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Friday, April 09, 2004

Do not litter the world with wind power

I do not believe wind power will solve our ecological crisis, it will just add another dimension to it – A visually spoiled world.
pure_view_small_wind2.jpg
I am very fond of the Finnish archipelago, the sea and nature in general. My summers are spent in the archipelago and recently I learned that they are planning to build some wind power plants in one of the most beautiful parts of the Finnish archipelago on the Högsåra island. To me this plan is absurd! Fortunately there is now an organisation trying to stop it called Nature friends of the archipelago. I really hope they will succeed.

pure_view_small.jpg
This is the way it is intended to look, the light house is of course man made, but the effort making one is so much more greater than putting up a wind power tower that I am not worried that they would start to litter. The old ship is man made, but it passes gently and the next moment it is gone. The picture is taken by me, but it is not from Högsåra, but just to make my point more explicit!

This rim of islands forms the boundary between the western archipelago and 'civilization'. The island is a land mark for miles as west of it is the Skärgårdshavets Nationalpark, or the Natural reserve of the Archipelago, east of it is the more dense part of the archipelago, with small villages and the Dalsbruk city. Most people heading east towards Helsinki will pass it. For many they will head towards them for a whole day, as it has been on of the main route for sailors for more than 500 years. Now the locals are planning to build wind power. Wind power is arguably one of the cleanest ways to produce energy, the towers are almost maintenance free and there is generally a movement in EU to increase the amount of wind power. Being Danish, my mother is Danish, I have followed throughout my life the gradual towerisation of Denmark, and it is almost becoming difficult to drive around the country side without seeing a wind tower. I have not gotten used to them and will never get used to them, to me they are utterly ugly. I spent some time surfing around sites about wind power and I even stumbled across a Greenpeace, video which was at most utopian as it painted wind power as the solution for global heating. Nowhere in the movie or on sites which are pro wind power was there ‘sales’ arguments how this makes the nature more beautiful! This is my key argument. Wind power is tall physical man made litter in nature.

When one reads about wind power there are three key elements that need to taken into consideration: The technology, meaning how efficient and clean is wind power, what is the business case and what are the visual drawbacks. The two first ones are reasonably easy to analyze using facts, the third one is purely based on emotion and taste and hence a so called design issue. From what I hear the business case for wind power is weak and hence public funding has been frequent, or funding from the tower manufacturers. I am not competent to argue about the first two issues and hence what interest me is the third argument aesthetics.
It is very difficult to asses the value of design in general. I tried to do it in my Masters Thesis ten years ago and I did not really solve it. Most of my professional life has been dealing with ease-of-use another design issue, and again putting a price on that has proven very difficult.

I bet if we do an aesthetic poll among people about wind power, I guess most will be against it and as that is such a key issue in wind power, I cannot but conclude: let’s forget about wind power, the drawbacks are far greater than the benefits. I really hope that I will not have to stare at those damn towers for a whole day, when I am heading home from the most beautiful part of the archipelago.

So I urge any politician to think about it in the following way: Would you like to have a wind tower humming next door from your own house? I do not think I have to try to convince the business men, fortunately they think with their wallet and as the business case is weak, less wind towers will be funded.

11:18 PM in Play, Play sidebar | Permalink

Comments

When I came to Denmark seven years ago (I'm still here) I was awestruck by the giant windmills. They represented to me a commitment to nature itself to try and do better to find sustainable ways to generate energy. They are more inspiring than a coal stack

Posted by: Lyle Clarke at Apr 11, 2004 1:33:12 AM

I genuinely think that the Danes and also Germans have thoroughly analysed the merits and benefits of windmills. I don't have any stats, however, if it can be even a 5% alternative to nuclear power, together with solar energy and other methods, we might find at least a little bit of balance for the future of our children and our own to reduce pollution. To the question: how many alternatives do we have left I have no response. But generally every step towards non-polluting methods for energy production are good.

Tachi Kuichi, Jean Michel Jarre and others can't be all wrong...

Posted by: Marco Tikkanen at Apr 14, 2004 10:10:58 PM

To those objecting to wind power, I must ask what you propose instead. Dropping bombs on Bagdad to keep the oil prices down? Or burning coal? Or contaminating the earth with nuclear waste? All things considered, the wind turbines add a nice sense of nature, and are suggesting of a more natural world. Additionally, in urban settings, distributed energy production suggests an alternative to worshipping the nuclear gods.

