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We’re running low on cream at the office, so after dropping off The Wife™ on campus, I made a quick stop at the grocery store. While I was in the checkout line, I managed to overhear a woman in the next checkout line having a loud “discussion” with the cashier. I put “discussion” in quotation marks because it was one of those one-sided “obnoxiously pontificate at someone who doesn’t really care and is only being polite because their job requires it” situations. The obnoxious person was letting the cashier (and everybody at checkouts eight through twelve) know how much she’s against “all this solar power B-S.”

Apparently, she was driving into town and saw a “solar place” and it offended her. I presume she came in on either Ackison Road or Parkhill Road, because that’s where the province’s largest solar farm is located; it’s a 250-acre, 10-megawatt facility and yes, it’s pretty easy to spot, especially now that the leaves are off the trees which partially screen the place from the road. Her objection, voiced in a piercing nasal tone, was that it’s ugly (I disagree, but aesthetics are a personal thing), it “doesn’t work” (nope: 10MW is actually sufficient to power more than 1500 homes in the city’s north end) and it’s “actually bad for the environment!” Wait, what?

Apparently, she “read somewhere” that solar panels drip chemicals when it rains. They don’t. I presume she’s quoting a misread concern about toxins in the manufacturing process for photovoltaic cells: mercury and chromium are involved, after all, and if stringent environmental controls aren’t observed during the creation of photovoltaics (and also their disposal) then there are environmental issues which might occur. I’m not sure how that translates into “dripping chemicals”, but considering the mental swamp of misinformation and pseudoscience around the environment which most people call “facts” I suppose I’m lucky that toxic solar panel runoff is the worst I had to listen to.

She also stated that she was against wind turbines (right about the point when the cashier’s eyes were visibly glazing-over.) I have no doubt that her opposition is because of “health concerns”… which is the latest bugaboo around here. There are several local projects underway to build wind generating turbines, particularly south of the city near Rice Lake and west of the city in the Bethany area. The projects have drawn some exceedingly vocal protest from various local people. The more honest among them claim to be opposed to the construction project because they fear it will lower their property values, and you know what? I respect that concern. I disagree with it, but I respect it; I personally find wind turbines to be beautiful and if I was looking to buy a house within line-of-sight of one, I wouldn’t pay less because of it. I would pay less if I were in direct line-of-sight to a coal-fired generating station.

But the claim that wind turbines cause “Wind Turbine Syndrome” is unbelievably irritating to me. One of the favoured tactics of the anti-turbine set is to claim that turbines are an untested technology and cause this vague set of health problems and therefore shouldn’t be built anywhere near people… or anywhere at all.

First off, there’s no scientific proof that WTS is a real thing. There have been many studies, as well as decades of practical real-world experience in Europe (especially Denmark), that completely debunk the WTS theory. The sole scientist who originated this theory has been pretty firmly debunked by her scientific peers. So that’s that… but the anti-turbine crowd doesn’t seem to want to accept those conclusions. Vague, unsubstantiated health concerns are fantastic weapon for their agenda, and why should a little thing like provable fact get in the way of that? Case in point: about half a year ago, I watched a clip of an interview with one of these local Manvers-township anti-turbine protestors, and the interviewer asked him about these European studies and why his group won’t accept those results. This guy actually said “Well, those studies weren’t done in Canada, so the science is different over there. We need Canadian studies with Canadian science.”

The science is different over there. We need Canadian science.

That sound you may be hearing is me pounding my head into my desk over and over and over again.

Science is science. Facts are facts. If a fact is proven through repeated, peer-reviewed experimentation, then it is a fact. If your objection to wind turbines is aesthetic, then it’s aesthetic. If you’re worried that enough people will have an aesthetic objection to wind turbines that it will lower your property values, then just fucking say so. Comparing wind turbines with “carpet-bombing your countryside for a few pieces of silver” strikes me as needlessly — and insultingly — hyperbolic.

You want an aesthetic opinion, here’s mine: I think that green power is beautiful. Ecological awareness and the technology it promotes has the beauty of simple functionality. When I drive past the Lily Lake Solar Farm, I don’t feel disgust because it’s “ugly” — I feel pride because my house is partially receiving power from it. When I see a wind turbine spinning it’s stately way on the horizon, I regard them as graceful kinetic sculptures — and sculptures with a practical purpose. I like seeing farms with big freestanding solar-panels on their property, or apartment buildings with banks of solar cells on top, or suburban houses with a small bank of panels on the roof. I like the idea of hybrid cars, and more efficient public transit, and a high-speed rail connection to Toronto. I’m really looking forward to the day when small wind turbines fitted to residential chimneys are a regular sight. Properly supported, green power lends itself to small-scale power generation projects, and let’s face it: microgeneration is the future.

As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, I like living in the future. And every watt of green energy produced means that our future will be that much nicer to live in.

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