A veritable blizzard of letters and opinion pieces were unleashed by the wind farm proposal for Ellis County. Having grown weary of reading about it, I started studying the subject. There is a lot of information and misinformation to be found on the Internet and elsewhere.
Much has been said about a company from Spain being the builder of the wind farm. You have not been told that Iberdrola is one of the top wind-generating companies in Europe and Spain. Nor have you been told that Spain is one of the pre-eminent countries in the development of wind farms.
The presence of low-frequency noise has been cited as a source of discomfort or illness around wind farms. This is one of those urban myths we hear so much about. When our hearts beat and blood flows through arteries, capillaries and veins, low-frequency noise is generated. Whenever we move, the wind blows or a vehicle passes down the street, low-frequency noise is generated. Even minute movements of tectonic plates or the earth's mantle generate low-frequency noise.
The point is that we are surrounded by low-frequency noise from birth to death, and it has never been implicated in any illness, much less death.
Other concerns are the so-called "strobe" and "flicker" effects of the wind turbines. These are allegedly produced by the rotation of the turbine blades or the flashing safety lights on the towers. These are scientifically accepted effects, but only if the alternation of light and dark is at a high frequency. Relatively slow changes in light intensity, such as we find on wind farms, have no effect on animal or human life.
The sound produced by the turbines as they generate electricity has been claimed to be detrimental to physical and mental health. This might have been a concern with early generators, but the engineers have designed modern ones so that the only noticeable noise is best described as a gentle "whooshing" similar to the sound made by waves coming into a beach. Many people have purchased devices producing sounds similar to this to sit on their bedside table. The sound lulls them to sleep and assists them to have a peaceful night's sleep.
Another concern is the wind farm will "draw lightning" to neighboring houses. Actually, as lightning tends to strike the highest feature in the area, they act as giant lightning rods, making houses near to them less likely to be struck. Additionally, they are built so that lightning strikes are unlikely to damage them.
Some are concerned that the turbine and tower might be blown over in a windstorm and the debris then damage surrounding houses. The generators have brakes that automatically stop them if the wind is too strong. The wind will have destroyed the houses long before it would have any effect on the generators or towers.
Some claim that wind farms are a danger to wildlife and, particularly, birds. If this were true the dead bodies of these animals would be found in the wind farms, creating a disposal problem. It has not happened, partly because the farms are sited well away from migratory paths and gathering places, like Cheyenne Bottoms, for birds.
Many argue that wind farms are not reliable because the wind is not constantly blowing. No one has argued that they should be the primary source of electricity. They provide backup so that primary generators don't have to be built as large or consume as much fuel as they otherwise would. They now have batteries that store the wind energy when it is not needed and provide it when needed.
Some people think the towers are ugly and ruin the landscape. Other people think the towers are a beautiful focal point in a bland landscape. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Whether this is a legitimate concern or not, it must be weighed against the economic benefit to the county and the improvement to national security provided by every utilization of our own resources to lower our dependence on foreign oil.
If we are to become energy independent, every possible source of energy produced in this country must be utilized. Otherwise, we are at the mercy of those countries from which we import oil, many unfriendly to the United States.
You can find more information at the Department of Energy site, www1.eere.energy.gov/windandhydro, www.buzzle.com and www.newscientist.com.
Delbert Marshall, Hays, is a member of Generations Advisory Group and a professor emeritus of chemistry at Fort Hays State University.