Recently a colleague and I got to spend some time in a fine part of New York State with welcoming communities, beautiful rolling hills, picturesque barns and silos—and a ridge-full of wind turbines. What quickly became clear is that, for the host communities, the wind farm isn’t just about economics: the project is also part of the communities’ sense of self.
Colossal cows, kid cultivation
While the divisions that can come up as communities consider wind farm proposals apparently also emerged in the case of this particular wind farm, 10 years after construction that’s definitely not what shows. What shines through is a broad… not just acceptance of the wind farm, but an embracing of the project, and the technology.
That spirit of wind shows in the local cheese shop and coffee shop that sell postcards with photos of the pastoral local scene complete with the graceful 300-foot-tall kinetic sculptures. The cheese shop’s 10-foot-tall fiberglass cow (see image below) honors wind in the winning entry offered by a local girl in the public naming contest: Lady LeWinDa Milkzalot.
The spirit of wind is visible in the local school system. The school complex’s indoor pool proudly hosts the county swim team, the Turbines. Local schoolkids learn about wind power, then take field trips to the wind farm. A children’s book, Catch the Wind and Spin, Spin, Spin, by the husband of a local diner owner and a schoolboard member, captures the excitement about the wind farm and those visits, with illustrations done by local fourth graders.
Elsewhere in the local art scene, in her touching and humorous book about life as a dairy farming family, another local speaks affectionately of the turbines (“windmills”) that “rise m
ajestically”—and “put cash into farmers’ pockets.”
A couple that hosts several of the wind turbines (now retired as a dairy farmer, he works part-time for the wind farm giving tours) shows off scrapbooks lovingly compiled and stuffed with information about the wind farm, starting from its early development. Their home is also replete with representations of windmills (the quaint Dutch type) in almost every room: cups, plates, statues, prints…
At a local pub, the owner, unprompted, whips out a photo album with her personal documentation of the project’s progress, with shots of the major tower and turbine components climbing the road by her establishment, and talks fondly of visiting personnel from the construction phases that are still her friends all these years later.
“So natural to do!”
So many in the communities in the project’s vicinity seem to have really embraced their wind turbines.
That receptivity, along with the great wind resource, may be why several more wind projects are being considered in the immediate area. Whether those projects happen or not depends on lots of factors, including the economics, transmission capacity, and broader political climate.
Project proponents just might find, though, that in that area, the spirit of wind is strong and favorable, that people see in wind turbines a change for the better, and maybe just the way things should be.
This snippet from a poem in Catch the Wind nicely captures that idea:
The ridge of maple, of meadow, of height,
Is a perfect place to harness the wind’s might.
Our landscape is changing on the horizon of blue,
Farming the wind, so natural to do!
This article was originally published on the Union of Concerned Scientists USA blog, The Equation. Republished here with permission