Blow Back from Neighbors Over Wind Farms

But advocates of this greenest of green energy say the industry is improving its technology and that future wind turbines will be more efficient and friendlier to wildlife.

"In the early days of the wind industry, there was a lot of different technologies that were being deployed and a lot more machines were being put up per unit of energy produced," said John White, director of California's Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies. "The technologies we're seeing now and in the future require fewer machines to make more energy."

And what about wildlife?

"There have been issues with birds, but overall the footprint of the wind technology is modest compared to the fossil fuels that they replace," White said.

Ultimately, it will be up to Riverside County whether windmills are allowed on the ridgeline, 4,000 feet up the mountain above Stark's property.

"It's our county policy to have the machines; it's the United States policy to have renewable energy," said Riverside County Supervisor Marion Ashley. "It's also the policy of the state of California, and it's good for our health."

But when pressed about the dramatic impact 400-foot-tall windmills would have on the landscape, Ashley said he'll probably vote against the proposal.

"I'm very wary of any project on the national monument," he said. "If you could do that, why not put hotels there? We don't need to put them [windmills] there."

The proposal is scheduled to be voted on later this year. But if history is any guide, the courts could rule against whatever the county decides, and additional windmills could be built.

"A court could overturn us," said Ashley. "It has happened in other instances. It has happened in the wind energy area."

In the past, courts have ruled in the interest of "the greatest amount of good for the greatest number people," said Ashley.

Wind energy proponents stress the benefits of the renewable resource and believe that compromise may be possible.

"We have the potential for 20 percent of our nation's energy to be produced from wind," said John White of the Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies. "Sometimes though, you've got to change your plans when the community says, 'No.' Other times, you've got to provide some mitigation or protections. But overall, I think the wind industry can be accommodated."

Residents who live with the windmills said that's just "hot air."

"We're going to have to decide if we want to protect the American landscape or not -- or turn it into an industrial zone," said homeowner Starks.

The giant wind turbines here will continue to fan the debate as homeowners continue to tilt at the windmills.

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