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Tacoma Narrows…Turbine?

November 10, 2007

After reading Dave K’s post on a new type of wind power generator I have to admit I’m pretty excited. It uses the vacillation of a thin strip of material resonating in the wind to produce electricity. A video can be seen here. The movement is similar to the Tacoma Narrows Bridge disaster, where a bridge fluctuated wildly in high winds before collapsing, only here the movement is intentional. We’ll have to see if they can scale up to compete with conventional turbines.

Dave K sees this as a solution to landscapes marred by existing turbines. Although I’ve never seen a wind turbine farm I have a hard time believing the visual change completely voids the energy gain. There are plenty of unsightly cell towers in my area, and I would much rather see turbines in their place. But Dave K is not the first person I’ve heard express this sentiment. I listened to Robert Kennedy Jr. speak a few years ago, and he has been an outspoken opponent of a proposed wind turbine farm six miles off the coast of Nantucket. Part of the complaint is that the turbines will destroy the historic views, even though they will barely appear on the horizon.

What is the balance between visual aesthetics and renewable energy? There seems to be a “not in my backyard” sentiment with sustainable power plants just as there is with their fossil fuel counterparts. If we claim to support clean energy, don’t we need to be prepared to see the required infrastructure in our neighborhoods, alongside our highways, and perhaps even in a natural preserve? Or are there areas too sacred to touch?

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