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Wind Farm Off Cape Cod? Dumb & Dumber

Windmills that power Copenhagen. (Johan Spanner/The New York Times)

Some guy wants to build 100 windmills off the coast of Cape Cod. These would make him money and generate electricity.

We need electricity that doesn’t come from burning coal. The wind, of course, is free, although the turbines cost a bundle.

The Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, will announce his decision about this project next week, and the publicity campaign is now being ramped up in The New York Times.

I think it’s a terrible idea—but unlike all other commentators, I live right next door to a huge wind farm. I know what these windmills look like; I know what they do to the landscape; I know what it’s like to live with them.

Don’t put windmills in the ocean. They don’t belong there. They’re terribly unsightly, and there’s something morally wrong with defacing the ocean so you can put up an industry.

Windmills belong where I live, not off Cape Cod. For heaven’s sake, what a stupid idea.

Preserve the beautiful spaces of the earth. That includes Cape Cod.

Tear up my backyard if you’ve got to; very few people will complain.

I live in a very isolated part of Northwest Indiana. I’m 80 miles south of Chicago, only three miles from the state line. It’s windy here. You’ve heard of the Windy City; welcome to my windy town.

If you put out lawn furniture, you’re going to have to pick it up three days a week. The wind will send your chairs flying into the trees. This gets old after awhile.

You can try putting your patio table on the protected covered porch on the east side of the house, as I do; then you get to pick it up once a week. It never sticks where you put it.

This part of Indiana got the first wind farms in the state. Now they’re building more. There are going to be windmills everywhere you look.

While they’re very tall, they’re not these horrible monstrosities to look at—at least not individually. They’re a big tall pole with three blades; that’s it.

But when you put in hundreds of them, they dominate the landscape. They’re all you can see—and that’s not good, even here in farm country where you don’t live.

This part of Indiana has a certain quiet beauty to it, and ohmyword, the soil. My tomato plants grow six feet wide in just a little bit of black dirt. It’s some of the richest in the world.

But somebody decided that, the population here being small and isolated, and the wind blowing so much, this was a good spot for a wind farm. The plots do not take up a great deal of ground space. So the man decided to send an army of little salesboys to approach each landowner separately, offering halfway decent money as long as you don’t tell your neighbors what we’re doing.

That says a great deal about the character and ethics of wind farm promoters. They’re skunks.

Each tower pays about $6000 a year in land rents. That’s not so much until you consider that a farmer with 200 acres may have 20 windmills. It starts to add up to real money, and he can farm around the towers. It’s a good deal for the farmers; it’s even a good deal for county government. And that means my taxes don’t rise because there’s another source of income.

But it defaces the earth, and I really wish we didn’t have these things.

Something about them is profoundly disrespectful to the land, and to the culture and the people here.

This is not to say I wouldn’t sell my house if they wanted to put up a pole here; once you’ve got a hundred windmills, what’s another dozen?

In fact I’m not sure my town will continue to exist in the distant future; we’re 1800 people with $100,000 houses, and it might just be cheaper to replace us all with windmills.

I’d be sad, though; the tomatoes here are really good.

If you have to put up windmills, and it seems we do, then for heaven’s sake put them here, where few people live, not in the Great Lakes or off the coast of Cape Cod.

The windmill industry is touting that water-based windmills are more efficient than land-based ones because it’s windier out there on the water.

This ignores that it’s a lot easier to build a windmill on Old McDonald’s Farm than it is in the middle of the ocean.

Indiana is willing to do its part to meet the energy needs of the 21st century. We have accepted these giant towers without much controversy. Our state is largely powered by coal from West Virginia miners and we know that burning that stuff is bad. We have not had a great uprising, Not in My Back Yard!

But there are some places you should never put a windmill or a power line. Lake Michigan is one; the ocean off Cape Cod is another.

Don’t put an electrical tower in the Smoky Mountains; it’s just immoral.

Put these things where they ought to go; don’t buy into the industry’s greedy hype that if Salazar doesn’t okay the Cape Cod project, all wind farms are suddenly down the tubes. That’s ridiculous. I’m living next to a wind farm that churns out the very juice that powers your internet.

And every few days I pick up the patio furniture, put it back where I think it’s supposed to go, and we carry on. It would be nice if the chairs would stay where I put ’em, but they don’t. That’s the price we pay for living here, just like tomatoes are the reward.

We’re going to have to do some serious thinking in this country, which we haven’t started yet, about where to site these projects. Much of Texas is wide open and ugly; perfect spot. Maybe you think Indiana’s ugly; you might have to pay extra for hurting my feelings. But with five or six towers on my land I could live a decent life, plus it would be helping Chicago.

We’re willing to do anything that helps our country. But it’s really stupid to put 400-foot towers in a scenic lake or off the coast of Cape Cod, when there are plenty of places willing to accept them in return for a little cash. Besides the wind that sweeps in here from Iowa and Illinois, we’ve got homegrown politicians whose every utterance can make the rotors whirl; so why would you put a windmill in a place of beauty?++

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