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News & Articles on Wind Energy & the Environment

September 17, 2004
Paul Gipe

Wind Turbines and Parks


In response to an announcement about a hike among wind turbines in California's Tehachapi Pass a question was raised about the use of wind turbines in or around parks or other public use areas. The following is a listing of those parks or sites that come quickly to mind. It is not meant to be comprehensive. If anyone knows of additional sites please post them to Paul Gipe and we'll add the sites to the list as time permits.

The first part of this list are parks or public use areas where the wind turbines have been added for utilitarian reasons or to increase public awareness of renewable energy.

Pennsylvania

There was a 4 kW Enertech installed at Presque Isle State Park in Erie Pennsylvania in the early 1980s. The turbine was inoperative for many years. On September 17, 2004 a new Bergey Excel on a 120-foot tower was set into operation to replace the old Enertech. For more information see http://www.dep.state.pa.us/newsletter/default.asp?NewsletterArticleID=9295&SubjectID or http://www.ncenergysystems.com/presqueisleproject.htm.

There is a 1 kW Bergey at an Audubon Society preserve near Pittsburgh. Bill Hopwood reports that it has since been joined by a 1.5 kW PV array (utility connected) that he installed about 4 years ago. To his knowledge, the Audubon installations are the first utility connected hybrid systems east of the Mississippi.

Oklahoma

There was a Carter 25 kW turbine at a rest stop (car park or layby) on I-40 between Oklahoma City and Amarillo, Texas. It was operating into the late 1980s but has probably also been removed.

California

There was a 10 kW Windworks turbine installed somewhere near the Golden Gate in San Francisco. It has since been removed.

There is a Jacobs 10 kW at the Poppy Preserve State Park in the Antelope Valley (near Tehachapi). It is still in service and it still generates comment.

There was a Bergey installed in the last few years at a state park somewhere in the San Francisco Bay delta.

There is or was an Enertech E44 40 kW on Angel Island, a state park within San Francisco Bay. The turbine has been inoperative for some time Ron Nierenberg reports that it was installed on the southernmost tip of the island, closest to the city and farthest from where the ferry dock. Ron says the state park rangers told him they had no money in their budget to fix it. The windmill is easily visible from many parts of southern Marin County and the Golden Gate Bridge.

New Mexico

Eric Eggleston reports that there are several Jacobs 17 kW turbines at two New Mexico roadside rest areas. One is at a rest area on I-40 on the Texas-New Mexico border, and there are two others at a rest area between Raton and Clayton on a state highway.

Europe

This list expands dramatically when we shift to Europe. Several examples of wind turbines in public places are mentioned in the book Wind Energy Comes of Age. One that comes to mind is the Lagerwey at the northern sluice on the Afsluitdyk in the Netherlands. You can watch it as you wait for the drawbridge to close.

Denmark

There were two 65 kW Windmatic's installed at a community soccer field in a small Danish village in Jutland in 1980 but I think they have since been removed.

Wind Turbines and Parks

The second part of this list approaches the question in a different way by examining where wind turbines themselves or in combination with their spectacular locations have been or could be used as parks or places of public assembly.

Marge Wood posed one possibility.

 "I can almost imagine it. Wind turbines with a fence to keep folks from going right up under them, but close enough to get a real sense of what they're like, and huge lovely meandering gardens with gazebos and play areas and swimming pools and nice little coffee houses and beautiful restaurants overlooking ponds using recycled water, with waterfalls and fountains and all that, and PV panels on the gift shops and museums and lecture halls and walkways....and sculpture gardens."

Exactly. Wind turbines and wind power plants need not and in fact should not be constructed as industrial facilities. It is when their designers and their operators view them as simply industrial facilities that they in fact do become industrial facilities. There are many example where wind turbine themselves are the focus of a park. One that quickly comes to mind is Zaanse Schans. It's a whole park devoted to windmills. Busses disgorge tourists by the thousands at this remnant of what was the seat of the industrial revolution--the nearly 1000 windmills that powered the Zaanstreek's milling industries. Nor can we overlook the success of Peter Edwards and his Delabole wind plant with its simple and inexpensive visitors center. Each time I visit Delabole there are tourists or school groups milling around. Delabole is a classic example of private initiative and creative thinking at work.

Nancy and I have had some wonderful hikes among wind turbines in the United Kingdom. We'll never forget the day in Cumbria on Kirkby Moor with the pink of heather in full bloom, the blue of the Irish Sea off in the distance, and the dark shapes of the Cumbrian mountains. High on our list is the "ramble" (that's "hike" to us yanks) in the rain on the Mynydd-y-Cemais plateau in mid Wales among the sheep, bracken, and WEG's wind turbines.

Several of the sites we've visited in the Great Britain could be used as parks: Kirkby Moor, Cemmaes, Bryn Titli, and St. Breock Down are just a few. Car parks have been constructed at Royd Moor and at Coal Clough just for visitors. Access for ramblers to follow footpaths (trails) crossing the wind plants is provided at Coal Clough and at St. Breock Downs.

Of course there are several good examples of using wind plants as public spaces on the Continent: Velling Maersk-Taendpibe in Denmark, the turbines at Urk in the Netherlands and so on.

There are several site in the US where parks, especially picnic areas would be appropriate near or within wind plants. Kenetech's Solano site is (or was) a good prospect, but their attorneys quashed the idea.

Planners in the United States who worry about such things as mixing people and machines should apply their creativity to finding solutions to their concerns instead of devising ever more prohibitions. Take Blyth Harbor for example. We've watched evening strollers gaze at the turbines on the harbor's breakwater. There's no fear of the pedestrians getting too close unless they wanted to swim across the channel.

Risk is a function of exposure. Hikers are at little risk from wind turbines because they pass through the "forest" quickly. Even if they dawdle and stop for a leisurely picnic, as we do on our hike in the Tehachapi Pass, their risk is minimal.


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