The sounds and visions of the wind

"A lot of tourists come only to look at the wind farm",
yet the world's two largest wind farms were barely visible from shore


Local Danish vacationers having a picnic at the beach at Blavand, Denmark on Saturday. Horns Rev, the largest offshore wind farm in the world, is situated eight miles offshore in the North Sea, but mist and fog made the turbines difficult to see from shore even on a day like this. Click the image to see the photo larger. (photo by Harper)

Special to cct by Jack Coleman

BLAVAND, DENMARK - Curious as to what the offshore wind farm proposed for Nantucket Sound could eventually look like? At least two locations in Denmark provide a possible sneak preview.

As claimed by proponents of the Nantucket Sound project, offshore wind farms are not quite as conspicuous as their opponents assert, or at least not from the shore.

At both Nysted on the Baltic Sea in southern Denmark and Blavand in the western part of the country overlooking the North Sea, the sites of the world's two largest wind farms, the projects were barely visible from shore to a group of 34 visitors from the U.S.

"One minute you can see them, the next minute you can't," said Nysted Mayor Lennart Damsbo-Andersen, as he was interviewed by Clean Power Now member and videographer Liz Argo. "I'd say 50 percent of the day time, you can't see them."

"One minute you can see them, the next minute you can't," - Nysted Mayor Lennart Damsbo-Andersen

The five-day trip was organized by Clean Power Now, a 4,700-member group based on Cape Cod that advocates in favor of the proposed Nantucket Sound wind farm. The Sorgaards, local owners of the Seahorse Restaurant in Blavand, gave this video to a Clean Power Now visitor.

Members of the group made three separate boat trips to the 72-turbine wind farm off Nysted on Thursday. The weather was beautiful - mostly sunny and warmer than usual, according to local residents, with high, thin clouds and a steady onshore breeze.

From inside Nysted Harbor seven miles away, the spinning turbines are barely visible through a combination of mist, fog and haze, while it is sunny along the shore.


Liz Argo took this photo from a dune opposite Horns Rev, but we doubt you can make out the wind turbines in the distance. Click on the photo or here for a 300% larger image.

Photographs cannot do justice to offshore wind turbines, since photography leaves out the turbines' essential nature - movement. The first time he saw the offshore wind farm from shore in the early evening of the day the group arrived in Nysted, the turbines were "fleeting and shrouded in mist," said Charles Kleekamp of Sandwich, CPN Information Director.

The sound of the turbine blades - "just like a swoosh, like a wind gust"

Since southern Denmark is situated at about the same latitude as southern Alaska, it remains light out well after 9 p.m. in late spring and early summer.

Between 7 and 7 a.m. on Friday, with clear skies and a stead breeze along the shore, the wind turbines were invisible behind fog and mist. The Clean Power Now group had seen them first-hand just a day before and now it is as if they had vanished.

The Clean Power Now group had seen them first-hand just a day before and now it is as if they had vanished.

And the sound of the turbine blades?

From the deck of a charter boat situated directly underneath, they were "just like a swoosh, like a wind gust," to Katharine Beckman, a social worker from South Dennis. "But you had to be right next to it to hear it. You can't hear it from a distance."

Solon Economou, Beckman's companion and a columnist with the Cape Cod Times, said he could not hear the turbines blades while on the charter boat. "The noise level was not above our conversation level," he said.

"The noise level was not above our conversation level" - Solon Economou

"It sounded like something out of a sci-fi movie," said Laura Wasserman, a grant writer on Nantucket. "But we couldn't hear it until we were right next to it."

"It sounded like wind - swish ... swish ... swish ..." said Margaret Wineman of East Orleans, a retired chemist and teacher making the trip with her husband, Robert, a retired researcher, and their son, Tom Wineman, a Clean Power Now board member and energy consultant.

"It was far from an overwhelming noise, but when you are sailing, you hear that sound anyway," Mrs. Wineman said. "I can see if you live near the turbines, it could be a problem." To Robert Wineman, the sound is akin to "someone sweeping the floor with a corn broom."

"This is what we have chosen instead of nuclear power."


