Windmills: replacing smokestacks as icons of the city?


27 jun Windmills: replacing smokestacks as icons of the city?

Last thursday, the 23d of June, we visited the TransFuture Festival at the Energy Transition Centre (EnTranCe) on the  Zernike Campus. The festival focused on the energy transition in Groningen, and wind energy is becoming a part of it. Windmills will become an indispensable way to generate energy in order to achieve the city’s goal to be energy neutral in 2035. But wind energy is not undisputed, on the contrary. To engage in a dialogue with citizens, entrepreneurs and others, the municipality organized a symposium on wind energy that took place at the festival. The Urban Gro Lab was present here on this windless day to get a feeling for the dialogue and viewpoints. Because we’re interested in this topic, we also got students involved in the discussion and we assisted in organizing the workshops.

For long, windmills have been iconic features in the landscape. We have used them to grind our grain and for the reclamation of our land. Both were necessary to sustain development in our country. So why don’t we revive windmills when we need to adjust our energy production in order to live in a sustainable way? Fair enough, at first glance the windmills are not very attractive constructions in a wide and open landscape. But, the landscape has been a production landscape for ages. And however most often practical, not everything in this landscape is easy on the eyes. Think of business parks, gas stations and one-size-fits-all neighbourhoods expansions. It is not a valid reason to legitimate windmills by saying that everything else is ugly as well, but just as gas stations are essential for our daily lives, windmills will become essential as well.

smokestacks, towering above everything and everyone were once iconical for the city. Maybe it takes a generation to get used to the new icons of the city, but the mills are a part of the present and the future, just as they are a part of history.

To make sure that spatial results of the energy transition will be organized through an as good as possible planning process, it is necessary to look at new ways of financing. Who’s investing? Who’s reaping the benefits? Who owns the energy that is created by the mills? These are essential questions to tackle in the discussion. It’s good that we have different organizations with different ideas on this topic, that’s why it was good there were so many stakeholders present. It’s surely becoming a fascinating research topic in the forthcoming years.

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