“When I started in this business,” said Tom Green, who's trying to build a wind farm in Osage County, “I never imagined that people would think that wind was the environmental problem.”
Welcome to reality. As Green is finding out, the idea of using more renewable energy is a winner with most Americans. But when the plans are actually put in place, and those plans involve cluttering the view or crossing property lines, trouble can brew.
That's been the case for Green's employer, St. Louis-based Wind Capital Group. It ran into opposition from the Osage Tribe soon after formally announcing in 2011 that it planned to construct a wind farm. The tribe said the site was former hunting grounds, and that the turbines, transmission lines and roads would impact oil production and adversely affect the local ecosystem.
The latest concern involves the 94 turbines' potential effects on bald eagles that nest in the area. The executive director of the Sutton Avian Research Center in Bartlesville, which has helped the state's bald eagle population rebound, says he's a fan of new energy sources — but having turbines near eagles' hunting grounds is a problem.
Wind Capital Group is seeking a federal permit that would allow for the deaths of up to three bald eagles per year without the company having to pay heavy fines that come with killing protected species. Green says Wind Capital is attempting in its planning to protect eagles as much as possible.
Green says he's optimistic the permit will be approved, and indeed expects construction to begin as soon as this summer. That would be just fine with the head of the Shidler Area Chamber of Commerce, because it would mean jobs and tax revenue for her town and others in the vicinity.
“I've been promised that I will see a turbine before I leave this universe,” she said. If she lives to a ripe old age, it just might happen.