Opinion: “The Beauty of Renewable Energy?”

There is nothing prettier than_______.

How would you fill in the blank? I’ve lived and traveled through much of the United States so I can think of any nouns to use in answering that question. Early in my life we lived ‘back east” and vacationed in Maine. So places like Pemaquid Point, with its picturesque lighthouse or quaint New Harbor with its lobster boats and seagulls come to mind. But I shouldn’t forget Acadia National Park on Mt. Desert Island.

While in high school, we took a four week vacation “out west” to the Rocky Mountains, the Tetons and Yellowstone. Each of those National Parks are full of natural wonders worthy of consideration. Yellowstone Falls certainly was beautiful as was the Keyboard of the Winds or looking across Jenny Lake to the magnificent peaks of the Tetons.

As an adult I’ve flown across some spectacular natural wonders. There is nothing like flying over the Grand Canyon as the sun is beginning to lower in the west. Not so long ago I was amazed at the beauty below me as we flew out of Portland, Oregon over mountains covered with snow. It was some of the prettiest abstract art I’ve ever seen!

A few years ago I went on a birding trip to the Big Bend area of Texas. It is desolate as can be, but even in its desolation I could see real beauty.

After having lived in Texas for fourteen years, I moved back to the Midwest with its corn and soybean fields as far as you could see. While some find those fields monotonous or boring, I found beauty in them. Much like looking across a corn field to the Stark Farm from Polk Hollow Road here in Ross County.

My first experience seeing what renewable energy looks like was on a trip my wife and I took to Palm Springs. One windy afternoon we drove outside of town and came across an expansive valley filled with wind turbines. As your eyes scanned the valley of motionless monoliths you could scantly make out the mountains beyond. That was my first experience with the “beauty” of renewable energy. But it wasn’t the last.

Trips to Chicago have taken me by other “farms” of motionless turbines standing high above soybean and corn fields. Occasionally, when I’m lucky and the wind is blowing at just the right velocity, I’ve actually seen the turbines rotating in monotonous circles. But you have to be lucky to catch that beautiful sight.

Trips to Odenton, Maryland have taken me by a solar farm. Partially hidden behind some trees, I was still able to make out the rows after rows of manmade steel and glass face up to the sky. It almost reminds me of the beauty in so many of the modern sculpture we see in our cities. (I can remember when they unveiled the Picasso in downtown Chicago. I still wonder is it really supposed to look like a baboon?)

Now we’re lucky as its more common to see wind turbines on hills and solar panels in fields as you drive through our countryside. But the beauty is just starting to spread. Soon wind turbines and solar panels will be everywhere as our nation strives to meet the goal of 100% renewable energy powered by wind and the sun. As an example, we recently read how a company is looking to locate 1,500 acres for a massive solar farm here in Ross County. How beautiful that will be?

One of my favorite things to do is to take a ride in Ross County’s rural landscape and take pictures of aged barns. Many of them are in semi disrepair, but there is still beauty in them. I’m looking forward to doing the same a decade or two from now with rusting wind turbines and solar panels as the subject for my photos. Those will be pictures to treasure, won’t they?

The 1911 version of “America the Beautiful” includes the following words:

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed His grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

I imagine the 2021 version will go something like this:

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For massive solar farms
For towering wind turbine majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
Man spread his works on thee
And filled thy land with signs of renewable energy
From sea to shining sea!

I’m inspired already!

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