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Wind farms on the Altamont-Blog Action Day ’09

Today I write my post joining over 7000 other bloggers for Blog Action Day ’09 Climate Change.  I have reasons why I’m concerned about the environmental issues facing our planet:

  • first and foremost, I’m a citizen of this planet and it is the only home we’ve got
  • more important emotionally, is that my 2-year old grandson is growing up on this world; what we do now is going to impact him and his future family in ways we don’t even yet see
  • I live within site of one of the three major wind farms in the state of California [USA] – and within earshot of a major freeway artery from the Central Valley into the Bay Area.  I’m all too acquainted with (a) gridlock and (b) car pollutants.
"California Ranching" watercolor painting by Linda C Smith

"California Ranching" watercolor painting by Linda C Smith

The painting on the left I did from a photo I took not 15 minutes from my home one spring day.  I was taken by the juxtaposition of the serene farm scene of grazing cows and a forest of towering metal windmills.  Only in California I thought.

The California Energy Commission says that “…Wind energy plays an integral role in California’s electricity portfolio. In 2007, turbines in wind farms generated 6,802 gigawatt-hours of electricity – about 2.3 percent of the state’s gross system power.…”  Ninety-five percent [95%] of all of California’s wind generating capacity and output, are located in three primary regions:

  • Altamont Pass (east of San Francisco)
  • Tehachapi (south east of Bakersfield)
  • San Gorgonio (near Palm Springs, east of Los Angeles)

I live right at the western base of the Altamont and travel through those hills frequently.  It’s an awesome sight on windy days to see these turbines doing their thing.  I’ve also seen the wind farms in the Tehachapi area.  Forests of windmills.

My one big issue with these wind turbines is one that is listed on the California Energy Commission site: “…Avian mortality due to collisions with wind turbines and associated wires (research is on-going to reduce bird deaths)….” I’m a bird lover – we have three birds in our family: a parrot and two parakeets.  We also have a bird feeder on the patio and love watching all the wild birds that come into our yard.  Our area is also home to hawks and other raptors.  Over the past few years, as the numbers of windmills has increased, the numbers of raptors I’ve seen soaring over the hills has decreased.

A September article in USA Today carried a story about this, saying in part:

  • “…For years, a huge wind farm in California’s San Joaquin Valley was slaughtering thousands of birds, including golden eagles, red-tailed hawks and burrowing owls….The raptors would get sliced up by the blades on the 5,400 turbines in Altamont Pass, or electrocuted by the wind farm’s power lines….”

I’ve read the arguments on both sides as to the negative effects on bird populations: it’s real, it’s exaggerated – what can’t be denied is that it happens.  Birds do die so that we can devise means of cleaner energy.

I know that it is going to take work – innovative thought and coordination of many disciplines – to solve the current and future challenges of energy needs versus environmental issues. Just being alive in the abundance of humankind that we are – there are billions of us – has an impact.  There is so much we think we need to do and to have…and sometimes it comes at the expense of the animals and plants that share this planet and the air we breathe and the water we drink.

The effect climate change issues will have on business is pretty basic:

  • some industries will change and jobs will both be gained and lost
  • some industries will disappear and jobs will be lost
  • some new industries will be discovered and jobs will be gained

Opportunity has never been greater in this climate of change.

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