When the idea of wind farms being established in Clinton and Franklin counties was first proposed years ago, we knew opinions were going to be wildly disparate. And they were.
Some people insisted the wind power would eventually liberate us from a dangerous and expensive dependency on foreign oil for our energy. Some supported it because it was environmentally benign, in contrast to oil exploration and coal mining. Some saw a local economic benefit from payments by the wind-power companies to municipalities, schools and landowners.
Others, though, objected to the idea. Some of those people were neighbors of the proposed farms who hated the thought of looking out their windows and seeing the towering windmills cranking over their landscape. They feared the noise. Some feared bird kill.
Some scaremongers warned of a steady flickering of sunlight through the windmill blades that would eventually render everyone within sight insane and cause cows to stop producing milk.
The net gain in power production would be negligible, they said. After all, how much electricity could 50 to 100 windmills furnish? All of this so power companies could make a profit.
We now know there is money for local people and institutions to make from allowing wind farms within their sphere. Wind farms in Franklin and Clinton counties have been making payments to local governments and landowners for years. Now, EDP Renewables of North America LLC of Houston has presented the first check for $1,291,500 to be divided among entities in the towns of Ellenburg and Clinton.
And, little by little, wind power is becoming a factor in our national power grid. No one said 100 windmills would replace millions of barrels of oil, but the sum total of all wind power is 42 percent of new energy in America, according to EDP’s Adam Renz.
As for what people see and hear, that remains subjective. Many people tell us that when they look at the 70 windmills off Route 11 in Ellenburg, they see majestic pieces of architecture. Others tell us they are offended by the intrusion on a picturesque setting.
Some tell us they have walked right up to the base of a windmill and heard virtually nothing. Others say the noise is annoying or distracting at best, intolerable at worst.
But the outcry today seems muted from 10 years ago. The opposition now seems confined to longtime opponents, mostly neighbors of the windmills — though some neighbors rejoice in the income they are receiving.
Money doesn’t offset every objectionable factor in a person’s life. But it is an important component of most people’s existence.
We can’t say everyone should obviously kick up their heels over the latest development. But many of the fears have not come true, while many of the promised benefits have.