Friday, July 2, 2010

Sound of the wind

Yesterday was hot! During the night, the wind cooled everything back down. When the wind rushes through the trees for more than a few hours, my mind sort of loses interest in it and I don’t even notice the sound.

After we put up our wind generator, one of my friends complained that it had ruined his view. When I went to his house to check, I could see the generator on a distant hill. It had, in fact, changed his view. When we planned to put the generator on the highest hill on our property, we hadn’t even considered that it would have an effect on other people. We couldn’t see it from our house, a copse of trees hid it from view.

We didn’t usually hear the generator from our house either, until the Christmas Eve night in a blizzard that a bolt on the generator mount broke. Suddenly it sounded like a freight train was roaring down the hill, headed straight for our house. The lights flickered and the upstairs lights went out.

What was happening? Amber and I bundled up and struggled up the hill against the wind. We kept our bodies low, unconsciously hoping to be missed if the tower fell. I tried tightening the brakes on the generator, but the blades were spinning so fast that sparks flew out from the motor casing. We ran back to the house, called the power company and the generator repair man.

The power company man came on a snowmobile, escorted by two of our neighbors at whose homes the road became impassable. He disconnected the generator from the electrical system. The repair man called from his Christmas dinner and told us to put on the brakes. The night returned to normal, lights on in the house and only the sound of the blizzard rushing through the trees.

When the generator was repaired, the only sound of the electricity we were generating for ourselves and the other members of our electrical co-op was a soft hum.

Then, last month, another neighbor caught me at the grocery store. “I’m real sorry to say this, I really like it that you make green energy, ” he said, “but the sound of your wind generator is driving me crazy.” For the past six months, the generator had been noisier. A bearing was going and the repair man hadn’t had time to replace it yet. But when Dave and I heard the drone, it was just a reminder that we needed to get a hold of the repair man again.

I knew what our neighbor meant. Once you identify something as an irritant, it can become impossibly obnoxious. To us, the sound of the generator, even with a faulty bearing, meant pennies in the bank and the tons of coal that aren’t being dug out of the ground in North Dakota, converted to carbon dioxide by the electrical plants and released to the environment. To our neighbor, it was just an irritant. We called the repairman again and shut down the machine. We want to be good neighbors.

Last week, my friend who had first complained about the wind mill in the view from his living room window stopped me to ask about the generator. “Why isn’t it running?” he asked. Another friend mentioned that she used our generator to tell how windy a day it was and what direction the wind was coming from.

I miss the gentle hum of the wind generator, the feeling that I can use as much electricity as I want on windy days and not hurt the environment. As soon as the repairman replaces the bearing, we’ll let off the brake and start up the generator again. It will be nice to hear the wind blow and think of the green energy flowing from our hill top out into Otter Tail County

1 comment:

  1. In my young brain it was not exactly "unconsciously" hoping not to be hit by the wild, basically invisible and fully terrifying windmill. Maybe fervently, passionately, ardently... something along those lines and definitely consciously!