Friday, July 10, 2009

Energy, turbines and magic

click photo to enlarge
It's nothing short of remarkable how, in the past couple of hundred years, mankind's use of energy has grown from a barely measurable amount to 500 Exajoules (2005).

Before, say, 1700 most energy came from man and animal power, from burning wood and some coal, and from wind and water. And, in most cases it was consumed at the place where it was generated. Today, in the form of coal, gas and oil, energy is often transported across the world before consumption, just like many other traded commodities. And even when it is generated in the country in which it is used, electrical energy is transmitted to centres of population and industries by a grid of wires. In the past the windmill's power was used where the windmill stood - either for grinding corn that was brought to it, pumping water that was immediately adjacent, or sawing wood from nearby trees, and most were in or near settlements. In contrast the windmills of today, the 100m high wind turbines that generate electricity, are often sited where there are few people - on hills, offshore, or as with those in today's photograph, in a sparsely populated agricultural area - in this case the Fenland of Lincolnshire.

One could wish that energy generation was less intrusive upon the landscape: nuclear and coal fired plants are big eyesores, and many find wind turbines just as objectionable. However, just as there are people who are capable of appreciating the looming bulk and man-made clouds of cooling towers, so too are there those who see beauty in the wind turbines. To walk around these otherworldy creatures under a blue sky flecked with cloud, the swish of the blades and the flicker of their giant shadows the only disturbance to a beautiful summer afternoon is not an unpleasant experience. In many ways a wind farm becomes more appealing the closer you get to it, and what can appear to be a blot on the horizon transforms into something with a hint of magic about it when you stand among them.

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 15mm (30mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/500 seconds
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -0.7 EV
Image Stabilisation: On