Wind turbines: stewardship or a blight on God's creation?

Adele Gallogly

Steven Koster
July 29, 2011

I've never seen them as ugly. A little alien maybe, but my primary reaction is awe at their size and volume. They do look like an army marching across the landscape. I've been thrilled to hope they might actually provide real green energy. I've felt a little sorry for the folks who live nearby and how their familiar landscape has been radically altered, but farming is all about altering the landscape. I think it's a bit of a stretch to claim it's God's design and aesthetic that it look like 20th century farmland. That's kinda like claiming God wants only 19th century pipe organ music because it's what I grew up with.

July 29, 2011

Aesthetics, no matter what, is simply a function of ones own personal tastes.  I find them awe inspiring and a great example of man's push to solve important world problems in a way that is a bit touch more pleasing than coal mining.

As long as we have sin in the world, the planet will never be without blight.

July 29, 2011

I've seen them while traveling through Indiana and found them a graceful and whimsical addition to the landscape. I like that this is a way to capture wind power and lessen our reliance on oil and coal. (Think of what coal mining and oil rigs do to a landscape!). The one thing that I don't like to hear about is the noise that bothers many who live near these turbines. Noise is already a ubiquitous part of our landscape and I would like to see that diminish, not increase.

July 29, 2011

There is enough wind through the central United States to supply nearly or all of the countries hydro needs.Europe is far ahead of North America when it comes to turbine energy.
People are becoming more "Green" all the time.God tells us to take "dominion" over the planet.....not ravage and destroy it.
The problem is that nobody wants it in their own back yard.

Jonathan Hiskes
July 29, 2011

Adele, you make a good point about the subjective nature of aesthetic taste. As an energy journalist, I've learned that people see wind turbines as all sorts of things: graceful, awe-inspiring, forward-looking ... eyesores, intrusive, gargantuan, etc.

But our aesthetic sense can be informed by other things, including a sense of justice. The alternative to clean-energy isn't pristine rural vistas, it's coal-fired power plants, frequently located in poor neighborhoods, both rural and urban. Burning coal contributes not just to climate change (and the freak weather and droughts that accompany it), but also to mercury poisoning, asthma, lung disease -- very real and measurable public health problems. And ones that happen to harm children disproportionately.

So finding a coal plant "ugly" and a wind farm "elegant" isn't so personal and subjective when we look at their full social impacts.

That's not to say neighbors shouldn't have a say in proposed wind farms. Their noise is a legitimate concern. But scenic views aren't the only issue at hand.

July 30, 2011

Those long stretches of nothing but horizontal on the landscape "need" the aesthetic of the vertical; adding wind-turbines  lends some of  the drama and awe of mountains or skyscrapers.

July 31, 2011

There are undoubtedly places wind turbines don't belong, but I have seen wind turbines in rural landscapes east of Lake Winnebago blending into the landscape fairly nicely. Anything new is a bit jarring. The Dutch windmills, and the old farm well water windmills, that we consider quaint and picturesque, were quite utilitarian when they were first introduced. It is only long familiarity that has given them a positive esthetic.

It is important that whatever the pains and pleasures may be, they are shared equally. A good example of dangerous elitism was a comment by a Sierra Club member in California, passionately opposed to and windmill's along the state's Pacific coast line, suggesting that windmill farms should be built in Kansas, where there is nothing worth worrying about. Many people in the midwest are devoted to preserving prairies, which may or may not fit neatly alongside of windmill farms. California has to take some too.

Which reminds me, there is a huge radio and TV transmission tower on San Francisco's Twin Peaks, well lighted at night to warn air traffic, which has become very much a part of the landscape. Some hilltop ridges would look equally good with a row of windmills.

July 31, 2011

I see them dotted over the European landscape as I fly there. I've seen one farm crop up near the Mohawk River in NY. I think they are beautiful and breathtaking.

August 1, 2011

I too find the wind towers to be a positive thing. We just passed the wind farm between Rugby & Dunseith, ND this past weekend. Given the scale of the landscape there , they appear to be more like a scattering of kids' pinwheels on a lawn than "obtrusive."
I'd much rather see the wind farms than than the wastewater mess of fracking in the ND oil fields or the open pit lignite mines.
Now, if the grid could only be improved to make use of the constant wind here in ND & get the power to where it is consumed . . .

