In a comment on an earlier post, a reader included a link to an April 17, 2008 article from Pantagraph.com out of Bloomington, Il titled Are wind farm turbines making people sick? Some say yes. I thought that it would be worth elevating that link to the main blog, just in case there are rare readers that do not dig through every comment. (Grin)
The article provides a fascinating look at some of the unintended consequences that result from large installations of nearly any type. The effect on the neighbors that are forced to live near large, unavoidable machinery or towers can be more intense than many observers might imagine.
I once had a friend whose father installed cell phone towers for a living. That man advised me that there was no way that people would ever accept my atomic engines – he based that assertion not on any personal disagreement with the power source but on his belief that any society where people would fight benign towers like the ones that he was trying to install would fight almost anything. I could never convince him to understand that the difference was that his towers were butt ugly and were, by necessity, installed in places where people could not avoid looking at them.
I feel the same way about high voltage transmission lines and enormous wind turbines. Some might feel that they are simply part of the landscape, but others that are forced to be close to them find out that they are really quite intrusive and make unavoidable noises. In contrast, there are ways to make fission power plants that are pretty darned invisible and quiet. I think it is worth remembering that fact in a world that is getting ever more crowded and where one person’s income producing equipment can become another person’s nightmare property intrusion.
One of my main beefs with the wind industry is that the “cheaper” wind power requires ever larger turbines and ever larger wind farms that are often a long way from the load centers. That means that the power source has an ever increasing impact on the visual environment and affects an ever increasing percentage of the population. I spent some time on the Rhine River last summer and I have seen a number of the ridge top turbine installations in West Virginia. Those turbines are ever present and make a permanent mark on the natural environment. I consider myself an environmentalist of the Ansel Adams or Teddy Roosevelt school; vistas are as important to me as clean air and clean water.
Of course, I understand that most current nuclear plants are no so invisible – remember, however, that my nuclear training came while I was a member of the Silent Service whose motto was “Remain Undetected.” I can accept the fact that large transmission systems exist and will probably be necessary for the foreseeable future, but there is an option to widespread installation of more of them. If long lived fission power plants are relatively small and close to the consumer, there is little need for fuel transportation infrastructure or transmission line pollution.