Dustup in the Wind
Proposed wind farms spark controversy in Kansas
It seems that controversy over wind turbines — a common feature of the European political landscape — has crossed the Atlantic and headed for the American heartland. In the Flint Hills of eastern Kansas, farmers and ranchers are organizing to ward off plans by wind developers to build dozens of turbines on the untilled prairie. The issue has divided environmentalists. Some groups, like the local branch of The Nature Conservancy, argue that the turbines would despoil the landscape and harm wildlife. Others, including the Kansas chapter of the Sierra Club, point out that large wind turbines — each of which can produce a megawatt or more of energy a year, enough to power 300 to 400 houses — reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil, and that turbines are benign relative to almost any other energy source. Many Kansas state officials welcome the onrush of development in a state where almost half of the counties lost population during the 1990s and the farm economy is not sustaining the working class. Time will tell if they can overcome resistance from ranchers who like their views free of revolving blades.