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A battle between wind and beauty

As tourists arrive to appreciate this landscape for the first time, it is here that many also have their first encounter with modern, large-scale wind power production. Upon seeing that these facilities are not, as they are portrayed in numerous cartoon images on electrical bills, mere sets of three or four towers nestled into rolling glens, travelers' first impressions are often negative. Such encounters do not just hurt tourism in Texas but also renewable energy causes in tourists' own parts of the world.

Pause in the summer heat for a moment and consider how your humming air conditioner, the tumultuous wind and the Texas landscape that afternoon storms roll over are each bound to one another, and the world, like never before.

The Lone Star State is now home to the country's most prominent wind-energy investors, the largest wind projects and a population where almost three of every four people are in favor of increased spending on energy technology. This is happening when tourism in rural Texas, particularly windy West Texas, is becoming increasingly popular, attracting everyone from film buffs to artists to road trippers.

This presents Texas with an opportunity - and a challenge.Anyone who has seen older wind farms in places like Tehachapi and the Altamont Pass in California quickly appreciates the impressive advancements the years have brought to the field of wind-power production. Modern facilities are not only more efficient, but the towering, sleek wind turbines are a far cry from those of years past, which were little more than awkward, oversized versions of ranch windmills.

But in places like West Texas, these advancements often mean... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Pause in the summer heat for a moment and consider how your humming air conditioner, the tumultuous wind and the Texas landscape that afternoon storms roll over are each bound to one another, and the world, like never before.

The Lone Star State is now home to the country's most prominent wind-energy investors, the largest wind projects and a population where almost three of every four people are in favor of increased spending on energy technology. This is happening when tourism in rural Texas, particularly windy West Texas, is becoming increasingly popular, attracting everyone from film buffs to artists to road trippers.

This presents Texas with an opportunity - and a challenge.Anyone who has seen older wind farms in places like Tehachapi and the Altamont Pass in California quickly appreciates the impressive advancements the years have brought to the field of wind-power production. Modern facilities are not only more efficient, but the towering, sleek wind turbines are a far cry from those of years past, which were little more than awkward, oversized versions of ranch windmills.

But in places like West Texas, these advancements often mean little. Even new facilities are often at visual odds with the basic elements that make such wind-swept provinces so stunning. West Texas' beauty is in the land's vastness and openness, the way it rolls, towers and spreads under a crystal dome of almost perfectly pure heavens.

Wind turbines are profoundly vertical elements in a landscape defined by its horizontality. They perch atop the most prominent rises and ridgelines, rather than resting beneath them. They break the visual rhythm of the terrain and puncture the most notable feature of almost any vista: how the land meets the sky.

As tourists arrive to appreciate this landscape for the first time, it is here that many also have their first encounter with modern, large-scale wind power production.

Upon seeing that these facilities are not, as they are portrayed in numerous cartoon images on electrical bills, mere sets of three or four towers nestled into rolling glens, travelers' first impressions are often negative. Such encounters do not just hurt tourism in Texas but also renewable energy causes in tourists' own parts of the world.

This situation, however, presents a unique opportunity. While much is being done to make wind farms more visually pleasing, there are still too many who consider landscapes like West Texas' to be valueless - as is often revealed in tumbleweed-filled imagery in wind-energy advertising.

If this state can develop wind farms that respect - and even accentuate - those basic elements of West Texas beauty by avoiding the ridgetops, blending into the rises and falls of the land, and paying reverence to the horizon line, tourists will be more likely to spread the word of Texas' success. This will benefit not only the Lone Star State, but those windy, heretofore unappreciated parts of the country now being developed as well as the future of renewable energy across the planet.

Texas will also ensure that it remains a leader in wind power long after other places have spent more money, built larger facilities and taken the noble cause of sustainability to heart.

But this situation also presents Texans with a challenge. Now may be the last time when residents can decide what parts of Texas they would like to see preserved for their children. Unlike in years past, it is not the Big Bends or Palo Duro Canyons that are threatened, or even the edges of Texas' ever-expanding metropolises, but rather those far-flung landscapes that embody the everyday grandeur of a state for whom open country is a birthright.

Texas is now faced with the complex realities of leadership in renewable energy. The fact of the matter is that wind power is judged today, and will continue to be judged for generations to come, not only by its ability to be efficient, profitable and environmentally benign, but also by how it transforms the land.

In West Texas, a realm at once rugged and gentle, spectacular and subtle, the Lone Star State is presented with an opportunity to brighten its future, and a challenge to preserve its past.

Jason Alexander Hayter is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin and a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of City and Regional Planning at the University of California, Berkeley. His e-mail address is jason_hayter@hotmail.com .


Source: http://www.dallasnews.com/s...

AUG 21 2009
https://www.windaction.org/posts/21862-a-battle-between-wind-and-beauty
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