Along the 401, these breaks come in the form of the Big Apple, the verdant hills of Northumberland County, and CFB Trenton’s roadside fighter jet. Along the A10, meanwhile, there’s the largest wind farm in France.
Watching its towering turbines align ahead of me, their spinning white blades overlapping to dizzying effect, reminded me of two things: One, it's no longer surprising to see wind farms dot the landscape; and two, they really are quite beautiful.
A week later, standing atop England’s White Horse Hill, I had the same thought when I noticed a line of them dotting the horizon (pictured above...look closely!). (This, combined with the recent demise of nearby Didcot Power Station, can only be a positive sign when it comes to renewable energy.) Then there are the Ontario road trips I've taken over the past two summers — to Sauble Beach, Kingston, Ottawa and Windsor — which have led me past hundreds of the spinning turbines. The same goes for recent international forays through upstate New York, Costa Rica (pictured below) and Ireland.
Never has a wind farm struck me as ugly, or detracted from the natural beauty of its surroundings. Quite the opposite: They usually serve as eye-catching landmarks, especially since their locations — along the A10, for example — tend to be flat and fairly featureless.
Not everyone will share my views on wind farms' aesthetic appeal. A surprising amount of controversy surrounds these installations — centred on issues such as health and bird deaths — given that their purpose is to provide the renewable energy our planet obviously needs.
But controversy breeds curiosity, which must be part of the reason for the proliferation of wind-farm tours. Staff at the 86-turbine project on Wolfe Island near Kingston, for example, will show groups of 10 or more around (depending on availability), with a self-guided tour map available for smaller groups. In Michigan, home to 900-plus turbines, the town of Ludington runs $10 bus tours of the Lake Winds Energy Park in summer and fall.
In Prince Edward Island, the North Cape Wind Farm Gift Shop and Interpretive Centre attracts 60,000 visitors a year (according to its website), while Manitoba's St. Leon Interpretive Centre offers walking tours.
Then there's the Eye of the Wind turbine atop Grouse Mountain near Vancouver (pictured below), which lets visitors take in alpine views from a glass viewing pod just below its massive blades. It's even worth checking out the informative panels at the base of WindShare's 91-metre-tall turbine in Toronto's Exhibition Place, which was the first turbine installed in a major North American city centre when it went up in 2002.
So next time my eyes start glazing over as I speed down the 401, I’ll take a detour to Wolfe Island. And should my wind farm tour conclude with a couple scoops of “keylime blast” ice cream from Café Tenango, well, so be it…