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Jennifer Schwab

Jennifer Schwab

Posted: September 11, 2009 10:35 PM

Renewable Energy -- Not in My Backyard!

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Admittedly, beauty is in the eye of the beholder when it comes to wind turbines.  For decades, they have decorated – or defaced? – the desert alongside Interstate 10 near Palm Springs.  A curiosity, to be sure, but not too many folks complained because nobody lives in their immediate area except a few roadrunners and rattlesnakes.

Wind turbine sight pollution was also an issue recently off Cape Cod, where the likes of the Kennedy family – known greenies with serious environmental credentials – fought (unsuccessfully, I might add) against a new wind energy farm.

Renewable energy comes in many forms, and let’s face it, most of ‘em ain’t beautiful.  No matter how you design them, solar panels are tolerable at best but not a thing of beauty.  Same for the wind turbines.  As the two most common and growing applications for renewable energy, we are going to see a lot more of them around.  Which raises the issue of sight pollution. 

Believe it or not, a number of “environmentalists” have been complaining about proposals to add exponential numbers of solar panels and wind turbine machines to several areas of the desert throughout the Southwest.  It seems the critics are saying these devices will ruin the pristine sight lines and unmolested views of nature as it has looked for hundreds of years.  Are they right?  Of course.  Is that reason enough to stop these critical experiments to mass produce solar and wind energy?  Not even!

So we have the quandary of every tree hugger when examining man-made structures on a collision course with nature – to deface or not to deface, that is the question.  You’d think we’d all be rejoicing since this administration is embracing alternative energy and sincerely trying to build a new green industry, with America as a global leader.  You’d think environmentalists would be willing to see a few turbines and solar panels on their desert hikes or drives.  But no.  We support wind and solar energy so long as it’s not in my backyard, and not in my hiking grounds either.  Come on, people, get with the program!  If this is the biggest concession we must make to nurture and grow mass solar and wind energy installations, count me in.  I am willing to look at some solar panels and wind turbines, even while hiking in remote areas.  If you allow yourself, you can even find something sublime about the installations.  As I biked through the Netherlands across perfectly manicured fields of wind turbines, I was in awe of the grandeur of the structures and what they represented – clean energy for all.    

The bigger problem than compromising aesthetics is transmission.  As in, how do we get the power created by solar panels and wind turbines to the city from out in the desert when we are locating them?  This is a technology issue that will be solved as we pursue improved renewable energy designs.  In the meantime, we may have to deal with these structures on rooftops, in empty lots and possibly even in public areas of major cities.  I, for one, am willing to accept this with a smile.  These are good problems.   As good green citizens, let’s support these renewable energy proposals even if they aren’t eye candy.  It’s now or never to step up and gain energy independence.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.  Please comment below, thanks, until next week...

 

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