Hallie, Richard, Kate, Caitlin, Aliza, Nick, Hugo, Jodie (host), Negin, Laura, Peter, Brent, Phil, Michael, Jamie, Aria, Jo
Words from the host:
For the first few weeks of October, I casually let it drop to friends and acquaintances that I was going to be hosting a salon, 18th century-styles—and that, naturally, we were going to be discussing the pros and cons of wind energy. The announcement was met by a variety of reactions, from confusion to amusement to blatant indifference, plus the odd crack about hair dyeing. Still, the fact that Jo and I were able to successfully rustle up twentyish smart, articulate and engaged friends and acquaintances, who were more than happy to squeeze into my tiny living room and chat about wind on a chilly Thursday night, is testament to the seriously cool and delightfully dorky network of people we’re connected to. As we got started, any fears I’d had about the gathering being intimidating or pretentious were instantly allayed. No one in attendance was an expert on wind or alternative energy and no one claimed to be. We humbly addressed the conflicting elements of the complex wind issue as best we could, discussing the potential urban-rural divide, possible health risks, energy politicization and climate change, using readings Jo had put up on her blog. Ultimately, the discussion reached no clear consensus, but as Voltaire once mused, “Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers.” Also, Jo baked a cookie in the shape of a windmill. Just saying.
The following is a summary of the conversation at the Salon. The intention of the ‘findings’ is to offer a foundation upon which others can begin a conversation on wind energy. This is where the experiment begins, what will a second set of ears and eyes bring to these ideas and questions?
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The group concluded that people across the province of Ontario hold strong opinions on how wind turbines fit (or don’t fit) into the rural landscape. Beauty is, as we know, in the eye of the beholder. Those attached to the rolling countryside of centuries past, may not be open to one dotted with giant-sized spinning machines. The group wondered whether it was possible to influence these perspectives in favor of pragmatic solutions and compromise.
Our conversation also discussed the influence that wind turbines have on property values. A threat to one’s personal land value has a significant impact on the acceptance of turbines. Is there a way to secure or compensate for lost property values incurred by the development of wind turbines? Ideas such as tax breaks or reduced energy rates were suggested as strategies to manage this challenge. Some asked whether turbines should even be built in places with high land value.
The participants discussed the idea that a rural resident’s noise tolerance is far less than that of an urban dweller. That being said, is there a way to bring wind turbines into the city where they would be less bothersome? What about concentrating wind farms in areas with no people? Are there places in which this is possible?
The cost effectiveness of wind energy was also cited as a significant problem. Governments are paying premiums to incentive production, despite the low rates of return. How can this be improved, just what would it take to make wind financially viable? Could technologically enhancements reduce noise pollution and improve the cost effectiveness of production?
An equally important concept is the idea of conservation. It is cheaper to save a kilowatt of energy than to create a kilowatt. Salon goers suggested that conservation and efficient grids are essential for the progress of renewable energy and wind power.
We now pass the torch to you. What do you think of these insights? Do you have the answers to our questions? Would you like to host your own Salon on wind energy? Leave a comment and let us know.