Iíve got to admit, it was an impressive sight, all sleek and aerodynamic and towering majestically over its surroundings.
But what the heck was it doing right beside the restaurant we were pulling into? Arenít those new-fangled industrial windmills supposed to be out in a field somewhere?
The unusual sight was spotted while I was on a September bus tour to the International Plowing Match in Southwestern Ontario when we stopped at a Millbank restaurant for dinner.
It was a full-blown, propeller-driven wind power generator installed by the owner as a way of curbing the monthly electricity bill. At the time, it was too new for him to have completed a meaningful cost comparison.
Erected by Free Breeze Energy Systems Ltd. of Waterloo, total cost of the system was $205,000. In addition to electricity, the windmill had generated so much curiosity that owner Mel Herrfort was planning to put an information sheet on the wall answering some of the common questions asked by nosy patrons such as yours truly.
Letís face it... the new-age windmills are just plain sexy. In my mind they look artistic, adding dramatically to the landscape rather than detracting from it.
Sun power has a certain cachet as well. Now compare those two alternative energy sources to creating currents from smelly cow poo. How attractive is that!
The icky factor perhaps partly explains why the main headliners in the alternative energy field have been wind and sun power, nice and clean electricity sources which earn a premium for their suppliers when sold to the provincial grid.
Meanwhile, the few farm bio-digesters operating in the province - Eastern Ontario leads the way - have been forced to fight for a minimum rate per kW-hr. which doesnít even cover costs.
Until recently, whenever government officials mentioned the future of alternative energy production, bio-digesting was almost never included.
But that seems to be changing with the recent Eastern Ontario Development Fund grant of $213,000 to Powerbase Energy Systems in Carleton Place to help commercialize a small-scale on-farm biogas production unit. Read all about it in an article elsewhere in this edition.
The grant is an indication that provincial officials recognize the potential of poo power and are prepared to invest in its promotion and expansion.
Meanwhile, the glamour twins of alternative energy, wind and sun, are starting to suffer some backlash, particularly the bigger blowhard of the two.
Opposition is popping up in places like Wolfe Island to what some see as the environmentally degrading unsightliness of the hard-to-miss power plants. Meanwhile, bio-digesters are low-rise and usually out behind the barn.
In Renfrew County, a group called S.O.S. (Save Our Skyline) has mustered to "save our beautiful Wilno Hills from probably the most destructive action ever to take place here", according to activist Carl Bromwich.
What has got S.O.S. sounding the alarm is the "threat of 400-foot high wind turbines all in the name of green renewable energy", Bromwich explained in an email.
Meanwhile, the group is active in trying to educate fellow residents as to the downfalls of "these monsters".
"Unfortunately, this wind issue is very political, not to mention economically popular with large corporations which places just ordinary citizens with little or no voice in the matter."
In the eyes of Bromwich, wind power is threatening to destroy communities both from within and from the outside as well.
While Iím more of a live-and-let-live kind of guy who sees a place for a limited number of selectively located windmills, itís clear the towers are going to become harder and harder to position out there as opposition forces grow.
This unfortunate situation should create increased openings for bio-digesters. Why not? Thereís virtually no downside.
Not only do they not register on the landscape, the process eliminates odours and pathogens, creating a perfectly safe soil conditioner which the nouveau rural rich shouldnít have the nerve to complain about.