Imposing On Pastoral Beauty To Capture Wind’s Power

Pinnacle turbines dot the skyline in Keyser, West Virginia, where, according to Andrew Cosner, a twenty-one-year-old technician, some residents remain hostile to the new wind farm: “They say it ruins the landscape and it’s ugly.”

It is to each of us whether we find the view attractive or not, and there was a time when I found large man-made structures an imposition on pastoral beauty.

Smith stands in the nacelle of one of the turbines just before daybreak.

As time passes I find myself drawn more to such a view as that in the photo above as a signal of progress.  It is not because the view is in a place far away from me– on the mountain ridge above where I live there is a row of such turbines and I am constantly gazing at that horizon. Published in the print edition of the November 28, 2022, issue of the New Yorker, with the headline “Blade Runners,” D.T. Max provides some context, but the photos do the heavy lifting:


In West Virginia, a crew of five watches over twenty-three giant turbines.

The Pinnacle wind-power plant extends for roughly four miles in the northeastern corner of West Virginia. Twenty-three turbines dot the spine of the Appalachians, irregularly spaced along the mountain ridges. The towers, supplied by Siemens Gamesa, rise three hundred feet, looking like giant pinwheels amid a rolling landscape of small towns and windy roads. The rotating blades can be seen from Maryland and Pennsylvania. Down below is Mineral County and its county seat, Keyser, a former manufacturing and railroad hub that overlooks a branch of the Potomac.

Five full-time employees maintain the turbines. Each tower has an internal ladder. After climbing to the top, the workers can investigate errant temperature readings—the gearbox can overheat—or worrisome signals from the tower’s sensors. Once a year, the team adjusts the calibrations of the blades, checks the tension on bolts, and tests the structural integrity of the equipment. Cleanliness is important to the successful functioning of such a delicate apparatus, and the employees take pride in their work. They often lug up a trash bag filled with rags, and use Simple Green cleaner to leave the towers gleaming in the sun. This is the first generation of West Virginians to trade work underground for work up high.

See the whole display here.

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