Monday, March 14, 2011

Written on the Wind Farm

Wind farm at Cowley Ridge, Alberta. Photo by Elizabeth Woods.
Alberta produces 656 megawatts of power via renewable wind energy, just behind Quebec's production and lagging behind first-place Ontario by about 600 megawatts. Currently, Alberta's wind farms produce about two percent of our electricity generation. Compared to other forms of power generation, wind is virtually emissions-free. There is some risk of disturbing wildlife habitat during installation and maintenance of turbines, and birds and bats have been killed flying into the blades. But overall, wind presents a far more attractive ecological footprint than nonrenewable energy sources.

Alberta's tempestuous winds could produce far more than 600 megawatts of power, but for a variety of reasons we're a long way off from reaching our wind power generation capacity. A couple of posts ago my friend Jeff lamented the lack of funding for artists, particularly in Alberta, a view I happen to share. Seeing Mom's photo above reminded me that some people see wind farms as an eyesore, and that's one of the reasons wind farms haven't been accepted as widely as they could be.

Perhaps the two problems can solve each other. Personally, I think wind farms look pretty cool, but I have no doubt that artists could transform these austere towers into works of art. I love Alberta, but compared to some other places in the world I've visited, our province seems woefully short on public art. Wouldn't it be something if, five or ten years from now, Alberta's landscape was peppered with works of art producing sustainable energy?

Thanks to the Pembina Institute's The Landowners' Guide to Wind Energy for the figures on wind power.


"Jeff's Brain" said...

Whoah, nelly! Just to keep the record straight, I do not think that the government should be funding the arts much more or less than they do now, at least not in terms of direct funding. Of all patrons, governments seem to be the least attractive. They are concerned with acquiring the most art for the cheapest price, usually without much regard to quality or maintenance, and with a steep bureaucratic involvement. I believe thet private arts patronage is better, although private patronage is not an easy system either.

What I would like to see are government programs that encourage private arts communities. Tax breaks would be a start, but so would funding community arts services such as galleries, brokers, social media, and public education and information regarding the arts. Government should be in the business of encouraging private arts infrastructure, rather than just paying for art, or renting out art groups. I realize that my opinion is different from other artists in this regard. Also, what may apply to visual artists probably won't always work for other art groups such as musicians and theatre performers. Just so we set the record straight.

Artistic wind farms are an interesting idea, although I personally would never get involved with one as I am terrfied of heights! Even looking up at one of those beasts gives me vertigo.

Wind power still needs to break the cost effectiveness barrier of power value versus maintenance and technological development. I'd rather see these turbines work cheaply and efficiently, and have them not be a detriment to animal life as well, before I'd stick a bunch of coloured streamers on the towers that only a couple of dozen rural folk are going to see on a regular basis.

Although rural areas need love too, arts money is usually best spent where the population needs it most, in urban areas. Your etsablished artists, your Tony Onleys and your Joe Fafards can afford to set up shop in the outlying regions because their art has already been accepted at large. Your struggling Jeffs, though, don't have that luxury, yet. Sometime soon, I hope!

Earl J. Woods said...

Sorry for the misinterpretation, Jeff!Your funding ideas for the arts intrigue me, and as the saying goes, I would like to subscribe to your newsletter.