Southern Idaho’s Lava Ridge Wind Project deserves your mental energy
Honest evaluation of the project’s environmental impact statement is how we Idahoans make up our minds — honestly and fairly, writes guest columnist Peter Richardson.
The Lava Ridge Wind Project is proposed for south central Idaho, just northeast from Twin Falls. (Courtesy of the Bureau of Land Managment)
As an Idaho based energy attorney representing consumers, and small renewable energy developers for the last 40 years, I have, as the cliché goes, seen it all (or at least a lot of “it”).
What I have learned over the last four decades is that energy development in Idaho, when done right, benefits all of us — economically and environmentally.
Idaho is a net energy importer. That means we import much of the energy we use from neighboring states like Wyoming and Utah. Of course, that means when we are importing energy we are exporting our money. Local energy projects can help meet our local energy needs while keeping our energy dollars here. If an energy project is able to export kilowatts, then so much the better because that means we would be importing dollars.
Energy development in Idaho, when done right, also benefits us environmentally. For local examples, just look at the methane digesters at dairy farms, irrigation canal hydro projects, and rooftop solar panels, all of which bring value-added income to our farms, homes and factories with a net environmental benefit of little to no carbon emissions and water consumption.
Large renewable wind and solar developments bring economic and environmental value, as well. I know because I have worked with multiple large wind and solar developers in Idaho. Recently, the Bureau of Land Management published the Lava Ridge Project’s Environmental Impact Statement and opened the public comment period for supporters and skeptics to have their perspectives considered and inform BLM’s decision on whether this large wind project will be allowed to be built.
Although I am predisposed to support renewable energy projects because of their obvious economic and environmental benefits, I have only just begun my review of the EIS and I won’t be able to make up my mind on this project until I have completed that review — that is, until I know all the facts. I ask that you do the same. Try not to immediately assume the worst or the best; work to create your own opinion informed by the facts. It wouldn’t be fair or honest to judge this project before researching a little, meaning reviewing the EIS and learning about wind energy projects in general. This straightforward and honest evaluation of the Lava Ridge project is how we Idahoans make up our minds — honestly and fairly.
To further your understanding of wind energy projects in general, keep in mind some basic truths. For example, once constructed and operating, wind turbines use no water. Even during construction, water is only temporarily used primarily for dust control which is pretty much true of all construction projects. That is a fact.
Wind turbines are compatible with farming and ranching operations. Take a short drive to the Hagerman area to view wind turbines that are co-located on existing farms and ranches with no negative impacts. While there, get out of your car and stand under one of the turbines while it is spinning to hear for yourself what they sound like.
There have been utility-scale wind projects operating in Idaho for almost two decades. They aren’t new or novel. Wind projects have helped many Idaho farms and ranches stay solvent while providing much-needed clean energy for the Idaho electric consumer.
I urge you to make your opinion about Lava Ridge known through the EIS process. But first make sure your opinion is based on the facts. Do your homework so that your public statements are credible and informed. Go to the BLM Lava Ridge webpage at bit.ly/BLMLavaRidge and check out the Idaho Energy Freedom website at idahoenergyfreedom.org for thoughtful and unbiased perspectives on wind and other alternative energy options in Idaho.
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