As someone who has grown up in rural areas on the Great Plains I can attest to the emptiness and lack of obvious scenery of the rolling hills and flat lands of the central U.S., where nothing stops the wind except maybe a clump of trees here and there planted in the 30's during the Dust Bowl and lots of barbed wire. So, when the large wind mills came about 10 years ago, it was quite a sight to see the massive monoliths standing tall on the prairie catching its ever-present wind. Modern day had hit the plains, an idea was in place to generate clean energy, and it looked good doing it.
Over the years, the wind farms began cropping up here and there, usually in some rural area off the beaten path. A few were set up along major routes such as I-40, visible to all and sometimes became a reason to stop and take a neat photo for those from the east or west coast. This was quickly becoming the energy of the future, creating jobs and helping to do our part to fight against the growing problem of Global Warming.
As I was driving to the Wichita Wildlife Refuge in southwest Oklahoma a few weeks back, I noticed a wind farm had been put up on the north side of the mountains, basically on the opposite side of the northern border of the park. It got me to thinking about all the places I have been in the Great Plains and how they have changed over the years. No longer was there a clear sight to the mountains looking to the south, forever replaced by the hulking wind mills and spanning across the visible landscape. At night, the blinking red lights would resemble an alarm clock that had been reset at midnight blinking on and off incessantly, as if waiting for someone to change the time.
Other places maybe not as scenic to everyone began to see them as well. The small town of Putnam, OK along highway 183 lives almost in the shadow of them these days. Places in Wyoming, Colorado, and Kansas that used to be home to untouched landscapes are now dotted with large numbers of wind mills, taking away a little more of the wildness that made such places unique and special. Over the years, at least to me, the wonders of man had become more of an eyesore and a reminder of the shrinking world we live in.
This article isn't to bash the idea of wind energy. It has a positive impact on energy, and is a clean alternative to coal and other "dirty" energies. It is an economic boon to the farmers and land owners on the plains, and it creates jobs in places where jobs previously couldn't be found. What I do get concerned about though is the amount of space it takes up and as it grows it will only require more land, more vistas gobbled up. There are other issues as well that have been expressed by others who are affected by them. I read an article the other day where meteorologists were concerned about the wind farms and how they affect storm visibility on radar. Another issue brought up elsewhere is the concern about the impact they are having on wildlife. Birds and bats are dying at an alarming rate, either being attracted to or just not able to navigate the large turbines.
As this form of energy grows, it will require more and more space. This space won't be taken up in urban areas, it will be in the sparsely populated areas where fewer people live. This is great for the masses, but slowly but surely takes out a little piece of America's wildness and what makes it great with it. My hope is that somewhere along the way we figure out how to make a smaller footprint upon the land and still achieve the energy production we need to realize to meet the world's needs. Others may not agree, or may not even care how much space is taken up. "There's nothing to look at anyways if they weren't there." I believe there are places in this world where a little less impression by man is a good thing, and without it you can see everything.
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