energy Association. “We’re living in the most polluted era of humanity,” he said, “and it’s sheer hypocrisy to spend so much time talking about wind turbines’ noise and aesthetics.”
Sheer hypocrisy. Hmmm. I wonder whether Mr. Tsipouridis is being too polite. Jeff McIntire-Strasburg over at Sustainablog
Wind energy opponents are a pretty stubborn lot, and I doubt anyone will convince them that wind turbines in the Greek islands would ultimately benefits residents and tourists. Given the most likely alternative of more coal power, it’s a little hard to understand their thinking. As much of that coal likely has to be shipped to at least some islands, it’s hard to imagine that wind wouldn’t be a more cost-effective option in the long run.
Putting aside that direct financial cost of coal, without considering its ‘external’ costs, there is no question that that coal’s CO2 will waft over the islands, sooner or later.