Blown Away

Maple Ridge Wind FarmIn photographs, Maple Ridge Wind Farm is beautiful and beguiling. In person it’s an abomination. When you come upon them straddling rural Route 177 in Lewis County you can hardly believe your eyes. The giant wind turbines stretch as far as you can see on Tug Hill. There are 195 of them. When you see several wind turbines together it is an inspiring sight, but when there are nearly 200 of them it leaves a ravaged landscape —as ugly and out of place as the most unsightly factory. If fact, the towers are considerably worse than many industrial sites, rendering a vast stretch of farmland into a ruined landscape. When I came over the hill and saw them for the first time I had to slow down or else I would have driven off the road. I used to think that the people who opposed wind turbines were cranks —wackos and Luddites standing in the way of something clean and wonderful. After all, look how pretty they are in my pictures. Get out of your car and stand among the monsters and you might not feel that way.

19 thoughts on “Blown Away

  1. I haven’t been up to see the windmills yet. This would seem like a totally random comment, but it’s relevant since the land you drove through belongs to my family. Not the wind farm–they lease the rights to put the turbines up. I never thought it would actually happen.

    Very weird to hear people from my dad’s hometown on NPR on the way home from work, I must sy.

    I don’t know if these are better or worse than massive power lines cutting a swath through rural areas, or other infrastructure horrors. Nobody wants to live on Tug Hill, so farmers can’t sell out to developers for McMansion developments.

  2. Tell you what: if it were my land I’d be the first one lining up to sign the lease.

    I think maybe what Maple Ridge represents is poor planning. As I said, small clusters of turbines make for an interesting man-made feature. What they did up on Tug Hill is so extreme and out of scale that it’s almost shocking.

    When a friend recommended we drive that route so we could see the windmills, I was genuinely excited. Seriously, I couldn’t wait to see them. What I found when I got there was a real disappointment.

  3. Multiply your horror tenfold and more by driving west on I-80 through Nebraska. The effect is one of being on an alien planet for, surely, we would never intentionally devastate our landscape like this.
    The windmills rise and stretch above the ridge lines for miles on end, lined-up and closely-spaced like dominoes, perverting the beauty that was.
    I try, gently, to mention this when talking with proponents of wind farms because I think they have no idea what it really looks like.
    Then I feel guilty and try to make myself see beauty in their efficiency.
    But, I always wind up lamenting there isn’t a better way.
    Such a shame that a pristine source of power should present in the form of a monster.

  4. Interesting comments on the windfarm. At least it appears that you were actually there.
    My family has owned farmland on The Tug for over 100 years, have 4 of the windmills on the property, and have watched them develop. My feeling is that they have a beauty and majesty all their own, and add a presence to the Tug Hill landscape. Most importantly, they have added some economic stimulation to an area that badly needed it, something that your Albany politicians have never bothered with. I don’t know how far the windfarms will go toward easing the energy problems, but I would like to see more of them out there harvesting the wind, one asset New York has more than enough of.
    Keep up the good work.

  5. One would have to know what was there before, and what is there now, and not just do a drive-by. For many Tug Hill natives, it is the opportunity to hold onto a 100+ year old family farm for maybe another 25 years without having to sell it to pay property taxes. Hold on for 25 years and…who knows? But for a day-to-day struggling dairy farmer, well, after a while you don’t notice the windmill, like a power line or a cell tower, and those windmill folks sure built some great roads. Paved, even.

  6. What does it tell you when the land has very little value to anyone, but the taxes are so high that the landowners can’t afford to keep farming on it-until the windfarm blew in anyway. Learn to live with the windmills-they are part of the future.

  7. Wow, Laura, your Dad seems rather myopic on this matter, doesn’t he? And, way too ready to sport the green.
    I wonder how he’d feel about the windfarms if his 100+ year-old family farm were situated just far enough downwind of the prime locations that his 100+ year-old family farm didn’t merit even a single mill, and all he got out of this phenomenon was a drop in his property value because of the nearby visual devastation. (It’s easier to gaze kindly upon your own revenue-producing windmill than to look upwind at your neighbor’s.)
    Your Dad’s very attached to the monetary benefits of the package and not at all in tune with the fact that he just happened to luck out.
    The spirit of my post was to reveal the conflict of my feelings involved in balancing the beauty and the beast.

  8. Sorry if I come across as loving the windmills because I am reaping big bucks from their being there. Actually, I personally do not live there or own any of the property, though I know many people who do, and they embrace the windmills and all they have added to the community, even downwind. Things like lowered property taxes, improved roads, employment, yes, even some tourist activity. Whether they appear as an “abomination” or add to the landscape is a personal thing, but they are the present and the future. I personally dislike cell towers, sagging power lines, superhighways, mega-shopping centers, and other rewards of “civilization”, but there they are. I was just trying to point out that there are some good things there, unless you are just a passer-by.

  9. Thanks Rob for the straight forward report on the windmills. I also am sympathetic to the cause and will even admit to investigating erecting my own residential turbine. I’ve not been out there yet but plan on it.

    It’s a subject that unfortunately elicits strong passions that predictably cloud the issue. One thing I’m sure of though is that the alternatives (nuclear cooling towers, coal strip mining, oil spills, toxic waste water from natural gas drilling, but not transmission towers, gotta move that power where ever it comes from, another subject entirely) make me more tolerant of whatever blight these mills are perceived to cast on the landscape.

    I’m more concerned about the means and methods some of these companies are using to get their way with local communities.


  10. First of all, nice photos. 🙂

    I am probably in the minority, but I really like the look of these towers. I would much rather have a wind farm near me than, say, the massive power lines that run through some of my family’s property in Voorheesville.

  11. It’s funny…I happened upon the Lewis County wind farm on accident. I was bleary-eyed from a day chocked full of new sensory perception…My general disdain for all things Watertown was growing, as was the foreboding sense that I was traveling through the valley of the damned. Oddly, I had the exact opposite impression from these white beasts splitting the horizon, lazily spinning in the spring wind. I felt drawn to them in a sense; fascinated by their simple features juxtaposed with the stark landscape. For the first time in my travels through this doomed hinterland, I felt an odd sense of hope. But perhaps that was just my augmenting craving for a beer.

  12. There are many man made things that are ugly, by products of our industrial society. Superhighways are probably some of the worst — they divide whole communities by barriers of noise and disconnect, while private automobiles fly by.

    Windmills on the other hand don’t disrupt communities. They may be an inconvenience to farmers, if they are placed in the wrong part of a field, and they have to drive around them occasionally with the tractor. Other then that, they don’t do much damage.

    They are so big as we need so much energy. Each turbine puts out 1.65 MW at full speed, or roughly 2,145 HP. That’s a lot of power but nothing compared to the gigawatts our state consumes.

  13. With all due respect to the Amish, I think they represent a step back rather than a step forward. Not that that’s a bad thng.

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