Actually, they haven’t shown up near my house — but near enough. And the place where they have shown up has severely strained my sensibilities.
67 of these monster wind towers have shown up on a beautiful stretch of farmland in Logan County, near Lincoln, Illinois, not far from Springfield, and the view to my eye is sickening.
The best that I can describe them is vexatious to the spirit.
You can see the wind turbines littered along either side of Route I-155 on what has always been a stunning, scenic view. Ordinarily, there is not much aesthetic value in driving along on the roads of central Illinois. It is usually so flat and monotonous that driving any distance at all can be quite tedious. For example, I have always considered the drive on I-72 from Springfield, Illinois to Champaign, Illinois one of the most boring stretches of land in the Midwest. The 90 mile trip would put a cup of coffee to sleep. It is a flat corn-and-soybean-scape that can dull the senses in about 30 minutes.
The drive from Springfield to Lincoln has always been a little different from the typical road trip around here, and a great deal more interesting. For example, there is the fairly dramatic landscape feature of the community of Elkhart, Illinois. The community is built upon a an unusually large hill that has a distinct visual appeal along with a rich history. It also sits aside old U.S. Route 66, as most of this section of the newer road does. The most beautiful part of this 30-mile stretch of road from Springfield to Lincoln, however, is the dramatic fall and rise of the land to a vantage point that is just short of spectacular. As a child, I always dreamed that someday I would be able to buy a piece of land that would be perched atop this vista and it would enable me to see all the storms and tornadoes approaching for miles. This description is not to mistake this property for the grandiosity of Yosemite, the Grand Tetons, or Sequoia National Park, but for central Illinois, the horizons don’t get any better than this.
So where is this giant wind farm placed? It is scattered across the very land that is the most spectacular. For my money, the sheer number of these wind towers has aesthetically ruined this area.
Surprisingly though, many of the people who actually live in this area, including many that were born and raised on this land, do not share my opinion. Quite the opposite, it seems that their testimonials are by and large positive. As described in a very good February 6, 2010 article http://www.sj-r.com/carousel/x655690726/So-far-so-good-for-people-near-Logan-County-wind-farm by Chris Dettro in the State Journal Register, most people living on or near these wind turbines find them soothing, almost hypnotizing. They describe them as more quiet than the wind itself. Stress reduction, problem-free, good for the community, good for the tax base, and on and on . . . are their narratives.
These land owners are also quite well compensated with payments for use of their land. I am not sure to what degree the compensation factor influences their opinions, but if they are happy about their compensation, it would be hard to expect them to be negative about the turbines. After all, so long as the towers are innocuous or so long as they just eventually became part of their almost invisible world, much as a new barn or silo might, it is probably to hard to argue with them. It is hard to say when you don’t actually experience it like they might actually experience it on a day-to-day basis.
American people are inventive, innovative, and problem-solving people. Deep down, I believe that most of us want to manage our energy needs in a smarter way that lessens damage to the planet. I think American people want to embrace new ideas, new technology, and other measures which will continue to sustain the scarce resources that we have. It’s unclear for our society about what to do next, however. Should it be solar, wind power, nuclear again, a judicious combination of what we now have, or some other admixture of current resources along with attempting the novel? The world is definitely at a crossroads now as to what is the next, best development, and how to pay for it? Perhaps wind power is part of the solution. Or, perhaps, it is too early to tell.
I continue to wonder, “Are we really thinking these things through, or are we in a frantic, semi-contrived survival mode where, not only now but in the future, we risk looking like a decrepit Siberia? After all the cellphone towers, mega-watt transmission towers, and giant wind turbines have gone by the wayside for improved power-creating and transmission technology, will we be left with nothing but a horrific landscape?
I hope not. Green needs to be more than that.
Montmartre: the Quarry and Windmills
Oil on board, 1886
Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam
Even through the eyes and brush of Van Gogh, windmills are ugly.