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Guayanilla Windfarm

As power generation schemes go, I have mixed feelings about wind farms. Obviously they have huge advantages over fossil fuel-powered plants. They also don’t involve damming rivers. But they are not without impacts – they tend to be death traps for birds, and they are visually unappealing.

There will always be trade-offs, and given how serious an issue climate change is I am probably willing to tolerate compromises that I would otherwise consider totally unacceptable (nuclear power being one such). But the spirit of compromise is to find the best way to balance various competing ideas. It’s quite different when you are faced with one of the worst possible scenarios. Plans to construct a wind farm in Guayanilla, Puerto Rico seems to be one of the latter. Not only is it located in prime habitat for a federally listed endangered species (Caprimulgus noctitherus, the Puerto Rican nightjar), it also intrudes into high quality dry forest immediately adjacent to Guánica Forest, the most important remaining tract of dry forest in Puerto Rico.

Having looked at the Environmental Impact Statement I am also shocked at the quality of it. Not only do the authors appear to know nothing about dry forest ecology, there’s also a cheerleading quality about it. I’ve done environmental impact work, and yes, you feel some pressure to look out for the interests of the people who are paying you. But it isn’t in anyone’s interest to produce a bad product. The “reforestation plan” (starts on p. 25) also seems awfully unrealistic.

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7 Responses

  1. Have you visited the site ? It´s one of great beauty and we must not compromise here. I loved your comment about the Environmental Impact Statement.

    Thank you for taking time to write about this subject.

  2. […] Punta Verraco, Cerro Toro and Punta Ventanas in southwestern Puerto Rico has generated controversy (see my first post on the issue) on a number of issues. One of the things that bothers me most is the sloppy […]

  3. […] Guayanilla Windfarm – general thoughts on the topic. […]

  4. At the Minnesota State Fair the other day we came across a single blade of one of these wind generators. I could not believe how HUGE it was! We spent a lot of time talking with the builder who was there representing the company that is building many of them here in MN and the Dakotas. Those things have huge foundations, not to mention the power lines, etc.

    On the other hand, they can be built in an existing agricultural field and the field can still be farmed.

    Here is the problem: They are cited very carefully to give maximum returns for the investment. Sometimes that means taking out a wetland, or impacting on some rare bird, or whatever. If they could be cited less optimally and still be “viable” this could be avoided.

    Similarly, the design may not be ideal for birds passing by as you point out. But there probably are designs that would be more bird-friendly. But since they would not be designed to maximize return on investment, they would not be built. But if they could be, this would be avoided.

    The solution? To recognize that the loss of profit is not acceptable in a pure free market model, but is acceptable in a socially and environmentally responsible manner. If you just regulate against adverse effects you squelch development. But if you PAY for it, you get both. Federally and by state there should be a fund to pay for part of the development costs as long as siting and turbine style conforms to certain guidelines.

    This way there would be more wind turbines built on existing agricultural land of designs that have less impact.

  5. […] most disturbing recent development threat has come from a proposed wind farm development of twenty-five 450 foot high turbines spread out over 725 acres in Guayanilla municipality […]

  6. Engaging internet site. i will come back

  7. […] most disturbing recent development threat has come from a proposed wind farm development of twenty-five 450 foot high turbines spread out over 725 acres in Guayanilla municipality […]

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