NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


July 7, 2005

More and more policymakers are embracing the $7 billion wind-power industry as an environmentally friendly alternative to fossil fuels. But Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) says wind energy poses its own environmental threat, calling wind-powered turbines "gigantic public nuisances."

The modern wind generator is not your average windmill, he says:

  • It stands on a 300-foot tower with flashing red lights that can be seen for more than 20 miles.
  • Its blades are 95 feet long and when the wind is blowing it can generate enough electricity to power 500 homes.
  • Normally, the turbines operate at about 35 percent capacity and produce less than one percent of the nation's electricity.

A recently-passed proposal establishes a "national renewable portfolio standard" that would require large utilities to generate 10 percent of their electricity from renewable resources by 2020. If energy companies do not comply with the new standard, they would have to purchase credits from those that do, creating an incentive to use wind power.

That would be an environmental "disaster" for the Southwest since the strong winds needed to power the turbines exist mainly on mountaintops, says Alexander. He claims that the presence of the machines would ruin the landscape and the sounds will mar the aesthetic quality of the Southwest.

Alexander plans to push an amendment to restrict the location of wind-turbine complexes and to block a proposed $3.7 billion tax credit, most of which will subsidize wind-power producers. He says his campaign is aimed at protecting taxpayers and preserving the beauty of America's outdoors.

So far, few senators support his campaign; even the major power supplier in his home-state, the federal Tennessee Valley Authority, has started a small wind farm.

Source: John J. Fialka, "Senator Is Running Against the Wind," Wall Street Journal, June 21, 2005.

For text (subscription required):,,SB111931442504064751,00.html


Browse more articles on Environment Issues