Wind Power

by Barak Fravasi

The child was fine. That was what everyone asked about and of course that was the most important thing. He had been up on the tower for perhaps forty-five minutes, and on some of the video you can see him laughing occasionally, at least until the blades begin to spin, but no one down below was laughing, even after the episode was over. “Someday,” a still unidentified person in the Salty Brine Beach parking lot had said, as the blades began to turn, “they will understand this as the story of Abraham and Issac,” and apparently this remark had provoked the brawl that had killed Mrs. Carol Kertale, of Peacedale, RI, ironically enough, but this had been the only significant physical injury of the day. The greater tragedy, in my opinion, was the mental deterioration of the father, Boswell¬† “Bimm”¬† Summers. A devoted father, his wife insisted even after the incident — she the daughter of the well-known local industrialist Giercloud, and heiress to the Rhode Island mouse bait fortune — but perhaps more devoted to the controversial Clapjack Bay Wind Project, she admitted, a project that was going to help the state’s historically pathetic economy, according to Professor Summers, by transforming Rhode Island into the global leader in turbine manufacturing.

Summers had convinced his students at Gaspee University, as well as most of his neighbors in the Providence suburb of Barrington, but the timing for such a large and risky investment was lousy, said his sympathetic Congressman, whatever the potential return, and the oil, coal and solar energy lobbyists would make sure that most of the energy dollars went elsewhere. It was the environmentalists who seemed to irritate Summers the most, however, the “so-called environmentalists” he called them, and the recent lengthy interview with the Executive Director of the influential Safe Environment for Living RI (SELRI), Dr. David Klank, that appeared over several days in the Providence Daily Business Journal, had included a claim about the dangers of wind turbines operating in populated areas that Summers regarded as not only false but pernicious. He wrote to the newspaper, and to members of the SELRI Board, calling attention to the misinformation and urging the dismissal of the Executive Director, but when these communications came to nothing, it seems that he conceived the stunt involving his 3 year-old son, Harry.

Having used Federal Stimulus money to redesign a parking lot and pavilion in Narragansett, and to build a wind turbine to power the new structure and thereby comply with “green” design requirements, the state had asked for Summers’ cooperation. Summers had donated his time as well as a state-of-the-art meter from his personal collection to measure the energy produced, although he made clear that the state had erred in not using a larger-sized turbine in order to make the cost-savings more dramatic. He was familiar with every detail of the turbine, of course, and thus knew not only how to climb the tower but how to stop the turbine, set the blades in place, and use the bolts already on the blades to secure young Harry in such a way that allowed the child to not be turned upside down even as the blades spun.

The weather had cooperated beautifully, and long before Summers and his son had reached the platform from which the blades could be controlled, a crowd had gathered with all manner of audio-video equipment. Several videos of the complete rotations of the blades with the boy attached had been uploaded to YouTube within the hour. “Spectacular madness,” said one of Summers’ colleagues in the Mechanical Engineering Department at Gaspee, and of course, depending on tomorrow’s coverage, he may have advanced the cause significantly.”

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