Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander is focusing his disdain for wind turbines at a project planned for Crossville, which would be the state's largest. On Wednesday, he took to the floor of the U.S. Senate to lambast mountaintop wind farms.
As many senate speeches are these days, Alexander’s 10-minute tirade was accompanied by a visual aid — a giant photo of Palm Springs, California, and the towering windmills clustered in an otherwise picturesque valley.
“My question is for the people of Tennessee is, ‘Do you want Cumberland County and Tennessee to look like that?'"
Alexander has also opposed efforts to erect wind turbines near the Smoky Mountains. He says he’s primarily concerned about permanently tainting the natural beauty with machines that can be seen from 20 miles away. The Republican senator, who has been a big champion of nuclear power, also believes wind energy is a waste of money.
The proposed Crab Orchard Wind Project was announced in January and would have 20 to 23 turbines. Virginia-based Apex Energy is pushing the project, which is supposed to create more than 100 construction jobs. There would be just seven positions to maintain the turbines long term.
On a project website, Apex says it's still gathering community input and conducting studies. There's also engineering and permitting work to be done, which means construction wouldn't start before 2017.
"We were disappointed Senator Alexander didn’t reach out to discuss the project with us directly, but we have greatly appreciated the local welcome we’ve received in Cumberland County and look forward to making this project a reality," Apex spokesman Kevin Chandler said in a written statement.
The $100 million investment has been welcomed by Cumberland County elected officials, who have said it could even become a tourist attraction since the turbines will be visible from I-40.
Senator Alexander says people may come visit, but only once.
"Do you really think tourists—or most Tennesseans—want to exchange a drive through the natural beauty of the Cumberland Mountains for a drive along 23 towers more than twice as tall as Neyland Stadium, whose flashing red lights can be seen for 20 miles?" Alexander asked rhetorically. "If you do, just take another look at the photograph of what has happened to Palm Springs, California."