Jen's MEM Journey

Blown Over
by Jennifer Weiss -- January 24th, 2011

I remember the first time I saw a wind turbine.

It was Spring Break and I was driving with some girlfriends from San Diego to Palm Springs dreaming of all the adventures we would be sharing and the stories we would be able to tell those unfortunate enough to not make the trip.  As we drove along through a particularly dusty and deserted section of highway, we caught a glimpse of a rather (at the time) unusual sight:  huge “windmills” stretching across the desert.  We almost drove off the road – what were these crazy machines?  And what on earth could they possibly be doing in the desert?  Were they art?  Were they left by aliens?

Porterfield/Chickering/Photo Researchers, Inc

Porterfield/Chickering/Photo Researchers, Inc

To put this in perspective, this was in the late 1980’s (yes, while most of my fellow Nick School students were still in diapers).  The wind turbines that I saw were some of the first to be put into production in the U.S. and today California (along with Texas) still generates the majority of our domestic wind production.  California was truly ahead of its time, but I remember thinking “what a silly thing to put in the desert!”

Flash forward 20-something years and I am sitting in my Energy & Environment class participating in a case discussion about Cape Wind, the proposed wind farm off the coast of Cape Cod.  As our professor discusses how long it takes for renewable technologies to “catch on” and become mainstream, I can’t help thinking about my first wind turbine sighting.  Yes, a long time indeed ….

I’ve seen many turbines since then (mostly in Europe and Texas) and I will admit that I am still in awe of their beauty.  Today it is because I know how valuable they are in our global goal of energy independence.  But, even 20 years ago they were beautiful.  They looked majestic as they spread across the desert in organized lines.  And, though my friends and I laughed them off as yet another example of California’s “uniqueness,” I still knew deep down that there was something special about them.

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