Wednesday, July 21, 2010

What a view!

I haven't blogged much this week, as I took my children with me to visit my parents. Mommy stayed behind to work on a project and take a much-deserved break.

My parents live near a little mountain town called Burney, which is located in the forested volcanic flatlands of northeastern California, right in between the cascade volcanoes of Mount Shasta and Mount Lassen.

Burney is located in a large bowl which is ringed by mountains that separate the town from the northern end of California's Central Valley where the city of Redding is located. On your way out of town on the way to Redding used to be the sight of a beautiful ridgeline called Hatchet Ridge, complete with lots of forested goodness.

No more.

As you can plainly see from these photos I took, the ridge is now polluted with the sight of over a dozen 420-foot wind turbines. Construction is still underway on these turbines. Ultimately, there will be 44 of them dominating 6-and-a-half miles of skyline, and they will take up about 3,000 acres of forestland.

Much has been made about the "green" energy produced by wind turbines. It is true that when the propellers are spinning, no emissions are produced. However, all is not well in the land of wind-produced energy. There are certain aspects of wind turbines that are not trumpeted by people who champion their use.

According to author Eric Rosenbloom, a wind turbine the size of the ones being put into place on Hatchet Ridge can take up over an acre of vertical area when the 140-foot propellers are spinning. For environmentalists who are always so concerned about wildlife, that is approximately 44 acres of a deadly obstacle course of propellors spinning in excess of 100mph that must be negotiated by the local menagerie of creatures that fly - both birds and bats. The wind industry acknowledges that the massacre of flying creatures is a big problem wherever wind farms are located.

There are other problems associated with wind turbines that make them not as "green" as most people think, and I saw some of these issues with my own eyes. On a forested, hilly location like Hatchet Ridge, large roads must be cut into the mountainside in order to make it possible to move these monstrous machines (and the crane that will be required to erect them) into position along the almost 7-mile-long location where the turbines will be placed. Acres of forest will have to be cleared (and remain cleared) around each of these 44 turbines. This is rather ironic seeing as how that entire area was reforested after a devastating forest fire tore through that same area in 1992.

For the residents of Burney, there will always be the issue of visual blight. From downtown, the turbines are clearly visible, and they are ugly. Hundreds of the town's residents signed a petition saying that very thing. At night, there will also be the glow of dozens of red blinking lights that will be necessary to keep low flying aircraft from crashing into them.

For anyone who pooh-poohs the visual impact of these monstrosities, never forget the reaction of the late Ted Kennedy and his clan when they found out that a wind farm was going to be installed on the Massachusetts coast within sight of their living area. Ted Kennedy, a major proponent of wind power and other forms of "green" energy fought as hard as he could to stop the proposed wind farm from being built. Humorously enough, the wind farm was approved only after Kennedy died and was no longer around to oppose it. Visual blight was perfectly acceptable to force upon the peasants, but when it came to the Kennedys' back yard, they demonstrated through their actions just how unpleasant a sight these wind turbines truly are. From what I understand, they are also quite noisy, and they can produce a highly annoying flicker when the sun is setting behind them. Since Burney faces west toward Hatchet Ridge, this is another potential issue on the horizon... so to speak.

What does Burney get out of all this? A promise of a few million dollars in community improvements, to be paid by Shasta County and the company that is installing the turbines. However, judging by comments in the Record-Searchlight article that talks about this appeasement money, it appears that the residents of Burney are going to have to fight every step of the way to ensure that the money is spent specifically on the community of Burney (population 3,000+) and not on Shasta County in general, with the county being dominated by the city of Redding (population 100,000+). As an interesting aside, no power from the $200+ million-dollar project is guaranteed to specifically feed into the Burney area. I spoke to Dylan Darling, who is the environmental reporter for the Redding Record-Searchlight. He confirmed for me that any power produced from the wind turbines on Hatchet Ridge will go into the general power grid for the state of California. The rest of the state will benefit from any power produced, but in the end, it will be the residents of Burney who have to gaze upon these dozens of 420-foot towers every day.

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free... it expects what never was, and never will be." -Thomas Jefferson


Anonymous said...

I dont think they are eyesores. I think they look quite majestic.

Coach Brown said...

Jeez Buck, thanks for ruining my weekend. I'm heading to Burney tomorrow and know you're telling me the entire ridge is a wind farm??


Anonymous said...

Anonymous: They may look majestic to you, but the dead birds didn't think so just before they got knocked out of the sky by the blades, or the trees that got ripped up to make room for the metal monsters that look like something out of a horror movie. I really look forward to all the lights blinking on the ridge causing light pollution in the previously dark sky. Sorry, majestic never came to mind.

Coach Brown said...

Wow, you were not kidding. The entire ridge is just covered with the metal monstrosities. It really is nasty. Coming back from Lake Britton in the evening has a formally beautiful view now marred by these things.

Darren said...

There's a fiberglass trailer rally at Burney Falls in September, and I'll be taking the Egg-terprise. I'll keep a look-out for these windmills, perhaps I'll even tilt at one or two.

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E.A. said...

Correction/update: Cape Wind, opposed by the Kennedys and many others, is dead in the water as of early 2015.

That's a relatively rare victory in America so far, probably because it's such a high profile location. But there's a growing backlash for environmental sanity. I hope these alien wind towers are routinely seen as villains, not green gods. America once had a lot of open space but it's not true anymore, relative to what could be lost in the future. With wind turbines you can never treat any given area as safe without a fight.

E.A. said...

Anonymous said...
"I dont (sic) think they are eyesores. I think they look quite majestic."

They may be majestic in the context of human architectural achievement, but only in limited numbers. They tend to disrespect most landscapes they're placed on by virtue of sheer prominence.

Imagine someone running through the world's museums painting white slashes on priceless landscape paintings. With real landscapes it's far worse. It's obvious desecration unless you work hard to pretend otherwise. I don't like pretending.

I can stomach wind turbines to some degree on flat farmland that's already industrialized, but we need to stop blighting prominent mountain ridges.