There was an interesting discussion about wind farms on Sydney radio this morning, sparked by the release of a CSIRO report showing atmospheric CO2 levels are their highest for 800,000 years.
That makes sense. I can’t remember them being any worse, and I’m getting pretty old. It’s been a cool, wet summer in Sydney, but the last decade was Australia’s warmest on record.
Those calling for fast-tracking of renewable energy development quickly run into opposition not only from the fossil fuel industry and shock-jocks, but also from environmental groups who contend that windmills spoil the scenery, disturb the peace and endanger low-flying orange-bellied parrots.
Our NSW state premier, Barry O’Farrell, is on record as saying he personally opposes the building of new wind farms. There’s a proposal that future wind farm developments will require signed consent of all residents within a 2 kilometre radius. Needless to say there is no such requirement for prospective coalmines or coal seam gas exploration.
I’m not an expert on the extent to which wind power can contribute to our energy requirements. Nor am I in a position to judge how many birds are endangered by windmills, compared to the number of birds endangered by climate change.
I am however an expert at looking at windmills. In Holland I ride past them constantly on my bike. My hearing is not perfect, but I can’t hear a windmill two kilometres away. Even from 20 metres there is hardly any sound.
I was interested to read in Alain de Botton’s book The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work that the old Dutch windmills were also once thought of as ugly industrial blots on the landscape.
Now of course we photograph them at every opportunity.
As a caller to the Sydney radio station pointed out, did rural residents ever complain about the clatter of the Southern Cross outside their back doors? They have been icons of the Australian countryside for generations.
I rather like the look of modern windmills. I find they elegantly enhance many views in the Netherlands. A row of them gently turning offshore reassures me that someone, somewhere is taking this environmental thing seriously, rather than just hoping it won’t happen.
A bit of Googling turned up some wonderful images of wind energy generators which are works of art.
Look at some of the designs on this website.
What do you think? Blots on the landscape? Ugly but necessary? Ugly and unnecessary? Or beautiful so long as they’re in someone else’s backyard?