Wind power should never be ignored

Tom McDonald

Tom McDonald

By Tom McDonald

State columnist

Last weekend brought a rash of tornado watches and warnings over the eastern side of New Mexico, and more than a few tornados were reported. No one was killed — which is not only fortunate but typical as well, at least in the Land of Enchantment.

I grew up in Arkansas, in the heart of Tornado Alley, so I’m used to severe weather. But where I now live in San Miguel County, it’s different. Here, there’s an occasional thunderstorm, and every now and then we’ll have a hellacious hailstorm, but never do I remember a tornado.

But they do happen, mostly to my east. According to the National Weather Service (at srh.noaa.gov), 75 percent of tornado-producing thunderstorms in New Mexico occur across the eastern plains between mid-March and mid-July. The last killer tornado in New Mexico occurred on March 23, 2007, when two people died when an F-2 tornado hit the Clovis area.

When it comes to the winds that blow through New Mexico, I’d say the state has more of a storied history with dust storms. The infamous Dust Bowl of the 1930s certainly took its toll on New Mexico’s grasslands, with many a “duster” choking the Great Plains from eastern Oklahoma to eastern New Mexico. On one single day — April 14, 1935, known as Black Sunday — a series of massive dust storms buried the Great Plains from Canada to Texas, with one of the worst hit areas being Boise City, Okla., about 30 miles from the New Mexico state line.

Woody Guthrie even wrote a song about it.

New Mexico’s dust storms can be killers, as seen on May 22 near Lordsburg, when brownout conditions caused a multi-vehicle pileup on Interstate 10. Seven people were killed in that fiery crash.

Our winds can be fierce indeed, but it’s not all bad. From the windmills that pump up groundwater to the turbines that generate electricity, wind energy is increasingly a source of power — and for New Mexico, that spells economic opportunity.

Last month, the latest big development in wind power was announced, as Texas-based Triangle Gallegos LP signed leases for a wind farm across about 50,000 acres of land in northeastern New Mexico. The State Land Office says the project includes the placement of 285 wind turbines, which will be able to generate enough electricity for up to 200,000 homes.

Still, wind turbines aren’t the perfect fix for our energy needs. Some who live near the massive turbines complain about the low-frequency noise they create, while others point to the birds that get killed flying into them. And still others, from the Kennedy family in Massachusetts to Ribera residents in San Miguel County, don’t like the way they obstruct the natural view of their surroundings.

Also, wind power isn’t doing so well these days in the energy market. Despite the fact that it’s widely considered to be one of the most sustainable energy sources out there, cheap natural gas and the loss of government subsidies have sent the wind industry trending downward.

But I think that’ll change over time, since wind energy is a cleaner, greener, safer and ultimately cheaper alternative.
The power of the wind, after all, should never be ignored.

Tom McDonald is editor of the New Mexico Community News Exchange. Contact him at:
tmcdonald@
gazettemediaservices.com