Wind energy company pulling out of Cherokee, Etowah County projects, opposition says
CENTRE, Alabama — Groups opposed to a proposed wind farm project in Cherokee and Etowah counties say the company behind the development has informed them that it will not be building a wind farm in Alabama.
According to a document filed July 9 in Cherokee County Probate Court, Pioneer Green Energy President Andrew Bowman signed a memorandum terminating a lease to about 1,889 acres of property, slated to be developed for the project.
Mitzi Gibbs Eaker, with No Wind Alabama, said a similar agreement was signed in Etowah County.
Charlie Stewart, the attorney for Pioneer Green, had no comment beyond the filed documents. Company officials referred media inquiries to Stewart.
Pioneer Green Energy announced last year it planned to develop wind energy projects in Cherokee and Etowah counties, and said land leases had already been secured.
Pioneer Green later announced the $40 million Cherokee County project, which called for seven to eight turbines, probably would not begin construction until 2015. Company officials said the larger Etowah County project, which projected 30 to 45 turbines costing $160 million, probably would begin no earlier than the end of 2015.
Residents said they opposed the project for several reasons – among them environmental and property value concerns, noise, the change to the landscape and the long-term prospects of the development. “No Wind Alabama” took its name from what it said was the reason why wind developments have largely avoided the South -because of a lack of wind energy to supply sufficient power.
Pioneer Green officials countered that wind energy technology has improved to the point where wind could be used in areas earlier thought unable to support it.
Ginny Shaver, a Leesburg resident who opposed the project, said the turning point was in getting legislation passed calling for design specifications, setbacks and other regulations.
“When we got the local bills, that was the winning moment in my eyes,” Shaver said. “We had so much support from residents, in our groups, and it was just good, old fashioned lobbying from the people. From there, it was contacting legislators, making trips to Montgomery. It was literally a David versus Goliath thing. We didn’t have money, but we had people, and it was just a question of getting information out and educating folks.”
Eaker, who said she opposed the project because it would have negatively impacted her parents’ property in Etowah County, said she never felt confident of the outcome until attorneys informed her of the documents today.
“The residents are ecstatic that they can get back to their lives as normal,” she said. “We never felt confident. We always wondered what they had in their back pocket. It was only when we learned that the leases had been terminated that we knew it was really over.”