Alexander to U.S. Forest Chief: For Tennessee Renewable Energy, Use Forest Debris, Not Wind Turbines On Ridge Tops

Says Wood Chips from Forests Could Produce 2.5 Million Tons of Fuel and Decrease Risk of Fire, So “the U.S. Forest Service Doesn’t Become the U.S. Fire Department”

Posted on May 20, 2009

U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today, in a hearing of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, of which he is the ranking member, told Forest Service Chief Abigail Kimbell that “it makes more sense to get renewable energy using biomass from dead and dying trees in Tennessee forests than to put 50-story wind turbines on the tops of mountains we have spent a century trying to protect.” “Forests in Tennessee produce 2.5 million tons of biomass from dead or dying trees every year. Turning that into fuel or electricity is a good way to provide renewable fuel or electricity for our region,” Alexander told Forest Service Chief Kimbell. “That seems to make a lot more sense for Tennessee than placing wind turbines that are three times the size of the University of Tennessee football stadium on ridge tops we have spent a century trying to protect. Different regions of the country require different renewable energy solutions, and the wind doesn’t blow very often in Tennessee. I think it is a preposterous idea to take land we have set aside for recreation and preservation and clutter it with eyesores that don’t produce much electricity.” Alexander also noted that removing wood debris from forest lands to use as fuel would also reduce the risk of fires. “Right now, two out of every three employees at Tennessee’s Division of Forestry spend their time preventing and suppressing fires. Removing dead and dying trees would help make sure the U.S. Forest Service doesn’t become the U.S. Fire Department.” “We must find an intelligent framework within which we can consider the appropriate citing of renewable energy projects, so we can make choices between biomass—which is very appropriate in our region —and placing wind turbines on ridge tops—which is not,” Alexander added. Chief Kimbell agreed that there needs to be “a larger discussion” on “where it is appropriate to put up solar arrays and wind turbines and when public lands are appropriate for any of those.”