The Renewable Energy Infrastructure: Eyesore or Elegance?

Last month I made the cross-country trek from California to join my family on our annual Cape Cod vacation, and I noticed a few changes as I stared out the bus windows on the highway between Boston and the Sagamore bridge.  Most notably, a few single wind turbines had sprung up.  My first thought: "wow, they did a great job with those.  They look kind of elegant."  Now I am just one mind, and I know the elegance factor is lost on thousands of environmentalists who fear for the natural beauty of our landscape.  So of course I made a mental note to keep an eye on the topic in the media.  Well, last week Jeff Ball wrote an excellent article for the Wall Street Journal about how the debate is heating up.  He summarizes it quite well with these words: "Renewable-energy projects would reduce pollution and combat climate change. The trade-off is that many more people would have to see wind turbines, solar panels and other energy infrastructure near their homes in order to diminish the need for coal mines and other fossil-fuel facilities."

Near my current Palo Alto, CA home, I've observed more solar panels than wind turbines, but I think they look elegant too.  Now I'm talking rooftop installations vs. vast fields of solar panels, so I can't speak to the issue of filling previously unsettled natural landscapes with imposing technology structures.  But, I don't perceive solar panels and wind turbines in currently-developed areas as eyesores.  Tearing up natural resources to put them in is a different story, but along the highways of New England and California, I'd rather look at sleek renewable technologies than industrial warehouses and coal-firing plants.

I am reminded of the debates over cell phone towers when more people started to need service in more remote places.  In my home state of NH, they even disguised mountain-top towers as pine trees (nice try!).  Personally, I think the elegance of the wind turbine is a lot more appealing than a fake pine tree jutting out from the home Old Man in the Mountain (may he rest in peace).

Jeff Ball's article presents both sides of the argument quite well and I encourage you to read it and then express your own thoughts.  What do you think? Can we find common ground (no pun intended) when it comes to constructing the facilities and structures we need to help renewable energy power the US?

Contributed by Susan Wise.  Follow her @swise