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State should support efforts to bring wind energy to Ga.

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POSTED: September 6, 2012 12:00 p.m.

Some 300 or so people gathered on Tybee Island on Friday to rally in support of wind energy.

If that sounds like a lot of hot air, it shouldn’t.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, Georgia has “the fourth largest accessible offshore wind energy potential of all Atlantic coast states. Currently, approximately 2,000 Georgians are employed by manufacturers located in the state making one of the more than 8,000 parts needed for wind turbine construction. Department of Energy estimates show that by developing a small fraction of Georgia’s 14,500 megawatt offshore wind energy potential, the state could see an the growth of some 20,000 additional wind energy-related jobs.” a press release announcing the rally said.

Yet for some reason, Georgia has been reluctant to give wind energy a chance.

“Georgia is one of the only coastal states that it not pursuing offshore wind development,” Seth Gunning of the Georgia Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign told Connect Savannah. “We’re missing out on the 21st century green economy.”

As Connect reported, 10 governors—including South Carolina’s Nikki Haley—signed on to U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar’s Atlantic Offshore Wind Energy Consortium in 2010. A representative for Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal said at the time that Georgia might eventually join the consortium, but that “wind energy is not the state’s top priority when it comes to renewable energy.”

What’s more, and in spite of the lack of state support for offshore wind, Southern Company sponsored a Georgia Tech feasibility study in 2007 and tagged Tybee Island as an ideal location for Georgia’s first offshore wind farm.

The Georgia Wind Working Group, the Sierra Club and the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy have continued to advocate for the cause, hosting local workshops and lectures, Connect Savannah has reported, and Tybee leadership has advocated greener forms of energy. Indeed, they have plans to one day draw all the island’s energy needs from solar and wind power and sell the surplus energy back to the state.

Still, it seems to fall on deaf ears at the state level. That’s surprising, given the economic potential involved in wind energy. Jobs don’t exactly grow on trees these days, so it would seem that any way to attract employment opportunities would be met with approval.

And in a time when we’re seeing increased damage to our local environment — think Ogeechee River fish kill, elevated levels of mercury in fish from area rivers and increased amounts of plastic garbage in our waters — one would think that looking for ways to be more responsible for and responsive to our shared environment would be a priority for state leaders.

Perhaps if there’s more public support for the idea of wind energy, they will get on board. In that regard, the rally at Tybee was a start in getting folks to think about the possibilities of wind energy. But it alone won’t sway the opinion that matters.

We need more such events, and more reminders that it’s not only a good idea environmentally to develop cleaner sources of energy, but also could be good economics.

In other words, it’s time to start thinking outside the box and off the grid when it comes to ways to power our society, and wind energy is one alternative we can’t afford to ignore.

If you agree, contact your state representative.

Perhaps if enough of us make enough noise, state officials will see which way the wind is blowing and we’ll move Georgia in the right direction.

 

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