Could North Carolina Ban Wind Turbines for Being Ugly?

north carolina ban wind turbines photo

Photo via the Free Wheels

It's well known that many object to the looks of wind farms and solar plants in nature. But now, North Carolina state lawmakers are actually moving to make it against the law to install large wind turbines in the mountains--on the grounds that they're ugly.It would be the first such ban on wind turbines in the US, and it has clean energy advocates up in arms.

Could this be the beginning of a script for a green version of Footloose? You know, about a state where renewable energy--and dancing, for good measure--is illegal? Too bad Kevin Bacon probably won't be swinging by to teach North Carolina legislators how good clean energy really is for everybody.

Seriously, though. It's an interesting dilemma--one that's been raised many times before--that's coming to a head here. Do clean energy installations disrupt or degrade the natural beauty they're ultimately designed to preserve? And is there a point where the likes of wind turbines become inappropriate to build? And if so, what is that point?

Them's a lot of questions, and as this renewable energy revolution of sorts sweeps the US, we're going to see them asked a lot more often. So, back to the case in point: (from Green Inc.)

A furious battle over the aesthetics of wind energy has erupted in North Carolina, where lawmakers are weighing a bill that would bar giant turbines from the state's scenic western ridgelines. The big machines would "destroy our crown jewel," said Martin Nesbitt, a state senator who supports the ban, according to a report in The Winston-Salem Journal.

The bill in question would ban wind turbines that stand over 100 ft high from being placed on mountaintops--not exactly an outrageous motion. Residential scale wind turbines would still be fair game (those between 50-100 ft). And yet, upon closer inspection, it's revealed that the ban would make roughly two-thirds of North Carolina's wind power potential off limits:
"I know of no other state that has so uniformly banned wind," he said. State lawmakers, Mr. Blevins noted, voted not long ago to enact a renewable portfolio standard requiring North Carolina to get 12.5 percent of its electricity from renewable energy and efficiency measures by 2021. "Now they're stripping away some of the most cost-effective options for their utilities" to achieve those targets, he said.
And there's something else to consider as well: some people like the way those turbines look.
"The main objection seems to be appearance, and the reality is that many people find wind turbines elegant and a symbol of a clean energy future, and that wind turbines often become a tourist attraction," [Christine Real de Azua, a spokeswoman for the American Wind Energy Association- said in an e-mail.
So what do you think? Are wind turbines a beautiful instrument, and imperative for a clean energy economy--and thus worth installing anywhere where there's potential to harness wind power? Or do the towering turbines mar the landscapes that their very presence is trying to save? Heavy, I know. But they're questions worth asking.

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