A paraglider entertains members of the Clean Power Now group at Blavand on the western coast of Denmark, during the group's five-day trip to Denmark to tour land-based and offshore wind farms. (photo by Jack Coleman)

When you listen to them, you had to listen very carefully to decide whether you are hearing the turbines or the wind. A local Dabe remarked to one of the group, "I think they are great. If I want to look at the ocean, I'll look somewhere else. This is what we have chosen instead of nuclear power."

While Denmark has no nuclear power plants, nearby Sweden does, including an aging plant within 30 miles of Copenhagen. 

"My heart leaps just the way it did a year and a half ago," said Susan Brown upon seeing the first land-based turbines. Brown, a landscape designer from Waltham, is one of four people in the group who went on Clean Power Now's first trip to Denmark in January 2004, along with William and Dorte Griswold, who organized both trips, and videographer Liz Argo of Orleans.

"They are sort of ghostly ...You wouldn't even know they are there."

Dorte Griswold's family owns a summer home not far from the Horns Rev wind farm at Blavand.

Kleekamp described seeing the Nysted wind farm at close hand as "an emotional experience for me" that brought tears to his eyes. "That's unusual for a technical engineer," he said.

"It's an emotional experience for me - the exquisite beauty, the common sense of using wind energy for electricity and the sadness that it is not accepted by many people on Cape Cod." - Chas. Kleekamp

He reacted this way for three reasons, Kleekamp said - "the exquisite beauty, the common sense of using wind energy for electricity and the sadness that it is not accepted by many people on Cape Cod."

But, Kleekamp added, "I think it is accepted in New England, in most places."

As was the case at Nysted, the Clean Power Now group could barely see the wind turbines at Horns Rev eight miles from shore at Blavand on Saturday afternoon.

"They are sort of ghostly out there," said Jenna Strong of Burlington, Vt. "You wouldn't even know they are there."

Indeed, a Danish man visiting the beach at Blavand with his wife and 6-year-old daughter had not noticed the wind turbines and was not aware they existed until he was told this by an American journalist. Even then, the man appeared skeptical until he saw them through binoculars.

What did he think of them, the man was asked. "I like the wind power," said Keld Jacobsen of Billund through broken English. "Because it's not oil."

With its wide expanse of beach, abundant dunes and 105-year-old lighthouse overlooking the beach, Blavand could easily be mistaken for the National Seashore on Cape Cod.

Carl Borchert, a dock worker on Nantucket who came with the Clean Power Now group, quipped about the elusive offshore wind turbines - "we came 4,000 miles and we can't see them."

An emerging technology

Vestas, the Danish company that built the Horns Rev turbines, was forced to replace the  generators in all 80 turbines at Horns Rev after flawed insulation was found within the generators last year.

All of the wind turbines were working again as of December, according to Vestas engineer Lars Bo Nielsen.

"Since then, we have had no problems," Nielsen told Clean Power Now members during a stop at the Vestas production facility on Saturday.

When the CPN group traveled to Blavand later that day for a glimpse of Horns Rev from the shoreline, only one of the 80 turbines was not spinning, as determined by three scans of the wind farm through binoculars.

Reminds us of the Cape Cod National Seashore

With its wide expanse of beach, abundant dunes and 105-year-old lighthouse overlooking the beach, Blavand could easily be mistaken for the National Seashore on Cape Cod, an observation made by several people in the group.

Cape Wind wins "Sand Poll"
In a serendipitous sidelight, the much ballyhooed "Sand Poll" about the Cape Wind project conducted at the Scargo Café in Dennis for the past six weeks ended in a victory for Cape Wind, 41 pounds of sand vs. 39 pounds. See the story here.

Bent Jakobsen, a park ranger and teacher at Blavand, said the wind turbines appear not to have hurt or helped tourism in the area since they were built three years ago.

"It's very difficult to say," Jakobsen said. "But there are a lot of tourists who come only to look at the wind farm."

Apparently they are visible at least some of the time.

Previous report; "Kinetic Sea Art" - The power of the wind in any sail and nary a dead bird in sight, click here.
Second 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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