Wind Turbines

Community Wind Turbine

This post comes to you from EcoArtScotland

We received the Achiltibuie_Wind_turbine_planning_letter via a colleague and friend. The letter is asking people to write in support of a planning application for a community owned wind turbine.

The small community on Coigach North of Ullapool is located in a ‘world class environment.’ It’s faced with a number of challenges which are described, but has also been organising itself, also described, with a view being more sustainable. The letter is about the economic sustainability that will be generated by installing one community owned wind turbine – a project involving a capital outlay of £2 million being undertaken by a community of about 100 people. But interestingly reading the letter that sustainability is evident in the community organising that has been going on over a reasonable period.

What’s also interesting is that most communities organising around wind turbines are not trying to make them happen. Rather they are trying to resist their imposition by large corporates, land owners seeking to maximise incomes, and centralised national priority planning processes. In other parts of Scotland communities of a similar scale are faced with proposals for 100 turbines surrounding villages. These will be located on private land generating significant incomes for the land owners. These are being pushed through planning by large teams of consultants. The community might be in receipt of some charity in terms of hand outs from the power companies (perhaps mediated by local committees). One model is sustainable, the other is pretty remote from anything that might be called sustainable.

We recommend you read Achiltibuie_Wind_turbine_planning_letter – it is inspiring. 

ecoartscotland is a resource focused on art and ecology for artists, curators, critics, commissioners as well as scientists and policy makers. It includes ecoartscotland papers, a mix of discussions of works by artists and critical theoretical texts, and serves as a curatorial platform.
It has been established by Chris Fremantle, producer and research associate with On The Edge ResearchGray’s School of Art, The Robert Gordon University. Fremantle is a member of a number of international networks of artists, curators and others focused on art and ecology.
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New articles about energy alternatives

This post comes to you from Cultura21

The Museum of Fetishes, by Nicholas Hildyard and Larry Lohmann

Too often, discussions about energy alternatives resemble a visit to a 1950s world’s fair exhibition displaying exhibits of the wonderful technology of the future. Against one wall stand shiny replicas of new green machines – wind turbines, solar panels, fuel cells, hypercars, supergrids – alongside diagrams showing how environmentally benign they are. Against another are arrayed labeled bottles of new “substitutes” for oil, coal and gas – corn-based ethanol, rapeseed-based biodiesel, hydrogen cracked out of water, hydrocarbons extruded by algae.

Most of the politics and material realities associated with the various contraptions and conveniences on show, or with the energy they use and transform, are simply missing, as are the strategies of popular movements that might be considering and agitating for different futures.

How should these new visions of technological or economic salvation be read? What role do they play in the real-world politics of energy? How and what can we learn from them? And, if necessary, how can we change the subject? What is glossed over in such displays of “alternatives”is usually more important than what is in them, and there is work to be done in finding out what that is.There is little question that an “energy alternatives” discussion is at least as essential as any other regarding human futures, especially for the industrialised societies whose use of fossil fuels is threatening human survival. But if it is not to degenerate into an irrelevant show of magic tricks, an overdue debt of attention must be paid to voices which up to now have too seldom been heard.

Energy Alternatives – Surveying the Territory, by Larry Lohmann with Nicholas Hildyard and Sarah Sexton

What with a growing climate crisis and increasing uncertainty over the future of fossil fuels, it can be no surprise that the question “what’s the alternative to current energy systems?” is in the air. And there has been no shortage of answers competing for space and attention. In energy policy today, the main conflict is not between business as usual and “The Alternative”, but among the different proposed alternatives themselves. How are these alternatives to be evaluated against each other? The suggested solutions are diverse. The questions being asked are also different, as are the criteria for answering them, the vocabularies in which they are expressed, and the politics with which they are associated. The point of this introduction to the energy transitions issue is not to simplify this debate but to clarify how complex it is. What is on the table in the discussion? Is there a place for everyone there? If so, how will the discussion proceed?

To read more about :http://www.thecornerhouse.org.uk/sites/thecornerhouse.org.uk/files/The%20Museum%20of%20Fetishes.pdf

http://www.thecornerhouse.org.uk/sites/thecornerhouse.org.uk/file/ENERGY%20ALTERNATIVES%20–%20SURVEYING%20THE%20TERRITORY.pdf

Cultura21 is a transversal, translocal network, constituted of an international level grounded in several Cultura21 organizations around the world.

