If we could harness all the hot air emanating from the loud and sometimes raucous debate over proposed wind generator farms in Floyd County we might just find energy salvation through geo-thermal electricity production.

Many incredible claims and so much misinformation emerged from a 43-minute public comment session before the Floyd County Board of Supervisors this week.

Proponents of the 400-foot plus windmills that one proposal wants to place on Wills Ridge claimed the massive turbine generators are “majestic structures” that will beautify the rural landscape and bring hoards of tourists to Floyd County to stand and gawk in awe at the turning blades.  Those who support the farms also claimed construction and maintenance of the wind farms will generate jobs and add untold amounts of cash to the strapped county economy.

Opponents decry a spoiled landscape, noise, potential damage to the county’s fragile water table and plummeting home values.

As happens all too often in impassioned public debates, hyperbole buries fact and emotion overshadows reason.

Some argued that wind generators are better than nuclear power plants. Probably true, but no one to date has proposed a nuke plant in or near Floyd County. A few on both sides of the argument presented some statistics and studies to bolster their case but most did not, choosing instead to rant and rave about the dangers of zoning and other emotional issues.

Interestingly, the wind generator debate pits environmentalists against each other as some see the idea as a ecology-friendly alternative to coal-fueled energy while others issue dire warnings of threats to water and towering eyesores that will litter the landscape long after the federal subsidies expire and the companies that built the generators head for other mountaintops.

Proponents hoped to create a media event by inviting The Roanoke Times and WDBJ TV to the supervisors meeting. The Times showed up. Channel 7 did not so they did not get the desired sound bite on the evening news but the 40-some residents who packed the small meeting room of the supervisors Tuesday did manage to muddle the issue with hysteria and hyperbole.

The board of supervisors needs to get beyond the emotion and the unsubstantiated claims on both sides of the argument and get some solid research into both the pros and cons of wind generation.

Then, and only then, maybe a rational, reasoned decision can be made and we can discover if the promise of such generation comes on the winds of change or just another blast of propaganda-driven hot air.

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