Monday, August 04, 2008

 

Slow Motion Grandeur

Glenn Reynolds linked today to an oddly tense NY Times report on a Nebraskan wind farm. Here’s the paragraph noted by Reynolds:
Driving south out of the agricultural town of Ainsworth, you can’t miss its newest crop: wind turbines, three dozen of them, with steel stalks 230 feet high and petal-like blades 131 feet long, sprouting improbably from the sand hills of north-central Nebraska, beside ruminating cattle. Though painted gray, the turbines stand out against the evening backdrop of battleship-colored thunderclouds and bear an almost celestial whiteness when day’s light is right. Airplane pilots can spot them from far away, and rarely does a bird make their unfortunate acquaintance.
However naturally obeisant is the Times to politically correct environmentalism, reporter Dan Barry paints a barely ambivalent portrait of wind power in his moody piece.

True to Grey Lady form, he does manage to slip in a negative reference to Iraq, in dwelling on the previous occupation of a wind turbine mechanic, in the close of his reflection:
But someone has to mind the turbines: someone like Jered Saar; someone like Devin Painter.

The two men drive the sand hills, tending to their crop. They know the 36 turbines by name and idiosyncrasy; the tendencies of T-9, of T-24, of T-35. They know how the blades will seek the wind like flowers seeking the sun; how come winter, the blades will turn north to receive strong winds carrying the whiff of a feedlot in town. They know that winds blowing 9 miles an hour begin to create energy, and winds blowing more than 45 miles an hour mean the turbines will shut down in self-protection.

This time a year ago, Staff Sergeant Saar was providing security to convoys snaking through dangerous, nerve-raw terrain; two soldiers from his company, the 755th Chemical, were killed. Now he snakes through hills of calm, his only neighbors some American burying beetles, the occasional deer or grouse, and herds of cows.

If he sees connections between these two lives of his, if he sees the ceaseless need for energy as the common thread, he does not say. The Nebraska winds blow, the turning blades create a new kind of power, whuh ... whuh ... whuh, and the man says it again: “I definitely would much rather be here than there.”
Barry’s veiled and entirely gratuitous swipe at the war in Iraq notwithstanding, I very much appreciated reading this piece. I can also imagine SSG Saar may not have meant his comment in quite the manner Barry surmised.

Having spent time around a large wind farm only this past weekend, I’d suggest that I’d rather be under the giant aliens than just about anywhere. They are absolutely awesome in a magnitude of scale like Niagara Falls, or like some energy equivalent of the Washington Monument: beyond belief when you stand at their base. Beyond their size, the majesty of their fluid motion approaches the slow motion grandeur of glaciers, or lava flows.

Mrs. Dadmanly, Little Manly, and I spent the weekend at Lake Ontario, and drove past a very large wind farm outside of Watertown, NY, near Lowville.

There has to be over 50 turbines set up on a rather high plateau, standing between the Great Lakes and the Adirondacks. They sit on the highest point for hundreds of miles North, and the jet stream and weather patterns no doubt conspire to route massive amounts of wind past ands through the waiting turbines.

Mrs. Dadmanly admits to being unusually and inexplicably afraid of the monstrous towers. I pushed my good standing to the limit be detouring to the base of one of the turbines. We didn’t linger long, for her sake.

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