atop a windblown world

This is my first real chance to sit down and write a post while on the road. That probably gives you some idea of the nature of the trip. My travel companion and I have been off wandering along backroads and rivers for the past week or so and rarely sitting around in places where we have access to the net. However, this morning, I have the chance to post a couple of items from along the road and wanted to share a few thoughts. The first piece this morning is about windmills old and new, and about windfarms. I’ve posted several photos of the windfarm that we stopped to see near Condon, which is east of Hood River not too far from the Columbia Gorge.

I’d seen the Condon windfarm on a tv show from Oregon, so did know something in advance of our visit. However, I also had some preconceived notions about windfarms based on things I’d read in the past. I had heard that they were pretty noisy and also that many people consider them an ugly and intrusive thing on the landscape. I guess that what follows is just another example of “to each his own” as far as opinions are concerned. On the noise factor, I’d have to say that, unless one is fairly close to the windmill site, the noise isn’t really too bad at all (and I’m generally quite sensitive to annoying sounds). The only thing I can really compare it to is the sound of an airplane as heard from some distance, and the intensity of the sound depends on your proximity, and probably also on the wind speed at a particular time. We stopped off to visit on quite a windy day, so I’d guess we were hearing the wind turbines operating at almost their maximum amount of noise.

As for their appearance. Well, let me just say that, yes, they are visible from quite a distance. They are very large. However, they are also (to me) quite beautiful in shape. They seem almost sculptural. They have a very minimalist design — not heavy and clunky looking, but almost lofty — like they are part of the sky. We happened to visit on a day in which the wind turbines became part of a vast skyscape of clouds. It was interesting to see the whites, grays and other tones of the sky rhymed in the blades and columns of the turbines.

The other thing that is less easy to explain and must, perhaps, be experienced, is the movement of the blades. Both of us expressed the opinion that it is hypnotic — in a pleasant way. Watching the blades turning is actually kind of relaxing. The blades turn at different speeds, and occasionally some of them are stopped, but the unity of their appearance creates an interesting visual effect even when the blades are not moving at the same speed. It’s an unusual kind of synchronicity and we both found it pleasing to watch. I’ve posted a little mp4 movie for anyone who happens to want to see what I mean about the motion of the blades. It’s about 1 mb. in size and runs about 24 seconds. (Note: I’ve left the soundtrack on the mp4 clip — but keep in mind that most of the “noise” you’re hearing is just the natural wind noise that was messing with the mic on my camera — it was a very windy day).

So, after visiting the Condon windfarm, I’m a little more reassured that windfarms do not seem to be quite the blight that I’ve read or heard in the past. I’d have to say that I wouldn’t mind seeing them somewhere on the horizon in my own neck of the woods if they were sited in places where they did the least amount of damage to the ecosystem — in particular, to migrating birds. Apparently, if sited well, they have minimal impact on birds. If they can be sited in safe places where they don’t create some kind of havoc for wildlife, then I think their appearance and their operational sound is probably a small price to pay for relatively clean energy production.

By the way, the old Aeromotor windmill in the top photo stands off from the windfarm. I enjoyed the juxtaposition of the old and the new. On this very windy day, the old windmill was doing a little spinning of its own. Really a neat thing to see.

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2 Responses to “atop a windblown world”

  1. marja-leena Says:

    Lovely photos! This reminds us of our trip to southwest Alberta this past June where we came across a lot of windfarms. We found them beautiful and dramatic, like sculptures as you say, and did not find them noisy. Yes, the turning of the blades has a relaxng effect! Our first experience seeing them was in Denmark in 2000, where I believe they have the largest number in the world, or is it now Germany?. These look like Danish or German models, both top wind turbine producers.

    Continued happy travelling!

  2. LauraH Says:

    I just read a short piece from a California newspaper about windfarms. There, they are shut down for two months to lessen the danger to migratory birds and bats. The article said that at this particular farm upwards of 5,000 birds are killed each year.