Atchison County, Missouri has just dedicated the new Farmers City Wind Power Project, consisting of 73 turbines that produce 146 megawatts of clean power, enough for 33,000 homes. In stark contrast to the destruction caused by fossil fuel harvesting, the massive renewable energy project will coexist with farmland, which will continue to yield corn and soybeans.
Between the poverty and health impacts of mountaintop coal mining in Appalachia and the devastating effect of BP’s oil spill on businesses on the Gulf Coast, large numbers of Americans have sacrificed their well being to the risks involved in digging fossil fuels out of the earth. The Atchison wind project shows that large scale energy projects don’t have to be the enemy of the local economy, environment, and public health.
Wind Power Brings Local Economic Benefits
The wind farm was constructed by Iberdrola Renewables, and it occupies about 14,000 acres leased from 44 different landowners. However, the actual footprint of the project only takes up about 1% of that land. That’s a win-win for the landowners, who can continue farming while also getting income from the leases. Like conventional fossil fuel harvesting, the wind farm also pays taxes that support local roads and schools. Atchison County Commissioner Marlin Logan noted in a recent press release that the wind project has already provided an economic boost to the county, as well as a boost for civic pride in being the host of locally produced energy.
The Last Gasp of Fossil Fuels
Fossil fuels are going out with a bang. The Gulf oil spill resulted from an explosion, the aforementioned mountaintop mining has involved literally blowing up hundreds of entire mountains in one of America’s richest ecosystems, and the hazards of natural gas drilling were recently showcased by explosions in Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Aside from that kind of drama, there are more insidious impacts, for example in the water contamination caused by shooting chemical brine into the earth to bring up natural gas, undermining from coal operations that damages surface structures, and underground coal fires most notably one in Pennsylvania that has laid waste to the entire town of Centralia. Until recently there wasn’t much of an alternative but now that places like Atchison County are showing the way, it looks like the energy sources of the future will be far more compatible with local communities than the ones we’re practically at war with today.
Image: Corn by mattdente on flickr.com.