Changing Our Landscape to Gray and Black in Order to Be Green


Some years ago, back before it included two giant cooling towers, when I’d take that turn on Route 24 in Portsmouth that brings the Brayton Point power plant into view, I’d wonder how different it would feel if the structure in the distance were a medieval castle or something.

On the same stretch of highway, two separate wind turbines sit not far from the road, spinning away.  As suburban novelties, they bring almost a country feel, as if a couple of farmers installed them on their copious land to supplement their energy.  (Although, I’ll admit that driving through there at certain times of day is a little more unsettling than it used to be, because the flicker of the blades does spur a reaction.)

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Reading Alex Kuffner’s Providence Journal article on proliferating turbines, along with the panic among local municipalities as solar companies swoop in more aggressively than expected, makes me wonder if we’ve really thought out how all of this fashionable renewable energy will change the character of Rhode Island:

The wind turbines appear up ahead as you drive west on Route 6, rising high on a hill over Johnston.

In a matter of weeks, Green Development, of North Kingstown, has installed six of the German-made behemoths that each stand 524 feet tall when their blade tips are at their highest point — higher than the Industrial Trust building in Providence.

They aren’t buildings, of course, but that’s essentially a few city blocks worth of whirling skyscrapers.  Add in the replacement of forested areas with fields of black solar panels, and the Ocean State will start to feel very different.

We should probably start thinking about that.  After all, we’re not only tolerating the change, we’re subsidizing it heavily through our taxes and our electric rates.

  • Rhett Hardwick

    “Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds” should be required reading in our public schools.

  • Rhett Hardwick

    “Do you really think acres of forested land will be clear cut for solar photovoltaic farms or you’ll eventually be living boxed in by wind turbines? That is immature childish and alarmist thinking.”

    If you really believe that, give a read to “Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds”. Bear in mind that it was written in 1841 and much could be added.

  • Joe Smith

    Ask Vermont how that deforestation for huge wind turbines is working out.

    Subsidizing production first instead of the technology.

    Smart re-purposing (like investing in the technology to address stability for solar farm installation on landfills). Putting R&D efforts into more efficient microlevel solar photovoltaic technology at the consumer/building level. R&D into lower methane producing global livestock feed and capturing global livestock methane emissions.

    Seems there are a lot more ways to attack the renewable energy/climate change issues than wind.

    • Justin Katz

      Yet, it seems like the government initiatives emphasize development of new footprints rather than more efficient technology.

  • Merle The Monster

    While I agree that the landscape does indeed change with the expansion of wind and solar energy I would argue that changes such as the ones you mention have become commonplace throughout our history. Manufacturing relied on energy generated by water and dams were erected at the beginning of our country changing the shape of the landscape above and below the dams. Manufacturing also instituted the use of shrill mechanical whistles to signal time changing the aural experience of all who lived nearby. Smoke stacks belching smoke into once pristine air also represented significant changes for those who lived in their shadows. There are many examples such as the sounds generated now near marinas with the metal rigging clacking on the metal masts . That is a completely different sound than the one made by the mostly wooden masts and rope riggings. Some things are simply lost to history.
    The problem with wind turbines can be that they can cause harm to people by producing infrasound making it difficult to sleep and causing irritability