Depending on your aesthetic sensitivities it is the most beautiful site in all the world or the ugliest. I refer to a large wind farm. I tried, but failed to copy the picture at this link to show you what a big wind farm looks like blotting out the mountains of Southern California. The slippery picture is of existing wind farms near Tehachapi, California. Even worst, drive to Palm Springs from Los Angeles and try and avoid the visual slap in the face that is that metal forest along the I10.

Now there is news of an even bigger wind farm in the Tehachapi area: 50 square miles of windmills generating more power. Here is a picture of the mayor of the lucky/unlucky town:

Mayor Ed Grimes of Tehachapi

Truthfully I am not against windmills, but 50 square miles of them is a lot. Is there any mine anywhere with as big a footprint?

With coal mines and uranium mines as a source of energy under attack, is there anybody willing to honestly evaluate the environmental impact of wind power?

Seems like every little town between Iowa and Oregon has it own windmill twirling away. Here is news of one mine that also has its own wind power generating capacity: From the S&C Electric Company site:

United Materials, of Great Falls, Montana, operates a large mining facility. It had been powered by five diesel generator sets, ranging in size from 500 to 1000kW. But the high costs of diesel fuel and generator maintenance, along with reliability concerns, led the owner to consider other options. United Materials decided to construct a wind farm with an interconnection to the transmission system of the serving utility, Northwestern Energy. The Horseshoe Bend Wind Farm consists of six 1500-kW wind turbine generators with an overall peak generating capacity of 9MW. The wind farm provides 4MW of power to the mining facility and 5MW of power to Northwestern Energy. Initially, the project was to be completed by April 2005. Later, it was decided to construct the project in two phases. The substation was constructed first, then the wind turbine collector system. The substation was completed and placed on-line per the original schedule. This allowed United Materials to decommission the diesel generator sets and connect their facility directly to the utility system, providing a much more reliable, less-expensive source of power. The wind-turbine collector system was completed and placed on-line in January 2006.

You know wind power is here to stay when it is compared to mining as a negative impactor. Witness this report:

“According to an Associated Press story yesterday, the Synergics company in Maryland is threatening to sue the state because environmental protection of rare and endangered species may cause their plan to erect seventeen 420-ft-high turbines on Backbone Mountain (Maryland's highest ridge) to be rejected. Their reasoning: there is logging and mining in the area, although apparently outside the state's environmental jurisdiction.”

The battles are just beginning.

Let us undertake a thought experiment. Assume that all coal, gas, and uranium power generation were phased out over the next decade. Assume that windmills will be built to provide the equivalent amount of power and supply the normal decade increase in demand. I searched in vain for an assessment of what type and how much mining would be required to provide the metals and minerals necessary to construct these thousands (millions?) of windmills. Thus my question for today: can mining supply and benefit from supplying the wind farm industry, and if so how?

My first suggestion: build more windmills on operating and reclaimed mine sites.