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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Wind Power Saves Lives

I have wanted to write about wind power but I've hesitated. It’s a combination of mixed feelings about the wisdom of commercial wind power in Charlestown along with a large backlog of other things to write about. (Every Town Council meeting adds to the list.)

But an editorial in Tuesday’s Providence Journal, by James R. RePass, motivated me to find a little time for this topic. It was just about a year ago that I received an email from some dear friends – they had “won” a week in a rental house in France at a charity auction and were inviting me and my entire research and photography staff to join them.

So off we went to Embres-et-Castelmaure!

On our second day there we headed to the coast. There is a ridge of mountains inland from the coastal plain and I was simply awestruck to see miles and miles of the ridgeline dotted with wind turbines. Given the near-violent emotions about the prospect of wind power in Charlestown I feel almost embarrassed to state those feelings.

Wind Farm in Aude, France

The Projo editorial describes the author’s visit to a wind farm in Prince Edward Island and expresses it better than I can.

…my elegy in paradise was suddenly brought back to earth: I was invited to a conference-related field trip to the “East Point Wind Plant,” on the remote northeastern tip of PEI, near Elmira.
The very description of East Point in the conference materials made it seem grossly outsized and inappropriate in every way. I boarded the conference tour bus with apprehension.
It was not what I had expected.

The closer we approached, as we walked among the redwood-like trunks of the made-in-Denmark Vestas wind generators, and the closer the whoosh-whoosh-whoosh of the huge blades got as they came across our heads and soared back up to the sky, the more we were enveloped by this otherworldly experience, and the quieter we all got.

This wind farm was not a scar upon the landscape, nor was it an eyesore, or anything else like the disaster I’d expected. It was the opposite.

The longer I stayed in this forest, the more profound the feelings grew. And then I realized why: Two decades ago, on a trip to England, I had stood in Salisbury Cathedral, looking upward into the holy space medieval man had created to honor his God. And the spire of that cathedral, the tallest in England, is almost exactly the same height as a Vestas V-90.

I encourage you to read the entire editorial. The author argues that war has too often been caused by oil and those majestic wind turbines are one way to reduce the desire for war.

Now, back to my rainy day in Charlestown, I must explain that, as you can see in the photo, the wind farms in Aude, France are not located close to homes. Yet I walked right up to the base of one and was surprised by how slowly it turned and how quiet it was. It’s interesting that people have even built viewing stands along the road near the wind farms so you can bring a lunch and sit and watch. (I should have taken more photos…) But, while they are not located near homes they can be seen over a wide area.

It saddens me that people feel they have to demonize the entire industry to prevent a wind turbine being built close to them. I feel they are right on the lack of merit for that particular project but going overboard, using propaganda rather than facts, to ensure that they win their case.

Author: Tom Ferrio