Wind turbine dedicated in Marin County

June 11, 2009 4:59:04 PM PDT
A large wind turbine was dedicated today at the McEvoy ranch near Petaluma. It takes him off the power grid, but it's also made him unpopular with some of his neighbors.

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When we conjure rustic windmills, the classic, reliable, aero motor comes to mind. But now there is a 148-foot tall rival in Northern Marin County.

"I believe in sustainability, and I believe in getting off the grid as much as possible," said Nion McEvoy.

McEvoy's family used to own part of the San Francisco Chronicle and now a 600-acre olive ranch.

Today, they dedicated a windmill, or turbine, that will generate 225 kilowatts, enough to power everything here. It's the first of its kind in California agriculture, but did not happen without controversy and struggle.

"I don't think we imagined it would take this much time," said ranch agroecologist Jeff Creque.

The project took seven years. In fact, that was not the original location, but neighbors complained about noise, and what the windmill might look like.

"Those of us who love the landscape as it has been are appalled," said neighbor Susie Schlesinger.

Schlesinger lives on the land next door, and is all about living light on the land. She, and other neighbors, still describe it as inappropriate consumption.

"For me, it's like a folly. A precedent setting folly," said Schlesinger.

But people who build such wind power view educating their opponents as part of the process.

"You could have put in solar panels?" asked ABC7's Wayne Freedman.

"We could have, and it would have taken half the size of a football field," said a builder.

The McEvoys say this windmill turbine will pay for itself in about 10 years. Meantime, they say all the red tape that came with putting it in provides a blueprint for others to follow.

Nobody ever said going green would be easy or popular.

"So if your neighbor wants to put a windmill across the way, are you for it?" asked Freedman.

"I am," said McEvoy.

"How about two?" asked Freedman.

"Okay," said McEvoy.

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