cover of book

Chasing the Wind: Inside the Alternative Energy Battle
by Rody Johnson
University of Tennessee Press, 2014
eISBN: 978-1-62190-069-6 | Paper: 978-1-62190-029-0
Library of Congress Classification TJ820.J66 2014
Dewey Decimal Classification 333.92

Over the past few decades, the vexing problems of climate change and finite resources
have ignited contentious global debates about alternative energy technologies. In this lucid,
balanced book, Rody Johnson investigates the development and deployment of one
such technology—wind power—and, in particular, the ways in which a heated battle over
that energy source played out in an Appalachian community.

Johnson’s wide-ranging account examines the history of wind power; its capacity and
output in comparison to such sources as fossil fuels, other renewables, and nuclear energy;
the infrastructural challenges of transmitting electricity from wind farms to end users;
global efforts to curb carbon emissions, including the Kyoto treaty; the role of public
policy, government subsidies, and tax breaks; and the differences and similarities between
wind power regimes in the United States and Europe.

Interwoven throughout this discussion is the compelling narrative of how, beginning
in 2005, the proposed construction of a wind farm along mountain ridges in Greenbrier
County, West Virginia, pitted locals against each other—a story that puts a human face on
the arguments about wind power’s promise of clean, renewable energy and its potentially
negative effects, including bird and bat kills, a disfigured natural landscape, and noise
pollution. Drawing on countless hours he spent attending public meetings and interviewing
those on both sides of the issue, Johnson not only pictures the Greenbrier County
struggle in illuminating detail but also makes valuable comparisons between it and similarly
pitched battles in another West Virginia county, where a wind farm had already been
built, and in Florida, where plans to erect beachside wind turbines next to a nuclear plant

Concluding with a thoughtful, realistic assessment of a 2012 study suggesting that
the country has the capability of receiving 80 percent of its electrical generation from
renewables by 2050, Chasing the Wind makes a vital contribution to the ongoing dialogue
regarding America’s energy challenges and what is likely required to meet them.

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