Aesthetics of the energy transition: Triggering the social debate

Landscape in transition – what a great title! It is referring to a big task mankind is currently undertaking, the energy transition, and connects it with the big aesthetical question behind it. Global energy transition, the switch to a 100% renewable energy supply, goes hand in hand with a complete and fundamental change of the way how we used to generate our energy in the 20th century, at that time completely based on huge and centralised power plants, fuelled with fossil or nuclear resources.

Renewable energy is by nature offered in a decentralised way, and it is directly bound to land – or, in other words, to landscape. The transition towards renewable energy basically means that we are starting to harvest the abundance of renewable energy resources which we find everywhere in a distributed and decentralised way. Renewable energy means using land and landscape certainly in a much better and much more sustainable way – but in a way that is changing the face of this landscape.

Wind power as one of the most important renewable energy sources has visually the largest impact on our landscape. This is what Ulrich Mertens has documented with his pictures in such a unique and impressive way. Wind turbines are changing the face of our landscape, and the big question is: How far is this change socially accepted and supported?

What we therefore need is eventually a debate about aesthetics. Whether we find something beautiful or not depends a lot on what we find true. And this book represents a wonderful contribution to this social debate, as it visually takes part in it by visualising the new world which we are about to create, within the global energy transition.

By telling us the story behind and inside wind technology, by going beyond the surface of simple technology admiration, by showing us the manifold facets of modern wind energy, sometimes serious, sometimes with a smile, Ulrich Mertens – although or better because he mainly presents pictures instead of words – provides valuable input into the social debate and eventually for the social transition that is required for the completion of the energy transition.

© Stefan Gsänger ist Polikwissenschaftler und Generalsekretär der WWEA (World Wind Energy Association), Bonn

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