By Grant McGee: Local columnist
I was on my way to work in the pre-dawn darkness when I saw them on the southwestern horizon. I’d never seen them before.
I don’t know if I’d never noticed, if the conditions were just right or if they had just been turned on.
“They” were dozens of red lights flashing in the distance.
At first I thought they were some kind of new Cannon Air Force Base doodad, but then I realized they weren’t in the right place. That’s when I knew they were the blinking red warning lights on the wind generators near Elida.
Wow, I thought to myself, that has to be 30-some miles from Clovis as the crow
Wind generators have interested me since I first read about them in “Mother Earth News” in the 1970s. It just seems like a plain, simple, natural way to get electricity. Face your propellers into the wind and power your home. See? Simple. I like simple things.
When the first wind generator tower popped up south of Texico I thought the future had arrived. Surely it wouldn’t be long before the power bill would go down. Instead, inserts came with the monthly bill saying if you wanted to support wind-generated power you could pay more. Maybe if I’d taken economics in college I could have better appreciated this offer.
The year I spent driving an 18-wheeler from coast-to-coast opened my eyes to how much the wind power industry has grown. Traveling Interstate 10 far to our south near Fort Stockton, Texas, the once bare mesas there were topped with towering wind generators. Then there was the surreal sight of the wind farm near Palm Springs, Calif. Along the interstate were hundreds of windmills creating acres of weird motion as their giant blades turned.
Then wind farms came to New Mexico. There are the towers along the edge of the Caprock near Fort Sumner, the one near Elida and others.
But nothing’s perfect. The downside to wind generators is they seem to be quite handy at reducing populations of birds of prey and bats. This popped into my head when I ran into Wes Robertson, our local game warden, at Clovis’ local meeting place: Wally World.
“It’s the soaring birds that are being hurt the most,” said Game Warden Wes. “From a distance it looks like those blades aren’t fast but they’re moving at about 80 mph.”
I envisioned a red-tailed hawk just gliding on a beautiful, sunny day then “THWACK,” knocked out of the sky.
Wind generators and wind farms continue to interest me. I was even more amazed to find out the Europeans manufacture giant ones that make ours here in New Mexico look like toys. Some of the European ones are plunked in the North Sea, their blades alone as long as our towers are tall.
I thought maybe one day I too could head off down the wind-generator road. I’d learn how to work on those engines that convert wind to electricity. The Lady of the House isn’t too fond of that idea.
“You’re not climbing any 300-foot-tall tower,” said she.
“But it’d be fun! And it’s an industry of the future.”
“Leave it to the 18-year-olds,” she said.
Oh, well, maybe I’ll never climb one of those towers. But I’ll stay an admirer of those spinning, gleaming blades in the New Mexico sky.