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Our New Neighbor! December 5, 2010

Posted by littlebangtheory in Politics and Society.
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We have a new neighbor on the hill across the river:

This beauty sprang up last week atop our local ski area, and is expected to produce enough electricity on a yearly basis to offset the ski area’s total usage.

I think that’s pretty cool.

But wind generators are not without their detractors, including environmentalists who decry the impact of not just these imposing wind turbines, but the accompanying network of access roads and transmission lines which make their construction, maintenance and connectivity possible.  This is surely an issue warranting consideration in our vanishing wilderness areas, but I think less so in an area like this one with a strong human presence and plenty of rarely traveled field and logging roads.

A more commonly expressed concern, however, has to do with the effect of wind turbines on the “viewscape.”  We live in a relatively undeveloped area, The Berkshires being famous for their established rural beauty and bucolic landscapes.   As a photographer I value the pristine ridges and free-flowing rivers, and will need to be a bit more creative to avoid signs of civilization in my work.

And where land values are high, in towns like New Ashford and Hancock, our wealthy neighbors are adamantly vociferous in their objections to seeing these harbingers of development on “their” ridge lines.  The Berkshire Wind Project has survived well funded efforts to quash it, but is finally being realized as a ten-turbine facility:

That’s not a great photograph, but you get the picture – there’s an undeniable visual impact.

But consider if you will the alternatives.  Would the fine folk of Hancock rather see their ridge devoured by “mountaintop removal mining,” with the toxic tailings dumped into the ravines and valleys which comprise the headwaters of the brooks which feed the rivers which fill their beautiful lakes?  Perhaps they’d prefer a nice domed nuclear generator on that shoreline, with cooling towers and a host of swaths cleared for powerlines to go this way and that?

Oh, right – Not In My Back Yard! Shades of Cape Wind, the big wind farm in the works off of our iconic island of Nantucket.  Even the Kennedy family, those defenders of progressivism, choked on the prospect of something which would interrupt their pristine ocean views.

I, for one, would much rather look across the river to a ridgeline wind turbine than a coal-fired power plant complete with its mountains of coal and tall, belching stack.

It’s also worth considering, I think, that wind and solar installations can be built with a frequency and on a scale which doesn’t require massive commitments of land for transmission lines as do larger scale means of generation, with the concomitant power losses inherent in pushing the juice across the country (beware, for that reason, of schemes to build massive wind and solar farms in the Southwest or out on the Plains – this model is being pushed by our existing power giants as a way to ensure that only they can handle the job, and will have devastating environmental impacts.)

We all need to accept that, barring a paradigm shift which would allow us to be satisfied with a world where “growth” wasn’t the over-riding goal of our existence, there will be changes. It’s up to us to decide which changes we’ll accept, both for our own lives and for those who come after us.

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Comments»

1. eileen - December 5, 2010

Sad to say this, but consider yourself lucky that wind turbines are what you are “facing.” In PA, DE, NJ, NY we are up against “fracking” the Marcellus Shale to get gas, the process itself permanently polluting the feeders of the Delaware River Basin. This law protecting this area was enacted in 1961 as strategic to protecting the drinking water for a very large densely populated area. Don’t even try to take pictures of this.

Sorry, we hate it here more than wind turbines.

2. littlebangtheory - December 5, 2010

eileen, I’m very satisfied to have wind turbines in our area, and sorry to hear that you’re dealing with the Marcellus hydro-fracking debacle. New York is putting the brakes on that, thanks to the nightmares encountered in Pennsylvania and elsewhere.

‘Fracking is clearly an environmental disaster waiting to happen (where it hasn’t already) and needs to be much more closely scrutinized before the damage done is irreparable.

Good luck where you are, and keep spreading the word about what it’s like.

3. Tengrain - December 7, 2010

We have 2,400 of these installed at the Altamont pass here in the SF Bay Area installed in the early 1980s, and I’m sad to report, on average, 1,000+ birds die each year from that design at our windfarm. Some of them are endangered species, too.

That said, all of the windmills are being replaced with a new design, so hopefully the carnage will stop.

One leeeetle windmill is not likely to do too much damage, but you might want to keep a score.

Rgds,

TG

4. littlebangtheory - December 7, 2010

Ten, nothing will produce enough power to keep America up and running without consequences, including wind and solar power. But as it seems we have no stomach for cutting back, we’re left choosing between imperfect options. I’m inclined to put wind power pretty high up on my list of good bets.

Cheers,

– R

5. susan - December 9, 2010

When we drove up the Columbia River Gorge we saw hundreds of wind turbines on the Washington side. I thought they looked wonderful.


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