Adele Konyndyk
August 2, 2011

Thanks so much for the thoughtful comments, everyone! I had hoped the article would stir such a discussion--one which reveals the subjective nature of aesthetics, considers our sense of environmental justice (as you noted Jonathan), and also illustrates that the wind turbine issue is not a "scenic" issue only. I so appreciate all of your reflections and am encouraged to see believers thinking through this issue and its implications for our roles as creators in and caretakers of God's world.

Adele Konyndyk
August 2, 2011

Thanks for your thoughtful comments, everyone. I had hoped to encourage such a discussion--one which reveals the subjective nature of aesthetic taste, considers the Christian sense of environmental justice, and illustrates that the wind turbine issue is not only a scenic issue only. I so appreciate your reflections and am encouraged to see believers thinking through this issue and its implication for our roles as creators in and caretakers of God's world.

Jessica Eddings-Roeser
August 2, 2011

Adele, I like your points her, and I hadn't really thought about the turbines as an eyesore, per se. My only exposure to the wind turbines is out in west Texas, where the landscape isn't exactly gorgeous. There is something really compelling about how the giant turbines rise up out of the otherwise flat land, and I've always liked the juxtaposition of the two. I would say that it's pretty, actually. However, in other areas it's a totally different scenario. Wouldn't it be awesome if various geographies had local artists work with engineeers to create wind turbines that fit their landscape? Something cool to think about!

August 3, 2011

In thinking about the aesthetics of wind turbines, we forget the ugliness of things that now blend into the landscape:  high power line towers and cell phone towers.  These dot landscapes all over North America and yet we never think to question their appearance.  Wind power is clean and renewable and I would love to see the turbines replace the high power lines.

Josh Larsen
TC Staff
August 4, 2011

I recently came across another twist to this at Commentary magazine: http://www.commentarymagazine....

The argument here is that turbines are causing massive deaths to birds and bats, the loss of which will also adversely affect the environment. So I guess we better add that to the equation in addition to thoughts about pollution and aesthetics.

August 5, 2011

The problem here is that you would have to fill the United States with wind farms.  The technology isn't that efficient.

August 5, 2011

There are some people who report this, yes.  And it is true that every method of energy harvesting will have a price.

However, I have been to these wind turbines for various purposes and can tell you that I have cleaned up more bats and birds from my back yard than I have ever witnessed around a wind farm.

Josh Benton
December 3, 2011

Growing up in California, windmills/turbines to generate power were a given. They were all up and down the mountain sides as you drove through them around the Bay Area. They're propped (no pun intended) on top of mountain and hillsides along the central mountain range and even some of the coastal mountain ranges.

Now that I've been in the Midwest for a number of years, I find them to be an eyesore and not very productive. Though in areas such as IL, IA and SD there is wind and at times, a lot of it, I wonder just how productive these windmills/turbines are. Just driving the I-90, I-35 and I-80 this Thanksgiving Holiday, I saw a number of windmills/turbines just standing there. Not moving or just barley moving.

My question is this: How much energy per rotation is needed to power my dishwasher? How much energy per rotation is needed to power a house? A block? a small town? A Toyota Prius or Chevy Volt? Where can these stats be found? I'm all for finding ways to be "green" and reduce our "carbon footprint" but I want to make sure it is working in the long term as well. Hydroelectric we know works. Same with propane and with other natural gasses, but are these windmills/turbines actually working or are they just up there to create "green jobs" and make us look good?

Laura's Last Ditch
December 3, 2011

I find wind turbines starkly beautiful.

As for God being a God who values aesthetics, perhaps that is why I find modern, booming music distressing for worship, and the NIV's lack of poetry disturbing.

Balancing practicality with beauty is something only God can do perfectly.

January 25, 2012

I think wind farms are beautiful. Their problem is that the wind doesn't always blow in the correct amount and it is difficult to store electricity. A city that utilizes wind power when the wind blows also needs an alternate stand by source for when the wind doesn't blow thus doubling the equipment cost.

I propose intercity pipelines for compressed air. wind farms along the route would use the generated power to pump air into the pipe and the cities and towns along the way could use a compressed air version of steamboat or locomotive engines to generate electricity. The old engines ran at maybe 100 PSI to 150 PSI?

A 20 gallon 3 HP compressor takes about 5 minutes or less to fill? A cubic foot is about 8 gallons. A ten square foot circle is about 3 foot diameter. a 100 mile pipe would hold about 5,000,000 cubic feet. Maybe 250,000,000 horsepower-minutes at 100 PSI? My math isn't very good. Anyway, lots of energy storage.

February 3, 2012

That's how evolution works. The birds who avoid the blades will pass their DNA on to the next generation.

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