Posted by: lightwind at Apr 17, 2004 8:58:07 PM

Wind farms cause some normally rational people to lose their capacity for rational thought. A recent example is the article by Ryan Frazier on this Thursdays Op/Ed page of the RTD. His work is full of poorly researched innuendo and inflammatory descriptions of the impact of wind power. i.e. “Studies suggest wind turbines lead to massive bird kills.” I suggest that we step back from the emotion and look at the facts.

The only comprehensive study to “suggest” massive bird kills was addressed by the National Audubon Society and they state that avian deaths have become a concern at Altamont Pass in California, which is an area of extensive wind development and also high year-round raptor use. Detailed studies, and monitoring following construction, at other wind development areas indicate that this is a site-specific issue that will not be a problem at most potential wind sites. A related story said “The ordinary American housecat poses a much greater threat to birds than wind turbines. Housecats are estimated to kill between 100 - 200 million birds each year compared to the
33,000 birds that die from collision with turbines.” Erickson, et. Al, 2002 Summary of Anthropogenic Causes of Bird Mortality reports that for every 10,000 avian fatalities, Wind Turbines cause <1, vehicles cause 700, and Buildings/Windows cause 5500 fatalities.

Now for fair balance lets look at the true effect of coal fired electric power plants. In 2000, the Harvard School of Public Health looked at the human health effects from two fossil-fuel-fired power plants in Massachusetts. It estimates that the air pollution from the plants causes:
• 159 premature deaths
• 1,710 emergency room visits
• 43,300 asthma attacks

Wind turbines are extremely effective at reducing emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), the leading greenhouse gas. For example, the roughly 3 billion kWh that are produced each year by California's wind power plants displace 4.5 billion pounds (2.25 million tons) of CO2 emissions.

Now lets consider some of the other costs of traditional electricity production. Water is another resource that is polluted by power plants. Wind power uses less than 1/600 as much water per unit of electricity produced as does nuclear, approximately 1/500 as much as coal, and approximately 1/250 as much as natural gas, the most popular choice for new power plants.

It’s true that wind resources vary throughout the country. Virginia has very few areas where wind power is economically feasible. Highland is one of these areas. Generally the ridgelines of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Eastern Shore and the Chesapeake Bay are areas where wind power is economically feasible. In light of the looming energy crisis, and the enormous health and environmental cost of fossil fuel fired electric plants, it is prudent to harness clean renewable energy wherever it is available.
Richmond, Virginia -USA

Posted by: Dale D'Alessandro at Aug 29, 2005 8:28:08 AM

You're completely crazy. It's a tradeoff: do you think power plants, transformers and nuclear power plants are particularly attractive additions to our beaches? Do you think oil rigs
beautify our coastlines? Do you think toxic petroleum products in landfills makes our land any more beautiful? When I see the windmills just outside my town, I love them. They spin gloriously against the hills and just the fact that I know they're delivering clean, natural, non-toxic power makes me love them all the more.
You're definitely (I am restraining myself) not of a very balanced opinion. Oil slicks don't kill birds? Airplanes? General development doesn't threaten a local wild animal population?
Anytime you want to do a poll against wind power please allow me to assist..you have no idea.

Posted by: johnette at Oct 19, 2005 7:26:00 PM

I am a huge advocate of renewable energy, however I strongly agree with you Christian that there is often a large aesthetic downside to giant windfarms in scenic areas. It's a very difficult issue that is only going to intensify. Personally I think mega-windmills are not the right answer-- the real promise of renewables is in small-scale, decentralized power sources like solar, small wind, fuel cells, and biomass-- i.e putting power generation close to power consumption. Think of the Internet model-- "small pieces loosely joined." We've gone from mainframe computers and centralized networks to PCs, mobile devices, and a decentralized Web. The same thing is possible with energy, and it's already starting to happen in a big way. Solar is on the verge of a massive boom not unlike what happened with the Internet 10 years ago, and there's also growth in small-scale wind generators for individual homes and businesses. Giant windfarms are just a clean version of the same old centralized model that brought us coal / nuclear plants connected to huge, ugly grids of lines to distribute the power. Big Wind requires the same type infrastructure-- it's like a mainframe computer, and we need more PCs. Small-scale, local solar/wind/fuel-cell power will change the world-- I just hope it can happen before too many of these oversized mega-turbines get built and compromise the landscape. The choice is not coal/nuclear vs. Big Wind -- there is a third, better choice in the form of a decentralized Renewable Energy Web. Also check out http://www.KillowattHours.org for a grass-roots documentary on these issues--

Posted by: William Crook at Dec 12, 2005 4:43:27 AM

Reading all of your comments, I'm seeing lots of ideas and not a whole lot of facts -- except Dale whose post I loved. For a brief and readable description of the benefits of wind power see http://www.nrdc.org/air/energy/renewables/wind.asp

What we all have to keep in mind is that, continuing on our current course, we will reach a state of irreparable damage to the environment by the year 2030. The current technologies, such as wind, biomass, solar power, etc. are solid means of slowing down the damage we are inflicting on the planet. These technologies, if widely adopted around the world, will act as a stopgap measure until new technologies are developed that will end our addiction to oil. What are these "new technologies"? That's a big part of the problem. Without incentives for development, these "new technologies" won't reach the mass market.

