Windmills: Coming Soon To A Shoreline Near You?

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We recently returned from a camping trip to Port Burwell Provincial Park, on the shore of Lake Erie in Southwestern Ontario.  What made this trip a little different from the usual was that besides local wildlife and flora to explore, there was a looming man-made feature of considerable interest.  A wind farm has sprung up around the park.  You can see from the photo on the right taken from the beach in the Provincial Park, that the white towers pretty much dominate the horizon.

It seems likely that with rising energy costs and depleting supplies of fossil fuels, massive wind turbines are going to become a more common sight.  The Great Lakes have been a natural choice to be among the first commercial wind-generated power installations in Canada; the shore region is subject to strong and steady winds, major population centers are nearby, but much of the area is open farmland as opposed to built-up urban areas.  All perfect for large-scale wind farm development.

The Port Burwell installation (officially the Erie Shores Wind Farm) consists of 66 turbines capable of generating a combined 99 mega-watts of power.  Everyone has seen pictures of wind farms by now, but to be right under one of these generators gives you a pretty good idea of exactly how big one actually is.  And chances are, it’€™s bigger than you realize.  Each of the three blades (at least of this General Electric model) is over 130 feet in length; apparently some turbines have blades that exceed 200 feet in length!   In comparison, an average transport truck -or eighteen wheeler– is in the neighborhood of 70 to 80 feet long, including the truck itself.  Have a look at this photo my wife snapped of a turbine blade being transported to another site via truck, and you can imagine the logistics involved in assembling these things.

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More on windmills and a Bad Dad confession after the jump.

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Wired.com Science had an article on a New York movement against windmills back in 2006.  But from what I could tell, having the wind farm hasn’€™t disrupted life much in Port Burwell.  There were no protest signs around that I could see (although with the system live for two years, the dust may have settled by now), and anecdotally, most visitors seemed to think that new addition to the skyline was pretty much harmless, if not kind of cool.  My wife thought she could hear one of the turbines turning one evening -a low frequency pulsing sound- but it wasn’€™t really bothersome and we never did figure out if it actually was a turbine making the noise.  I passed several hand-painted signs advertising windmill tee shirts and windmill hats, so it seems that the locals are making the best of it as well. 

Personally, I’d rather look at a cluster of these things than deal with the output from a coal-fired electric plant.  I think they look kind of elegant.  But then again, I don’t have to look at them all day, every day.

Back to camping, here’€™s my last shot at the Bad Dad theme.  While I respect nature, appreciate that Provincial Parks provide more than adequate rest room facilities and understand at an intellectual level that there are laws forbidding public urination, I do possess that troublesome Y chromosome.  All of which means that, if it’€™s dark, the campfire is dying down, my wife isn’€™t looking and the neighbors aren’€™t out and about, I have been known to skip the stroll to the rest room facilities and let the boys just pee in the woods.  I doubt that they’€™ll grow up to be habitual public urinators based on my occasional laziness and I€’m pretty sure the cute forest creatures are peeing in the woods too, so it shouldn’€™t kill the trees.  But I’€™d still rather not get caught.

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