Clean Tech Changes The View – OK by Me!

Wind Turbine at Bershire East

From power lines to lakes, rivers to roads, pilots use visual flight rules (VFR) sectional charts to understand what the landscape will look like underneath them when flying VFR. Wind energy generation facilities present a new landmark on VFR charts, which is easily identifiable from the air.

On a recent flight, I knew that I was coming up on the back of Berkshire East ski area, even though I couldn’t see the slopes. The ski area’s wind turbine, which powers 100% of the resort’s electricity needs, rises high above the hills with very little around it.

Berkshire East Ski Area and Turbine

In the past, I would have waited to see the slopes to know my position relative to the ski area.

A little further North, I spotted nine huge turbines lined up majestically along a ridge.

It was the Southern Vermont Wind Power facility at Searsburg – easily seen from low altitudes, whereas you might use the Harriman Reservoir nearby as a landmark from higher altitude.

Spotting those large man-made structures from the air reminds me of so many voices crying out against wind energy, from those who fear bird kills to those who demand greater efficiencies and more testing, to those who lament the altered views and vistas. Yet, as I fly above those majestic, slowly-turning blades, I feel echoes of what Bill McKibben wrote in a blog post entitled “The Fierce Urgency of Now.

Southern Vermont Wind Power Facility

“The slow, steady turning that blows us into a future less hopeless than the future we’re steaming toward now.”

I have flown low and high over much of this country, and I always prefer seeing wilderness instead of man-made structures. But in a year when the White House has opened an additional 750 million tons of coal to mining leases in Wyoming (the equivalent of running 3,000 new power plants for a year), I’d rather gaze down to see windmills instead of coal mines, smokestacks and refineries.

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