Monday, January 10, 2011

powering away

It was a bleak cold morning in Arizona as we passed the Cholla Power Plant (which I've seen look more spectacular against the sky than this, but seldom more inhospitable).   It's a coal burning plant, burning coal from - from where?  Web sources say the McKinley mine in Northern NM, but different pieces of information say that this mine closed in 2009.   Whatever the origins of its fuel, it's busily producing electrical energy for California and Oregon - which is little consolation to the inhabitants of Arizona, or NM, who don't see so much as a kilowatt of it.   Supposedly those great clouds of emissions aren't toxic - and it's going to be retrofitted to comply with the Clean Air Act by 2020 (2020! I must remember to take another photo, to compare ...) - but what these statistics don't say is what a blot on the otherwise wild and barren and space-filled landscape it is.   Admittedly this isn't the most picturesque section of I-40, despite the Route 66 hang-overs.   Travelling eastwards, this is just past the sign for the Giant Jack Rabbit - which, made of pale grey concrete, isn't very Giant at all - not like this -


But the landscape, at least heading towards the Navajo reservation, isn't dissimilar, and the power station is a startling apparition.   That being said, I've become apprehensive recently about the environmental impact of windfarms, too - not because of their weird whirling and humming presence, but having read of the numbers of migrating birds who can get fatally caught up in them.    Nonetheless, and even if it's not actually on native soil, every time I pass this, I'm reminded of a photo by the Tuscarora artist and art historian Jolene Rickard, of a power plant where (thanks to subtle photo-collageing) buffalo are plunging and kicking in the clouds of smoke and steam, as though the fuels that are being burned up are going the same way as earlier occupants of the surface of the land.

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