Cultura21′s international network, launched in April 2007, offers the online and offline platform for exchanges and mutual learning among its members.

The activities of Cultura21 at the international level are coordinated by a team representing the different Cultura21 organizations worldwide, and currently constituted of:

– Sacha Kagan (based in Lüneburg, Germany) and Rana Öztürk (based in Berlin, Germany)
– Oleg Koefoed and Kajsa Paludan (both based in Copenhagen, Denmark)
– Hans Dieleman (based in Mexico-City, Mexico)
– Francesca Cozzolino and David Knaute (both based in Paris, France)

Cultura21 is not only an informal network. Its strength and vitality relies upon the activities of several organizations around the world which are sharing the vision and mission of Cultura21

Go to Cultura21

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Land and Energy Pt. 2 – review of ‘The Time Is Now’

This post comes to you from EcoArtScotland

Review of The Time Is Now: Public Art of the Sustainable City

There is no question that energy generation impacts on landscape, both urban and rural. It always has. The current re-engineering of systems towards renewable energy is, on one level, not different. Wind turbines are just one example around which there is a very polarised debate. As a result there has been considerable work done in Scotland on the visual as well as environmental impact. Sophisticated modelling of proposed installations in landscape contexts has become a normal part of public consultation processes. There is now for instance a mobile virtual landscape theatre, developed by The James Hutton Institute.  Behind the issues of visual and environmental impact there is a significant public policy commitment in Scotland. This public policy commitment drives funding and decision-making to deliver on the targets. It is intended to shape or focus the market on agreed public priorities.

The Land Art Generator Initiative comes at these issues from a different perspective. The initiative seeks to engage artists, architects and designers in the development of mid and large scale renewable energy infrastructure. The first international design competition focused on the United Arab Emirates and was sponsored by Madsar, “Abu Dhabi’s multi-faceted initiative advancing the development, commercialisation and deployment of renewable and alternative energy technologies and solutions”. The Time Is Now documents the winners and runners up, and a total of 51 of the hundreds of entries.

The Foreword argues that there is a fundamental shift taking place, moving energy generation into a prominent position within our lived environments, which presents new challenges. They say,

As the days of the gas or coal fired power plant at the farthest outskirts of the city come to a close, we will find more and more integration of energy production within the fabric of our communities. Because the renewable forms of energy generation such as solar and wind do not pollute in their daily operations, they are more likely to find their way into proximity with residential and commercial neighbourhoods. (p.16)

This articulation of the challenge does not perhaps fully recognise the complexity of the issue in, for instance, Scotland. As suggested above, and we’ll return to below, it is not merely in proximity to neighbourhoods that the challenge arises: wind generation installations even in fairly remote locations will stoke the debate.

There is also precedent for the involvement of architects, artists and designers in mid and large scale energy infrastructure. Tate Modern was a power station located in the heart of London, and there was considerable debate about the location, which in the end was driven by an energy crisis. The reason why the new use was sought for the Bankside Power Station was precisely that it was a building of considerable architectural merit. Bankside was designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott who was also the architect of Liverpool Cathedral as well as the eponymous red telephone box. Whilst it is perhaps self-evident that at various points in history artists and designers have been asked to address large scale energy generation installations, it is interesting to think that the best examples are of such importance that they become art galleries.

The metaphor employed for the design of power stations at the time was the cathedral of power, intending to emphasise the prestige and modernity of electricity (see the Greater London Industrial Archaeology Society papers for references).

The metaphors that drive these proposals are relevant to reflect upon. Lakoff and Johnson’s Metaphors We Live By (2003) clearly articulates the importance of not just those rhetorical metaphors such as associating power stations with cathedrals, but the more embedded metaphors of architecture and conflict that underpin so much language and thought, and therefore planning and action. Beth Carruther’s essay ‘Possible Worlds’, included in The Time Is Now, addresses this important point.

Within the suite of proposals included in The time is now there is a cluster of power metaphors: the winning team’s proposal Lunar Cubit uses the form of pyramids; there’s a team who’s proposal Solar Eco System uses a depiction solar system (arranged as it was at the point that the United Arab Emirates came into existence in 1971).

There’s another cluster of nature metaphors: the second placed team’s Windstalk proposal looks very much like a field of grass; Solarbird references sea waves, birds, fish and trees; Fern (future/energy/renewable/nature) also applies a natural form to a photovoltaic array.  A significant number of proposals explored the shape and pattern of dunes in their proposals.

