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Windmills turn the winds of change for energy

July 09, 2010|By LISA PREJEAN
  • These windmills on Erie Lake have stirred up controversy, but have also started conversations about energy.
By Austin Prejean,

Imagine that you are walking along the shore of a lake. As you gaze across the water, several stately windmills catch your eye.

If you had to guess where you were, what would be your first choice?

Ah, the tulip-lined fields of Holland?

Yeah, that's probably what I'd say, too.

But these windmills don't look like the storybook kind with latticework arms seeming to welcome all who pass by.

These windmills serve an important purpose, and their streamlined, modern design seems to boast of that very fact.

Stationed along the shore of Lake Erie, these windmills generate power ... and controversy.

We were able to see them up close during a recent trip to New York state, and we also saw several windmills on mountain ranges along the way. We returned home quite curious about the possibilities of wind power. And rightly so. By the middle of this century, wind could supply 10 to 20 percent of the world's electric energy needs, according to http://www.kidsdiscover.com .

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Our family talked about the pros and cons of using wind power for energy and about the importance of finding solutions to potential problems.

The group Citizens Against Lake Erie Wind Turbines, LakeErieWindTurbines.com, and similar groups in other areas protest the construction of the turbines for several reasons.

Is it cost efficient to generate energy from wind power? Not yet, but efforts are being made in that direction.

When the windmills are being constructed near the shoreline, will that affect the safety and quality of drinking water in area municipalities? Perhaps this question would apply to all new construction?

Will bird migration be adversely affected? Images of oil-covered birds in the Gulf of Mexico make wind turbines seem less threatening to our feathered friends.

Could a person's health be affected by wind turbines? The citizens group claims that "... health effects on those subjected to long and frequent periods of pulsating, low-frequency noise associated with wind turbines include sleep disturbances, depression, chronic stress, migraines, nausea and dizziness, exhaustion and anger, memory loss and cognitive difficulties."

Is there a way to reduce the noise these turbines create? How can they be environmentally friendly? Can the cost be reduced?

Why consider these questions? Why should this interest those of us who spend most of our time in Western Maryland, Southcentral Pennsylvania and the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia?

Because alternative energy is quickly becoming a necessity.

We should talk to our children about current issues and encourage them to start thinking about solutions.

If I could, I would make a quiet, transparent, glow-in-the-dark windmill so people would not be disturbed, the landscape would not be altered and birds would not be harmed.

Perhaps the next generation ought to think about that for a while.

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at lisap@herald-mail.com

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