Kinetic art at sea


Tom Wineman is an energy consultant who builds wind turbines on Cape Cod
who has sailed on Nantucket Sound for many years, so he naturally rented a
sailboat in Nysted to visit the wind park. "I love the feeling of wind power and
I love to sail," Wineman said later. With both, "you feel there is a bunch of wind
power being converted." (Photo by Jack Coleman)

The power of wind in any sail and nary a dead bird in sight

Special to cct by Jack Coleman

NYSTED, DENMARK - From six miles away, the whirring blades of the turbines appear like an apparition through the morning mist and haze.


At first glance the turbine look like the arms of synchonized swimmers, especially when the blades are slightly out of synch.

At first they are not visible at all, although the skies are mostly clear.

But through a pair of stationary binoculars in a wind power visitors' center at Nysted Harbor on the southern coast of Denmark, their sudden appearance is startling.

How about that - there they are. And just what do they look like?

Like the arms of synchonized swimmers

At first glance, to me, like the arms of synchonized swimmers, especially when the blades are slightly out of synch.

But we won't have to peer from shore much longer to get a good look at Nysted's offshore wind farm, which generates more electricity than any such project in the world.

A sports fishing boat has been chartered to ferry two groups of visitors from the US to the wind farm, and a sloop will carry a third load of passengers.

The visitors are on a trip sponsored by Clean Power Now, a non-profit group based on Cape Cod that supports the proposed offshore wind farm proposed for Nantucket Sound.

The captain of the 20-ton, oak-hulled charter boat "Amigo" knows these waters well, having worked them for 10 years.

Gregers Glensdorf also works at a nearby rescue station, one of 11 people who do. At least two people are always on duty at the station, which responds to about 70 to 90 accidents and rescue calls a year. Glensdorf works for 14 days at the station, then has 14 off.

Glensdorf said there have been no collisions between boats and wind turbines in the two years since they were built off Nysted, or rescue calls from within the nine-square-mile array of the wind farm.

During construction, a barge from Holland struck one of the turbines, damaging more damage to the barge than the turbine.The captain of the barge was apparently at fault, according to Glensdorf and Nysted Harbormaster Sven Erik Hauberg, who both say the captain was quickly replaced. One man was injured in the collision, Hauberg said - a sailor on the barge who was in the head, an apparently universal reference to the toilet on a vessel.

En route to the wind farm on the Amigo, it is not only straight ahead that we can see wind turbines. Nine land-based turbines are spinning away behind us, beyond fields of bright yellow that are filled with, depending on whom you ask, mustard plants or raps, from which canola oil is made. Maybe it's both.

Measuring the visual impact

About halfway through our hour-long trip to the turbines, I try an experiment to measure their visual impact. The president of the company that wants to build a wind farm in Nantucket Sound, Cape Wind Associates' Jim Gordon, has often said that his windmills would look about a half-inch in height from Cape Cod if a person held his or her arm out at full length and measured the turbines between thumb and forefinger.

Trying that here, the turbines appear smaller than a half-inch in this rudimentary measurement.

But these turbines are smaller than the one Gordon wants to build, 360 feet from sea level to the highest blade tip, compared to 417 feet for the Cape Wind turbines. Then again, we are about three miles away when I do this. The Cape Wind turbines would be situated just less than five miles from Point Gammon in Yarmouth at their closest point to land, six miles from Craigville Beach.

All attempts to convey the true size of offshore wind farms in photos or simulations appear futile when you see offshore wind turbines first-hand, for the same reason that a comet is invariably smaller than what we expect once we actually see it. The comet looks much larger within the context of the photo than it will within the immensity of the sky.

Every photo is, in effect, a window on the world. The rest of the world remains unseen outside the photo, but not with the naked eye from the shore and especially not on the ocean. Photos and simulations exclude the broad expanse of sky and the periphery on each end of the horizon, which makes whatever you are looking at smaller by comparison.

"I have never seen a dead bird in the water in this area. I don't think it is happening. Some people believe the park has become a navigational beacon to migratory birds", Gregers Glensdorf

"Photographs don't do this justice, so we have to find other ways to tell the story," said Matthew Palmer of West Barnstable, Clean Power Now's executive director.

Fears for birds, seal and sealife unfounded

Before we reach the turbines, Glensdorf slows the Amigo and stops a few hundred yards from an exposed sand bar dotted with seals. Situated about a half-mile from the nearest turbine, the area is clearly marked on maps - "forbudt omrade," or entry prohibited.

Local residents worried about potential harm to seals, birds, fish and other wildlife before the wind farm was built, but these fears appear unfounded, Glensdorf said.

"We have never seen it," he said. "I have never seen a dead bird in the water in this area. I don't think it is happening. Some people believe the park has become a navigational beacon to migratory birds."

Gulls and eiders frequently fly past on our way out, but few birds are seen as we get closer to the turbines. Are they deliberately steering clear of the area? It is impossible to answer on a first visit from the deck of a boat, but birds appear fewer in number within the wind farm itself.

Even now, the whirring of the blades as they throw shadows across the boat is not loud, but is conveys extraordinary power at work - like immense scythes cutting through the air.

The wind is moving at a good clip across the water, between 10 and 15 knots, but the turbines cannot be heard until Glensdorf pulls within 100 feet of a tower. He pulls closer still, until we are just several feet from the base of the turbine, and cuts the engine.

Even now, the whirring of the blades as they throw shadows across the boat is not loud, but is conveys extraordinary power at work - like immense scythes cutting through the air.

But they are not loud, and I am amazed it took us so long to hear them.

"When you are under it, with the engine (of the boat) shut off, you can hear them," said Laura Wasserman, a grant writer from Nantucket and member of the island's Clean Power Now chapter.

To Katharine Beckman, a social worker from Dennis, it is "a gentle whoosh-whoosh, not unlike waves lapping on a sailboat's hull as it moves through the ocean. Calm and soothing."


When the Danish wind projects were first  proposed, the local hospitality industry predicted doom, but today finds tour boat full of tourists visitng the areas just to see the project, even in the dead of winter.

To Solon Economu, Beckman's companion and a columnist with the Cape Cod Times, "they were lower than my normal conversational voice. I didn't hear them."

Behind us is the Trulle, a sloop carrying several of our colleagues. The skipper of the Trulle relies on his motor for the trip out, rather than sailing, much to the chagrin of Tom Wineman. An energy consultant who builds wind turbines on Cape Cod, Wineman has sailed on Nantucket Sound for many years.

On the return trip, the skipper agrees to let out the jib, but not the main sail. The sailboat plows head, pushed by the same wind that turns the turbine blades around us.

"I love the feeling of wind power and I love to sail," Wineman said later. With both, "you feel there is a bunch of wind power being converted."

Last report:: "Dylan Does Denmark" - The CPN travelers take a fishing boat out to their first visit to the wind park six miles south of Nysted, Denmark, click here.
First report: "The Wind Blows Free in Denmark" -
Thirty-four Cape and Island adventurers arrive to see what Nantucket Sound may look like in a few years, click here.

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