The Care of Aesthetics
Renewable energy is, rightly, in vogue. After years of burning wood, coal, oil, and atoms, as in nuclear plants, popular opinion is shifting to passive energy. Solar, wind, and wave only require the power plant to exist in the presence of the natural, renewable energy source. In these cases, somewhere in the sun’s rays, in the air’s wind, and floating with the sea, respectively.
On Maui, in Hawaii, major wind energy interests have erected more than ten wind energy generators on the mountains near Kihei. These interests include far more than the wind generator manufacturers.
To name a few beneficiaries of such a project: The shippers of all of this material, the construction crew, and, most importantly, the land owners of the wind farm land and the right-of-ways that go to the farms.
These right-of-ways are, by necessity, located high into the mountains, often where no other human construction existed. The easements, or permission, required for construction and lifetime maintenance would generate thousands of dollars, perhaps millions, if the landowner were to be compensated for the use of the land by the power companies or the sponsoring municipality.
Wind generators must be located in strong wind channels which require, in this case, huge environmental impact. Worse, wind generators of all kinds take up much more than square-feet on the ground but volume in the air, sometimes hundreds of feet high.
Compare fields of wind farms with solar fields. Solar arrays may cover large swathes of land but they require little vertical real estate. Wind generators necessarily stretch high into the air, blocking out that air, essentially, from air travel and from people’s pleasurable view. It requires a volume of space instead of a square of space. Rotating blades also carve out a dynamic space of danger, where birds and planes would be mauled.
Whether any interests actually pushed wind farms on Maui for special gain, the worst reason to avoid wind power only appears at night.
Low on the horizon during a blackness of night that could only be found on the most remote island chain on the planet, a jarring set of lights signaled from a nearby mountain. In stark contrast with diamonds in the sky and actual shooting stars overhead, a red pox sat atop each windmill.
On that mountainside these lights sat blinking, precisely every 7 and a half seconds, taking away from what otherwise was a pristine, undistracted view.
Though there is little better than being a good citizen of the Earth, the Earth was made for beauty to be enjoyed.
The case for aesthetics must be made for all of our projects, whose lifetimes match or exceed our own.
Whether renewable wind energy or supposed benefits of desalinated Hudson River water, we must stand ready to sacrifice gains to protect long-term greatness in our environment.