From the archive: Alternative energy and tilting at windmills – Irish Times


March 5, 2017 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Google+ Alternative Energy


‘Windmills turned lazily on the lawns of the RDS Simmonscourt Pavilion,” reads the caption on this image from the summer of 1981. It adds, in a bemused sort of way, that wind was being explored as an alternative fuel, “instead of using coal and/or turf”.

You can see why our photographer might not have been convinced by what he found at the grandly-named Alternative Energy Camp in Ballsbridge. Not so much as a whisper of wind is in evidence. The windmills in the foreground are becalmed, though one is pegged down lest it take off into the skies while the other has been planted into a couple of breeze blocks.

Back in 1981, the notion of wind energy would have been widely regarded in Ireland as just so much hot air. The bowler-hatted gentleman looks as if he, too, might take some convincing. Hands on hips, he gazes resolutely at the ground while the lady with the pageboy hair – clutch bag gripped to her side, hands going 10 to the dozen – sings to him from some eco-tastic hymn sheet or other.

In the background, three young fellas have scrambled on to a scaffolding to check up on their DIY windmill. Which, to our more knowing 21st-century eyes, looks more like an actual source of alternative energy and less like the sort of thing kids stick on top of sandcastles at the seaside.

The real joy of the photo, however, is the two dudes at the centre of the shot. One sports an impressive Afro while the other has gone for more of a Donatello look (the painter, not the ninja turtle). Did they get out of that Starsky and Hutch-style car, brush off their skinny jeans and stroll towards the action, in the hope that “alternative energy” might just have something to do with rock music?

If so, they were to be disappointed As, indeed, are we all. More than three decades later, wind power accounts for just 4 per cent of worldwide electricity usage. And that’s on a good day.

Arminta Wallace

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