Ernst: Winds of change stymied by hot air

Considering America's recent love affair with "living green," I could not help but be reminded of the previous debate regarding wind power as an alternate energy source. I saw a news segment on a man in New Jersey who installed a $10,000 wind turbine in his backyard to help power his home. We know that fossil fuels won't last forever and most communities are afraid of nuclear energy. However, for every person like this who tries for wind-energy dependence, there are seemingly 100 people against such power sources.

Neighbors of this man listed reasons why his turbine was a homeowner association's nightmare: The turbine is an eyesore, it flings ice in the winter, it's noisy and turbines in general are inefficient and expensive.

I suppose you could call turbines eyesores; they're tall towers with a fan on top. There are, however, a lot of far uglier things around people's houses that I'd prefer a turbine over any day. Honda Elements, stupid mailboxes, jungle gyms and most teenagers are eyesores. I'd much rather stare at a pole with a fan on top than most objects that populate neighborhoods.

Turbines gather and fling ice in the winter. Roofs and trees do too. This excuse is so sad because even if a turbine were to be stationary long enough to accumulate ice, I'm sure it would fall off in the first rotations. If it is so much of a problem for neighbors, they should just not go outside for the first two minutes the turbine turns. Problem solved.

Turbines are noisy. Yes. So are children, cars, dishwashers, garage doors, birds and so on. I would quickly relocate if I lived in a neighborhood that was so devoid of sounds that the swinging of a turbine bothered me.

Finally, one of the biggest complaints is that wind turbines are ineffective and expensive (this probably comes from the same people whose combustion engine SUVs eat $60 worth of gas every three days and are about 30 percent efficient). The guy who put up the turbine in his backyard remains connected to the power grid, which provides two benefits: if there is no wind, he can still have power, and if he creates a surplus of energy, the electric company actually credits him for providing back to the grid. Statistics say that this backyard turbine will pay for itself in five years with little maintenance and on average, provides 80 percent of the energy used in his home. How this does not outweigh the fact that it's a big ugly fan?

I only wanted to bring this up because I really do support actively changing one's way of life if it is beneficial in the long run. I have the utmost respect for the man who put up his own turbine because he did not simply sit around and complain about how expensive his energy bills were or that fossil fuels were evil. He got up and did something about it.

Kelly Ernst is a senior communication major who thinks people who cry over windmills should go fill up their Hummers.