And there is a cluster of indigenous culture metaphors: Solaris deploys the photovoltaic array referencing decorative patterns in local culture – the blue colour of the panels accentuates the reference, and this patterning also appears in PV Dust. Another team also named their proposal Solaris, but drew on a tent metaphor.

Whilst The Time Is Now is full of illustrations, almost all using the same sorts of landscape visualisation tools mentioned above, there are other aspects of impact, in particular cultural impact that cannot be effectively captured through architectural and landscape design technologies.

Robert MacFarlane, one of those currently reinvigorating landscape writing in the UK, unpacks the complexity of cultural impacts in his essay A Counter-Desecration Phrasebook (2010). His subject is the Brindled Moor on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. The context of his writing is the proposal for a wind ‘power station’ of 234 turbines each 140 metres high with a blade span of 80 metres (the terminology of ‘farm’ seeks to elide the reality: these installations are dispersed power stations). MacFarlane reports that each turbine required a foundation of 700 cubic metres of concrete and goes on to note that, “5 million cubic metres of rock and 2.5 million cubic metres of peat would be excavated and displaced”.

The arguments for and against this development rotated around issues of landscape value, not merely visibility. On the one hand MacFarlane quotes the writer Ian Jack, in support of the installation, described the interior of Lewis as, “a vast, dead place: dark brown moors and black lochs under a grey sky, all swept by a chill wet wind”.

MacFarlane highlights the cultural value and complexity of the landscape, challenging its dismissal as a ‘dead place’. He explores in detail the richness of language associated with this landscape, his starting point being to challenge the idea that this is terra nullius. Of course one of the key points he is making is that most colonisation is based on the principle of terra nullius, and that one of the key forms of counter by indigenous peoples in, for instance, Australia, New Zealand and Canada, is to demonstrate the deep connection to land. MacFarlane goes on to argue that this landscape of “…peat-bog, peat-hag, heather, loch and lochan…” has a rich and deep language associated with it. He directs the reader’s attention to the text Some Lewis Moorland Terms: A Peat Glossary prepared by Finlay MacLeod, and containing 126 terms. MacFarlane celebrates the saving of the moor and the rejection of the energy generation installation which would have, in his view, desecrated the place.

If we are to make intelligent decisions about how and where to build mid and large scale renewable energy installations, then we definitely need artists, architects and designers to contribute to the development of schemes that acknowledge the aesthetic impacts, and actively seek to create beauty as well as functionality. But we also need to assure that the locations are not treated as terra nullius or without cultural meaning. The tools are not just those of landscape visualisation, they are also of landscape language and lived experience. Engaging and embracing cultural meaning, perhaps in deeper ways than simple symbolism, could lead to imaging more interesting solutions, whether that’s for a piece of desert, moorland or for a settlement – village or city.

The Land Art Generator Initiative operates on a biennial cycle, and the current round focuses on Fresh Kills, a former landfill site on Staten Island in New York City. This location is now of deep cultural significance, being the place that the remains of the World Trade Center was deposited post 9/11. It’s also a place that has been the focus of work by the artist Merle Laderman Ukeles for many years.

You can purchase your copy of The time is now here http://www.kinokuniya.com/sg/index.php/fbs003?common_param=9789814286756 .

References

Land Art Generator Initiative. (2012). The Time Is Now: Public Art of the Sustainable City.  Page One: Singapore

Evans, G. & Robson, D. (2010). Towards Re-Enchantment: Place and its Meanings. ArtEvents: London.

Lakoff, G. & Johnson, M. (2003). Metaphors We Live By (2nd Edition). University of Chicago Press: Chicago and London.

ecoartscotland is a resource focused on art and ecology for artists, curators, critics, commissioners as well as scientists and policy makers. It includes ecoartscotland papers, a mix of discussions of works by artists and critical theoretical texts, and serves as a curatorial platform.

It has been established by Chris Fremantle, producer and research associate with On The Edge ResearchGray’s School of Art, The Robert Gordon University. Fremantle is a member of a number of international networks of artists, curators and others focused on art and ecology.
Go to EcoArtScotland

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American Bird Conservancy Receives Grant From Leon Levy Foundation

The American Bird Conservancy has announced a three-year, $743,130 grant from the Leon Levy Foundation for a campaign to encourage the use of techniques designed to eliminate bird collisions with wind turbines and promote the selection of safe sites for wind farms.

