Wind Turbines are a hot Massachusetts topic. The Cape Wind debates have been ongoing since I was in high school, or a little under a decade. Finally, last fall, a lease was approved for the land in order to put up 130 wind turbines off the coast. These are expected to provide power for 200,000 homes, or three-quarters of the Cape.
A little closer to my North Shore community, Ipswich put in a wind turbine this year. Additionally, there are plans for a wind turbine to be put in Lynn at the wastewater treatment facility. Here’s a small map of some of the other wind power sites in Massachusetts.
//update 2013: Since writing this post several new Turbines have gone up in Gloucester.
Now, I’m against rushing into decisions, even ones that are green, or support renewable energy. Environmental impacts needs to be studied, and a balance struck between preserving existing structures and constructing new ones.
However, part of the reason for the debate over planting wind turbines on the Cape was the appearance of the turbines. Perhaps over a decade ago, wind turbines seemed alien, something for farms in Texas, with hundreds spackling the landscape. Their streamlined appearance maybe belied the organic roughness of the ocean. They weren’t something rich Cape dwellers wanted to see from their oversize saltboxes.
However, Usually what we deem beautiful or ugly depends on what is familiar and socially sanctioned. Marketing, familiarity, and the status quo have a big deal to do with our ideas of what’s aesthetically pleasing.
For evidence of this, feel free to reference ongoing debates about what the most attractive size is for a women’s body. Another way of knowing how to react to structures is how they’ve been portrayed in art. We’ve seen beautiful pictures of clipper ships, the Eiffel Tower, and Delicate Arch in Utah. We know how to react to these things based on what others have portrayed. Yet, in and of themselves, they are neither beautiful nor ugly.
How do we react to Wind Turbines?
Artist Mark Beesley, from England, gives this representation below.
Wind turbines are not something we’ve been taught to believe are beautiful, or that we often see painted in soft hues, with radiant lines and alluring balance. This raises the question, is the landscape something unchanging – and our perception of it unalterable? Is the possibility of renewable energy only perfect if it involves no landscape change?
Mark Beesley, quoted in Grist magazine in 2006 doesn’t think so. “Beesley rejects the view that renewable energy must have zero impact. “I don’t buy this argument the countryside has to be preserved,” he said. “The landscape is constantly changing.””
I think we can go one step farther. As the landscape changes, we can adapt of vision of what is aesthetically pleasing. Though not an argument for sloppy design, functional can be beautiful, as boats are already seen, and often many skyscrapers. The more we normalize and celebrate wind turbines, the more they can be seen as something beautiful.
Furthermore, our other producers of power, coal and oil, can be equally unlovely, or lovely, depending on their portrayal. The Salem power plant is by no means the feather in the cap of Salem’s waterfront, but it is easy recognizable and a touchstone of the harbor.
The same could be said of the Friendship, or any of the hundreds of sailboats in the harbor. They aren’t natural, but they do represent something. A wind turbine can represent the power of a community pulling together in order to support one another from their own natural resources, something they have in common, coming from their own land. And that’s beautiful.
If you are interested in finding out more about the Salem Wind Project, check out their blog.
If you are interested in finding out more about Wind Power in Massachusetts, check out the Mass Energy website.