The Christian Science Monitor

Who owns the view? North Dakotans tangle over proposed wind project.

Workers prepare to climb the 260-foot windmill tower to repair a turbine in Judith Gap, Mont., in December 2008. In North Dakota, the American Wind Energy Association estimates investment in wind energy has helped support 3,000 to 4,000 jobs directly and indirectly. Source: Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff/FIle

When the big wind project came up for a vote in Morton Township, a square of prairie in central North Dakota, township supervisors were in a quandary.

All three supported the project but, as participants, they stood to gain financially. So they kicked the decision to the county commission, which now faces a hornet’s nest of controversy. At the heart of the debate lies a ticklish question:

Do rural Americans have a say in what they see outside their dining-room windows, even if that view extends miles beyond their property lines?

It’s a more profound debate than it might seem, having as much to do with the future of farming communities and land values as it does with aesthetics. And for the wind industry, it poses a sharp challenge. As turbines get ever bigger and more visible as they spread across rural areas, they become more controversial, threatening the industry’s growth.

“Wind energy polls very well,” says Robert Bryce, an Austin-based author of five books on energy and a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. “People like it, they like the idea of it. But when it

When property rights threaten property valuesA town divided

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