Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Aesthetics and wind power

One of my favorite bloggers, Amanda Marcotte, has a lovely post today about, among other things, the wind farms in West Texas--a place that holds a special place in my heart, though I've only been through there once. (And not only because of the wonderful Mountain Goats album.)

She makes one observation that particularly struck home for me: the people who think that wind farms are "eyesores" and don't want them in their backyard are crazy. The posted picture is the windfarm I've seen most often, in Somerset, PA, 40 miles east of my old stomping grounds in Pittsburgh. The picture doesn't do it justice by any means. When you drive by the white turbines at twilight, with their blades slowly, soundlessly twirling, it is a truly eerie and otherworldly experience. The row of them atop the line of the hills looks like the one suviving remnant of some ancient civilization, or some alien artifact.

I genuinely don't understand why anyone would find these distasteful, especially anyone who supports alternative energy on principle. I can think of many places that would actually look much better with an infusion of turbines: most of Washington County, Oregon, for instance. All of New Jersey. Most of the Upper Midwest.

Wind power can probably never be a true replacement for other, more damaging sources of power--since that would require blanketing the surface of the earth with windmills, which is hardly feasible--but it can do at least some good. And look good while it's doing it.


Lee said...

my grandpa keeps telling me that "the Kennedys" rejected having windmills off the coast of Massachessetts because they felt they were an eyesore- is this true?

ellis said...

I've heard that as well; there was some fuss about the hyprocrisy of various "elite liberals" like them and (if I remember correctly) Walter Cronkite opposing this. Can't be bothered to confirm/disconfirm right now. Also can't seem to get the picture to work. Arrgh.

Michael said...

While I heartily agree with all your major points, I have mixed feelings about the aesthetics of windmills in certain locations. One of the best places in the country for a windmill farm, as windsurfers will attest, is the Columbia River Gorge. It's also a protected (at least nominally) scenic area under federal law, and those two uses aren't really compatible. A large windfarm in the Gorge, near Cascade Locks or Stevenson, would damage the landscape. So far the solution has been to limit windmills to the eastern end of the Gorge, out past The Dalles. Like cell towers, windmills are also hazardous to birds flying at night, but there may yet be a technical solution to that problem. Certainly windmills are far more attractive and graceful than the hideous cell towers that now loom everywhere.

ellis said...

Certainly there are some natural areas that would be marred by wind farming, as they would be (and are) marred by any human structures. We wouldn't want wind farms at the Grand Canyon, or Crater Lake, or in Yellowstone. At the Gorge, though, couldn't they put them by (or on) the huge, hideous dam?