And Christian, I hate to say it, but the more people like you saying "not in my backyard" to the current technologies we have, the more likely it is for the status quo to remain, destuctive as it may be.

The bottom line is that the business case doesn't exist for funding research and implementation of alternative sources of energy. I understand that argument, afterall I'm an economist by training, however, in this instance what is required is for our brains to move beyond simply living by the numbers and to open our eyes to the inevitable damage we are inflicting to the planet.

A great article can be found at http://www.nrdc.org/globalWarming/pcarbon.asp

Posted by: Heather Christensen at Mar 31, 2006 10:32:19 PM

i dont know why you wouldnt want the help of wind power! it may take up place but it is helping us out alot with states that have a lack of energy. they arent considered pretty in some cases but so what people are just going to have to deal with it. children are facinated by them everytime they pass by one like on a trip or sumthing and they actually want to learn and i dont understand why u wouldnt enjoy having kids learning about something

Posted by: jessica at May 4, 2006 3:26:21 PM

Calling wind turbines "tall physical manmade objects" strikes me as a humorously irrelevant.
That oddly fails to denigrate the Statute of Liberty, another tall, physical, manmade object
Nothing is quite so breathtaking as seeing a long string of wind turbines working their magic at twilight off the shoreline. This web site is "litter." Wind turbines are poetry in motion and valued destinations for visitors from far and wide. Photos of such "litter" recently took top prizes at a local art gallery showing. I guess those artists and patrons don't measure up to this writer's aesthetic standards. Don't let those who claim they are the authority of aesthetic visual standards make unchallenged arrogant pronouncents about wind turbines.

Posted by: kent beuchert at Jul 11, 2006 1:18:50 AM

what do you prefer wind farms or the earth being destroyed by global warming just think you could have hundreds of thousands of dead animals caused by you and the effects on humans are going to be MASSIVE!! the UK is going to have lots of its land eaten up by the sea and you can kiss the north and south poles good bye as if we carry on like we are now they will melt!! and sea levels will rise dramatically people will die!! and if the earth heats up more there is a good chance that alot more people will die early because of heat stroke!!

SO PLEASE WIND FARMS ARE GOOD AS WE ALL NEED TO MAKE SACRIFICES JUST A FEW WIND TURBINES WILL MAKE A HUGE DIFFERENCE IF WE DONT MAKE SACRIFICES THE EARTH AND ITS INHABITANTS WILL DIE!! AND THE GREATEST PLACES ON EARTH LIKE THE AMAZON WILL BURN DOWN AND I GUARANTEE THE AMAZON IS MUCH MORE BEAUTIFUL AND WORTH ALOT MORE TO THE PLANET THAN THE Finnish archipelago AND IN MY OPINION WIND FARMS ARE BEAUTIFUL THEY ARE THE FUTURE, GET WITH IT PEOPLE THE WORLD IS GETTING MORE MODERN!!

THIS IS WHAT I THINK AND IM ONLY 15 AND IF YOU WANT TO CONTACT ME MY EMAIL IS alastair_bryant@hotmail.co.uk

Posted by: alastair bryant at Feb 15, 2007 7:51:14 PM

I think you need to get a life an stop complaning about wind tower so what if they don't look good the help the earth and save gas you ass face

Posted by: butt at Apr 25, 2007 12:02:56 AM

Yeah, we should really consider our alternatives, it would look so much better if we had a nice coal power plant instead:

http://img521.imageshack.us/my.php?image=coalpowerzs1.jpg

Posted by: Luke at Aug 26, 2008 4:05:42 PM

HELO IM DOIN A STUDY ON LITTER THIS SITE IS VERY GUD 4 ME THNKS 4 MAKIJNG IT

Posted by: nancy at May 14, 2010 2:57:10 AM

It may not be the solution, but it will help a lot on the long run, maybe not for a entire city, but maybe small towns can benefit form it.

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