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The Uglifying of Paradise  

16 August 2005

The Uglifying of Paradise

I live in one of the most beautiful places in the country, in my opinion. Some people call it corn country, but there’s way more to it than that. It’s rolling farmland, punctuated with large patches of woods, prairies, and fallow pastures. Everything is green and alive. Most of the summer (except during a draught, like this year), the grass is as lush and vibrant as that on any championship golf course. Family farms, with picturesque barns and silos that have stood for a hundred years, dot the landscape. Small country roads wind their way around and over the hills, down through the valleys and across bubbling streams. Cows and horses roam the pastures. The sense of openness and freedom is tangible. People who live in the city feel vaguely exposed here. They often feel like they need more buildings and structures to “hold them in” somehow. Not me. I thrive on the space, and the fact that you can see all the way to the horizon.

If I had to pick the worst possible view-spoiler imaginable, it would be a white, 400-foot tower, topped by a set of long, whirling blades that caught your eye every time you looked in its general direction. Over a dozen of these apparitions covering nearly a thousand acres would make this area immeasurably fugly for miles around.

But that’s exactly what some low-life landowners near me are trying to do. The placidly-named Heritage Ridge Wind Farm would provide a small amount of electricity for local residents, and a small yearly revenue for the landowners. In exchange, locals would get the thrill of seeing a horizon-full of these monstrosities thrashing the air. I say "locals," but actually, a recent study showed that over 90% of the population of my county would be able to see 24% or more of one or more of the turbines at all times.

The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), on their web site’s FAQ, addresses the visual impact a wind farm makes, with this:

“Visual impacts… can be minimized through careful design of a wind power plant. Using turbines of the same size and type and spacing them uniformly generally results in a wind plant that satisfies most aesthetic concerns. Computer simulation is helpful in evaluating visual impacts before construction begins. Public opinion polls show that the vast majority of people favor wind energy, and support for wind plants often increases after they are actually installed and operating.”

I’m sorry, but uniform spacing of 400-foot wind generators does not “satisfy my aesthetic concerns.” Rather, it enhances my dislike of the whole idea.

The AWEA then asks the question, “Will wind energy hurt tourism in my area?” Their own answer:

“People who would rather not live near wind plants (sometimes referred to as "NIMBYs," short for "Not In My Back Yard") often raise this concern with respect to new wind project proposals. There is no evidence that wind farms reduce tourism, and considerable evidence to the contrary. For example, in late 2002, a survey of 300 tourists in the Argyll region of Scotland, noted for its scenic beauty, found that 91% said the presence of new wind farms ‘would make no difference in whether they would return.’ Similar surveys of tourists in Vermont and Australia have produced similar results.”

Their position assumes that we here in northern Illinois want tourism, or have an infrastructure to support tourism in the first place. Loss of tourism is not our concern. Simple aesthetics and enjoyment of our surroundings is what we care about.

There are certainly some successful wind farms out there in the world. For the space they occupy, they appear to provide clean, relatively inexpensive electric power for certain communities, and they make use of a free resource. Great. I applaud the concept.

But wind farms spoil the view, and there’s absolutely no getting around that fact. That’s why most people think they should be located away from people. Far, far away, like the Kilronan Wind Farm, located on a craggy plateau in Ireland. Or the Cape Wind farm, offshore from Nantucket, Massachusetts. Or the proposed London Array, located offshore in the Thames Estuary in the UK.

Notice the common theme with these projects? They’re in remote places where NIMBYs like me won’t complain about their obvious ugliness. Wind farms also have a huge negative impact on home values for miles around. Just ask the landowners and homewoners in Lincoln, Wisconsin, the site of a similar wind farm. Property values within a mile of the new turbines went down 26% after the project was completed. Even properties more than a mile away went down 18% in value the monent the turbines were operational. Physical ugliness is only one of many negative characteristics about wind turbines. Visit the sites listed at the end of this entry for more information. You’ll learn a lot about the "Green" movement that will make you wonder.

The families in Caledonia, Illinois who want to spoil everyone’s enjoyment of our beautiful surroundings for their own, minor gain should give serious consideration to the war they are declaring on their neighbors by doing so. NIMBY? Me? Damn right I am, and so are a lot of my fellow residents. We won’t let our country’s heartland be blighted by wind turbines (or anything else) that spoils our magnificent landscape.

Further Reading (Highly Recommended):

Buck W.

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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