Sacrifice

My friend Trudie recently posted about hydro-power and it got me thinking about what has happened locally [and in my own experience] in regards to choices of green/clean power.

I live in a state that has long relied upon hydro-electric power. Grand Coulee Dam is Exhibit A, but there are quite a few dams on our big rivers here in the Pacific Northwest. Powering our cities with water seems like an easy choice, but there was sacrifice involved. The rivers are forever changed. Salmon can no longer follow their natural pathway “home” to spawn. People are displaced as well because the landscape itself changes when lakes are created and water is diverted to irrigate land — hundreds of thousands of acres of land.  I grew up thinking that dammed rivers are normal; the Native Americans who were forced to give up ancestral lands likely do not have the same viewpoint.

When I was younger, there was a big battle over adopting nuclear power. Folks wanted to remain with the status quo but a few years of drought and long lines at gas stations in the 1970’s forced people to think differently. In the end, 5 power plants  were planned in various places around Washington State. The project had many faults and detractors, but I suspect that the Three Mile Island accident (partial melt-down) in 1979 was the tolling of the bell regarding nuclear power for the masses in the PacNW. With the general public no longer willing to see nuclear power as the best choice, WPPSS (an acronym pronounced “whoops!” — not a good sign to begin with) eventually put an end to “clean power” progress at the Satsop plant and three others in Washington State; the projects were abandoned with only one facility completed, at Hanford.

Windmills along the Washington coastline

These days, when I drive across Washington State, I see an abundance of wind farms.

Those who formerly lived in peaceful silence now hear the sound of air being sliced by humongous blades: whoop, whoop, whoop.

The landscape, which was once speckled with barns and houses and gently criss-crossed with roads, now is dotted with giant towers each sporting three huge blades.

click on pic to embiggen

Places that depended upon feeling remote or wild have lost that feeling. The local economy at large does not benefit; the power companies bring in their own workers instead of hiring local. True, the land owners have been paid for the use of their land (without monetary compensation, they surely would not have agreed to it) but the small town cafes remain devoid of the hoped-for extra business.

For size comparison, click to enlarge the picture and notice the line of traditional power lines on the hillside just above the trees and rooftops.

In the give-and-take of life, there will always be advances and losses. Sometimes, even the better choice isn’t a happy compromise.

3 thoughts on “Sacrifice

  1. Most of the electricity in Sweden is generated in hydro power plants but we also have 4 nuclear plants slated to be closed in the next 15 years. Windmill parks are cropping up all over the country and I have a hard time deciding what to think about them. The ‘whoop whoop whoop’ of those giant blades is disturbing – no doubt – but I still think they are less destructive to our environment than hydro power plants are. That’s easy for me to say – I live in a country with less than 10 million inhabitants – we still have lots and lots of wilderness and often we don’t even know to appreciate that!

  2. Of the two, I think I would rather have whoop-whoop than radiation poisoning. of course there is a third choice and solar arrays might be the best choice of them all. I haven’t done any research into that though.

    • Reb, I would love to see more use of solar panels. I have friends in Virginia who recently opened a new tasting room for their winery and it is totally decked out in energy-efficient wonders: solar panels, re-utilized and re-purposed goodies (e.g., a beam from an historic old barn is now the mantle on their fireplace), bamboo flooring… the list goes on — but it is expensive!
      I can’t see solar panels working well in the Seattle area, or any place with a lot of gray, rainy days, but I think it would be useful in my vicinity. If I was to design and built my own home, I would definitely want solar panels as a feature!
      In the meantime, Whoop-whoop away! (Just don’t pay attention to them while driving, or you will soon find yourself off the road. It’s akin to driving in a blizzard with drifting snow.)

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