crystal-lake-view-of-sheffield-3

The above is

(a) beautiful,

(b) ugly,

(c) neither beautiful nor ugly in itself (nor anything else in particular), or

(d) _________ (fill in the blank)?

It’s a view (on a particularly hazy day) of the Sheffield wind power project in northeast Vermont, as seen from Crystal Lake State Park beach outside the town of Barton.

The view itself might be taken as biased. For one thing, it’s a blurry image (but that’s only because all I had was my Android with its cheap built-in camera; click on the image for a slightly clearer view). And the towers are so far away — not at all the kind of menacing immensity that would also show the swaths of forest eliminated in their making. (But also not at all their sleek and shiny beauty.)

My caption — the blog post title — might also be taken as biased. Why not “Ugly or what?”? Or might I be intending irony there? (And now that I’ve raised irony as a possibility but not a necessity, where does that leave things?)

If you’re getting the sense that utility-scale wind power development is controversial in this reputedly most “green” of states, you are correct.

Does it make a difference to your answer whether or not you know that the project pictured above is one of only four mountaintop industrial wind power projects in a state full of mountains and second-growth forested (“undeveloped”) ridgelines? (The four range from 4 to 21 wind turbines in scale, and 200 to 460 feet in turbine height.) Does knowing that there are well over a dozen others planned or projected make a difference?

Does knowing how poorly this compares with wind power development in several European countries — some of which are not much bigger in size than Vermont? Or how much Vermont’s economy depends on its tourist industry (which, for many, means on those very same undeveloped ridgelines)?

Does knowing that there have been many years of studies, reports, working papers, and debates about wind power as an energy resource in Vermont? Does knowing that a large majority of Vermonters are in favor of ridge-line wind development? Or that the majority of those facing wind power development in their own locales (a.k.a. “backyards”) become opposed to it?

My student Brian Miles had studied the visuality of the wind power debate in his Master’s thesis, and I’ll be working with some University of Vermont colleagues to contextualize that debate within the history of Vermont landscape ideas, ideals, and practices. So expect to hear more about the topic here.

Meanwhile, enjoy the view…

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