Next week, San Miguel County Commission members will have a weighty issue placed on their shoulders. At 10 a.m. Tuesday, they will consider an amendment to the county’s renewable energy ordinance to establish greater setbacks and noise limits for wind turbines. We hope the commissioners will give it the serious consideration it deserves.
The proposal stems from a growing concern that the turbines, if placed too close to residences, are a health hazard — not to mention unsightly in places like western San Miguel County, where some beautiful scenery can be found. The energy company Invenergy is planning to place nearly 50 turbines between Bernal and Villanueva and has already signed a two-year option on more than 7,000 acres of state-owned mesa land between. The company is working on the required environmental studies, and will need permission from the County Commission to proceed with its plans.
Area residents, however, don’t like the plans, saying these huge turbines — massive in both size and breadth, standing nearly 400 feet tall — will be too close to their homes. They are worried about the turbines’ low-intensity noise, citing studies that suggest it hurts both humans and animals, and object to the scenic intrusion. That’s why they are asking commissioners to adhere to the county’s Comprehensive Plan and protect the scenic corridor as well as the county’s historical and cultural attractions.
These San Miguel County residents aren’t alone. Just up the road in Taos, residents are expressing their opposition to an attorney’s request for land-use code variances to allow for the construction of 40 turbines on his sons’ land.
Of course, one might view those who oppose turbines near their communities as NIMBYs (Not In My Back Yard), opposing progress because they don’t like the look or sound of these turbines near their homes. But the issues they raise are valid — and won’t go away until county and state governments fairly address them.
Opposing the placement of wind turbines too close to homes isn’t being unreasonable. What is reasonable is to expect considerations for the health and welfare of neighboring communities when such massive structures are being planned. After all, once the turbines are up, it’s too late.