The campaign will include a wide variety of advocacy and communications efforts, including the development of a grassroots support network based on collaborative approaches that ABC has successfully undertaken in the past; the fostering of new techniques for bird avoidance at wind farms; and the advancement of critical research in collaboration with universities. ABC also will recommend that wind projects temporarily cease their power generation during times when bird mortality risk is anticipated to be greatest; that no-development buffer zones be established around sensitive bird habitats; and that compensatory mitigation practices be adopted for any unavoidable bird or habitat losses due to turbines.

The U.S. Department of Energy predicts that some 19,000 square miles of land in the U.S. will be occupied by wind turbines by 2030 and that as many as one million birds a year could be killed if collision mortality rates stay at current levels. Some species will suffer additional impacts from habitat fragmentation, while other species could be killed outright.

“ABC supports the development of wind power as a valuable, non-polluting, renewable power source that can reduce our consumption of fossil fuels and reduce our carbon footprint in the U.S.,” said ABC president George Fenwick, “but it has to be done right, and it can be done right so large numbers of birds aren't needlessly sacrificed in the process.”

“American Bird Conservancy to Launch Campaign to Reduce Wind Turbine Risks to Birds — Supported by Three Quarters of a Million Dollar Grant From the Leon Levy Foundation.” American Bird Conservancy Press Release 5/10/10.

PND – News – American Bird Conservancy Receives Grant From Leon Levy Foundation.

Vestas: what is the protest about?

This morning I was handed a flier by a nice man standing outside Brighton station: “Vestas Workers fight to defend their jobs and the environment.” Featured on it, that photo of the two workers clenching fists above the banner that reads, “Forced to occupy to save our jobs.” An old blogging colleague of mine Justin aka Chicken Yoghurt was at the Isle of Wight yesterday and took the photo above.

Three points to make:

One. This is a pivotal protest that’s not going to go away in a hurry. It’s about the gap in what the government say they’re going to do – Ed Miliband’s fine white paper and the 2008 Climate Bill – and the absence of any real infrastructure to achieve those carbon goals. It’s about how the most substantial part of Gordon Brown’s “green recovery” plan has been the looking-glass scheme to scrap cars before they need to be scrapped. Vestas is closing because of “lack of demand”. It is absurd that, at this late stage, there is lack of demand. To blame that lack of demand on Conservative councils turning down planning applications for wind turbines as Ed Miliband does in his response to LabourList’s Alex Smith is the “dog ate my homework excuse” – a silly attempt to turn this into a divisive party political issue.

Two. This protest has to watch out it doesn’t unfold  to a dangerous script. The lockout has quickly turned it into a workers versus employers dispute, in the mould of Grunwick and Wapping.  Not only do those disputes traditionally end very badly, but this script kind of misses the point.  However poorly the employers may have acted towards the workers, and their contradictory statements that they’re closing for “lack of demand” and that the factory makes “the wrong type of blade” for Britain indicates a certain slipperiness, they too are victims of the government’s failure to support demand for renewables. This should be about how the goverment needs to pull its finger out.

Three. Last year’s meeting between the National Union of Miners and Climate Camp protestors showed how far adrift most eco-protestors were from workplace politics and how little they understood the more old-school union levers of power. This is a chance to learn how to build bridges instead of burning them.

Go to RSA Arts & Ecology

Wind turbines and the failure of markets

twometers
Monometer by Michael Pinsky, July 2009, Kortrijk

The Vestas wind turbine factory on the Isle of Wight, under occupation by a handful of workers, is set for closure at the end of this month, citing “lack of demand”; that this happened in the immediate aftermath of Ed Miliband’s Energy Transition White Paper is ironic, to say the least. Three years ago, as Seamus Milne points out, Nicholas Stern nailed climate change as “the greatest market failure the world has ever seen”. It’s time to nail the myth that “lack of demand” is a natural state, to which everything must submit.

The illustration is from an installation by the British artist Michael Pinsky at this July’sKortrijk annual all-night arts festival. The four supporting columns of Belgium’s tallest wind turbines were transformed into giant meters, monitoring the ecological impact of Kortrijk’s all-night event. The consumption of energy and water, the production waste, and noise levels were all metered by two rings of projectect light moving up and down the turbines, as if, to quote the artists’s statement, the festival was “feeding” Monometer.

http://www.michaelpinsky.com/

Go to RSA Arts & Ecology