Joan Wilder: Journalist, Writer, Editor

In New Windmills, a Whiff of the Future

Original Boston Globe Spread for windmill article.

More towns are along the coast are using wind power

The South Shore is changing. Everything is changing, I know, but usually it’s so gradual you don’t notice it. Now, though, here in Hull, Hingham, Cohasset, and Scituate, you can see the changes along the ground and up in the air for miles around: train tracks and windmills.

Ever since the old Hingham Lumber yard was demolished three years ago to make way for restoration of the Old Colony Railroad, I’ve been taking mental snapshots of the site as it changes from day to day. Then, seemingly overnight, in the last couple months, I could suddenly see the railway tracks.

What I like about them is that you can look straight along the tracks, through everything that used to be where the railroad bed is now, and see far down the line. Long-obscured spots have opened up into unobstructed vistas. It’s enlightening! Instantly, I can see how places connect in a way I cannot otherwise sense when driving the curvy, tree-covered roads in these parts. It’s like the land got undressed and I can see its bones.

A few weeks ago, on a Thursday, the sleek white shank of a modern, Danish windmill rose on a small hill in Hull above the Weir River, off George Washington Boulevard, 2 miles from the Hingham Rotary and half a mile from my house.

By the following afternoon, when I came home from the dentist, the whole thing was assembled and up, just like that! The sight made me gasp.

Everywhere I go now, I discover new perspectives on the land and the windmill. Hull Wind II looks different depending on where you are, towering from one spot, toy-like from another, pink in the sunset from a friend’s home on Straits Pond. I don’t always accept change as easily as a wiser person might, although I know change is nature’s way. Still, it’s a struggle, needing to feel safe and secure in a world that continually shifts.

But, like it or not, change is constant, so I figure the question is whether you help things change for the better or the other way around.

I love the windmill, and I like trains. I know there’s been controversy about the train coming, but one amazing thing about the new windmill is that I haven’t heard anyone say anything about it except good things. I think the townspeople here are proud of Hull’s pioneering enterprise. Then, too, they’ve seen their electric bills go down since the first windmill went up at Pemberton Point in 2001.

Even people who live near the windmills which are about 5 miles apart, by the way have nice things to say about them.
On a recent Saturday, I overheard a woman, Margo Euler, telling someone that her husband thinks the new windmill, which is fully visible from the couple’s Hingham home on the river, looks like an elegant sculpture.

I think it’s gorgeous, too, the way it rises up to catch the wind and use its power. I wonder if that’s what makes me see it as beautiful, the fact that I know it will generate enough power to run about 750 homes, costing less than conventional sources and not polluting anything. I don’t know.

I do know, though, that as the windmill scrapes the sky, my heart fills with hope that a small American town is entering a new era.

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