This isn’t my typical post about training or races. One of the things I really love about mountain biking is the ability to explore the land in ways that you can’t in an auto or on foot. This has led to me getting severely lost more than once; but, more often, it has been very rewarding.
A few weeks ago, Lyndon State College hosted an Energy Fair which was filled with various vendors promoting their renewable energy systems. While there, I had the opportunity to talk for a while with Catherine, who works for First Wind at the Sheffield wind farm. She told me that it would be okay for me to ride in to take a look at things. Based on the gates and signs, I don’t think they want people randomly milling in and out of the area. She asked that I check in with the office, if there was anyone around, before entering.
The ride itself was actually quite cold. The temperatures were in the low 40s, and it was windy. It was even more windy up on the ridge (understatement). We’ve had a strange winter this year. Normally, there would still be several feet of snow on the ground in early April but not this year. Even at this elevation there barely any snow to be found anywhere.
All of the service roads were rough gravel. It wasn’t 4wd terrain, but I wouldn’t think about taking a road bike on them either. Unsurprisingly, there was quite a bit of climbing. The inclines were about as steep as I care to tackle with a single-speed bike. I had to zig-zag up one hill to keep going. The actual riding wasn’t all that interesting by mountain bike standards but still enjoyable. Altogether, it might be a little more than three miles to ride all the way in from the road. It would have been a great workout if I weren’t stopping periodically to take a photo or two. I kept looking around the woods thinking about how cool the terrain would be to build some single-track through, not that it’s likely to ever happen.
The towers are massive. Huge. Enormous. Where’s my thesaurus? Words really can’t accurately describe what it is like to stand under one of these monsters. It is almost scary to look up and see the blades turning overhead. The towers are somewhere around 300 feet tall and the blades are over 100 feet long each. It looks absolutely surreal to see something that large rotating around a couple hundred feet overhead.
One of the things that surprised me was how relatively quiet they were, which is not to say that they were completely silent. The best description of the sound they make is to compare it with a home dishwasher. The blades had a distinct “whoosh” sound, and the generators do make a hum. It was noticeable when you started to get close but virtually inaudible when more than half a mile away or more. The wind was really blowing so I think I got a good sense of what their sound levels are like.
The presence of the wind farm has been a controversial issue among some people in the area. I thought it was worth a first hand look. Whether for or against it, I was impressed with how they had minimized the impact on the mountain top considering the scale of the operation. There were lots of accommodations to contain runoff and prevent erosion. Considerably better than what I’ve seen at ski areas that were at higher elevations. Overall, it made for a very interesting ride. I love exploring things by bike. I hope that I can get over to the old abandoned radar base in East Haven on my bike and get some photos of that as well.