July 20, 2009
The landscape of West Texas is changing.
Standing hundreds of feet tall, like alien structures on the featureless plains, fields of shining white towers have sprung up seemingly overnight to harness formidable winds known all too well by those who have made the land home.
Call it what you will - alternative energy, a green solution, renewable resources - one thing is certain: like the oil booms of yesteryear, wind harnessing is sweeping across the Plains with the promise of a new tomorrow for the U.S. energy market.
Similar to transformations brought by oil and agricultural industries in past decades, the industry's impact is more than skin deep. Some researchers have found going green through a new generation of windmills may not be what's best for the environment.
"There's almost no understanding of the environmental impact of these wind turbines," said Ronald Kendall, director of Texas Tech's Institute of Environmental and Human Health. "I'm all for alternative energy, but I'm for getting it right."
Kendall and his colleagues have been looking past the benefits of pollution-free energy and focusing on how the industry will harm the region's oldest natives: its wildlife.