LARRY windfarm

Giant wind turbines scar a pristine mountaintop.

Are windmills worth the price?

I fear an ill wind is blowing.

Maybe wind is indeed the clean-energy cure-all of the future, as climate-change activists claim. Maybe windmills will eventually help wean us from fossil fuels and save the environment.

But in the short term they may ruin it.

Former Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander, one of the most pro-environment politicians in modern history, adamantly opposes windmills. He supports alternative clean-air initiatives, including nuclear energy.

I agree. As a life-long outdoorsman and environmentalist, I don’t like the looks of windmills. Literally and figuratively.

I’ve seen once-majestic mountain landscapes scraped raw and permanently scarred to accommodate giant wind turbines with blades the length of a football field. Once the area is deforested, it has to remain that way as long as the blades spin.

One such “wind farm” was proposed atop the Black Mountain chain that stretches across the Cumberland Plateau where I grew up. The mountains are green in the spring, blue in the soft haze of summer, scarlet and gold in the fall, white with snow in the winter.

I can’t imagine those pristine peaks blighted and naked, their ancient oaks, hickories and hemlocks clear-cut and replaced by monstrous turbines.

Actually I CAN imagine it – in a nightmare.

A few years ago, an out-of-state wind-power company announced plans to build 29 wind turbines atop the mountain. The mountaintop would be clear-cut, the massive turbines visible for miles. The proposal created a firestorm – or windstorm -- in my hometown of Crossville.

Some residents supported it, claiming land owners have a right to sell to whomever, for whatever.

Others said that right stops when it comes to defacing and destroying scenic mountains that have existed for eons. They compared it to building a garish, neon-flashing strip mall atop the Smokies.

They believe mountain vistas belong to all of us, for all time, not just to whomever holds a temporary deed to the property.

I was stunned that any of the mountain folk I used to know would consider parting with such a cherished birthright. Evidently 30 pieces of sliver still casts a tempting shine.

In addition to defacing the landscape, windmills take a toll on wildlife. Birds – particularly raptors -- are slaughtered by the spinning blades, and few if any ground animals can survive in the decimated habitat.

Is the relatively small amount of energy generated by windmills worth it?

And what about when the wind doesn’t blow or the turbine blades freeze solid, as happened in some areas during February’s ice storm?

The Crossville wind farm is on hold, but it and similar projects have the backing of climate-change activists and their powerful political allies. Resistance will be hard.

We can debate whether windmills may eventually become reliable and cost-efficient. But meanwhile there is no debate about their desecration of the very environment they are supposed to protect.

I was born and raised on a mountain top. I know a ruined one when I see it.