Monday, December 14, 2009

Wind Turbines and Wall Drugs

Anyone who has driven through South Dakota along the Interstate will remember that the only thing to see were the bill boards put up literally every one hundred yards or so.  They will also remember that every forth billboard advertised Wall Drugs situated in the town of Wall.

With that tour de force of aesthetics, I see no problem at all.  We merely cover the entire state of South Dakota with wind turbines.  Obviously the state will be happy to have a new cash crop that cannot blow away.

Somehow I do not see folks in the Great Plains been overly exercised over wind turbine farms.  Their idea of a back yard is often missing a fence until you hit the Rockies.

In the end, though many folks make a fetish out of so called natural beauty, it is also true that the hand of man has its own majesty.  It is possible in the present world to envisage a thousand miles of wind turbines with sweeping boundaries following the lands contours.

Why else do we admire Niagara Falls?  Would we be as impressed had we cut that gorge with bull dozers?  It would look the same.  Stand at the observation station at Bingham Canyon if you ever get to Salt Lake City.  The pit is two miles across and around a mile deep.  You learn quickly that the mind is unable to properly encompass the reality of those dimensions.

It is possible to admire human creation as beauty and also possible to find nature out right boring.  The Midwest is covered in tiles like am abstract painting.  Take away the farms and we have a monocolored canvass without detail or interest.

All I ask anymore on that subject is that proponents have their creations imaged in order to improve surrounding aesthetics.

December 10, 2009

Are Aesthetics a Good Reason Not to Be a Fan of Wind Power?

Some see power-generating wind farms as eyesores, others as graceful additions to the landscape. Either way, with wind becoming one of the fastest growing renewable energy sources, these towering turbines have become ubiquitous—and are here to stay
Are wind farms beautiful or ugly? It depends on who you ask: Those in favor of wind energy extol the visual virtues of the turbines' graceful sculptural lines and view them as symbolic of an exciting, modern age of clean, renewable energy. Detractors begrudge them for destroying their pastoral views like 'machines intruding in a garden.'
John Foxx
Getty Images

Dear EarthTalk: I don’t understand why many people oppose wind power just because they have to look at the turbines. If you ask me, wind turbines are much nicer-looking than coal-fired, waste-to-energy or nuclear power plants.
—Michael Hart, via e-mail
Whether it’s a wind farm, a coal-fired power plant, a nuclear reactor or even just a big box store, there are always going to be locals opposed to it, declaring “not in my back yard!” (NIMBY).
As to the attractiveness of wind farms, people do seem to come down on one side or the other rather vehemently. Those in favor of wind development have been known to extol the visual virtues of a horizon full of windmills not only for the turbines’ graceful sculptural lines but also for the fact that their very presence advertises the coming of a modern, almost futuristic age of clean, renewable energy.
Writing in the online magazine Contemporary Aesthetics, Yuriko Saito waxes eloquent about the visual appeal of wind farms when created thoughtfully. “[I]t is possible to create an aesthetically pleasing effect by choosing the color, shape and height of the turbines appropriate…to the particular landscape, making them uniform in their appearance and movement, and…arranging them in proportion to the landscape,” he says. “One writer admires the windmills in Sweden as ‘graceful objects’ because ‘the slender airfoils seem both delicate and powerful…while their gentle motion imparts a living kinetic nature’.”
On the flip side, detractors begrudge wind turbines for destroying their views—a classic NIMBY stance. According to Saito, opposition to wind farms stems from their being sited on previously “open, unhindered lands” and as such “are viewed as machines intruding in a garden.” He adds: “[T]hey are almost invariably decried as ‘marring’, ‘spoiling’, ‘ruining’, and ‘intruding on’ the otherwise relatively natural landscape, such as desert, open field, mountainside, and…ocean, and for creating an ‘eyesore’.”

Respondents to a survey by the British magazine Country Life listed wind turbines as the most egregious type of architectural blemish across England. They disliked wind farms even more than other “eyesores”—such as highway service areas, conventional power stations and ugly office buildings—because of the size of the turbines, some of which are 300 feet tall, and their intrusion on the landscape.

Opponents of a proposed wind farm in the waters of Massachusetts’ Nantucket Sound cite similar gripes. The builder, Cape Wind Associates, has campaigned for seven years for approval of the development, to be located 16 miles off the shore of Nantucket Island. Homeowners, politicians and some evidently conflicted environmentalists have mounted stiff opposition to the facility, which would appear from shore as distant white smears on the horizon. The decision rests with the U.S. Interior Department which, despite stated desires to expand offshore wind energy, is taking its time on the highly contentious matter.

But with wind now the hottest renewable energy source going, those opposed to seeing windmills better get used to it. In 2008 wind power provided 1.5 percent of global electricity—having doubled its output every year now for five years in a row—and should account for as much as eight percent by 2018.

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