After the shenanigans the people of Elm Springs experienced over a potential wind farm back in 2015, it's easy to be a little cynical when a private company starts talking up the idea of installing wind turbines elsewhere in Northwest Arkansas.
It was a little more than a year ago that two men who promoted that Elm Springs project, riling up some of the local folks who didn't want it, were convicted of defrauding investors, ordered to pay back $1.1 million and sent to federal prison. Such cases aren't all that unusual in the United States as fraudsters do what they do: Invade a cutting-edge industry that seems to be a big wave of the future and use the excitement over it to separate unsuspecting souls from their hard-earned dollars.
It must be said that wind energy itself isn't at all suspicious. Wind can produce electricity and does. All you spring-breakers who drove through Kansas on the way to the slopes in Colorado saw evidence of that. The federal government is pumping $370 billion into cleaner energy such as wind and solar.
A wind farm's location, though, is based on a lot of factors, from prevailing wind conditions to the ability to transmit the power generated where it needs to go.
The latest wind farm proposal in Northwest Arkansas comes from Scout Clean Energy, a Colorado company that says it has signed lease agreements with more than 50 rural landowners to build the state's first wind farm. Company officials say they plan a $300 million investment with turbines sprinkled around 9,000 acres.
The concern among some residents isn't at all similar to the Elm Springs issues, particularly in that Scout already has some sites in operation in other states and several more in development. Local residents' concern is that this proposal is entirely legit and may become a reality. That reality would, they fear, do harm to the environment. One former county official worried the deep foundations for wind towers several hundred feet tall will spoil the underground water and springs rural residents depend upon for their water supplies.
As technology advances, it's just a matter of time before a wind farm somewhere in Arkansas makes sense. What some of the people in rural Carroll County are discovering is how the extremely popular notion of property rights in rural areas translates into a lot of government shrugs when a project like this comes along. Being free to do what one wants on his property generally means your neighbor gets to do the same thing.
In that situation, trying to get local government to do anything effective to stop such a project is ... wait for it ... just tilting at windmills.
What's the point?
Opponents of a rural wind farm proposal in Carroll County are finding their pleas to local government stymied as a result of the value Arkansans place on property rights.