Get used to seeing solar panels -- already we're planting the things on parking garages, churches, houses, even long stretches in the middle of the desert only inhabited by man-eating mutant cannibals. So what's the problem with turning sunlight into pollution-free electricity? Are we draining the sun?
No, but in our rush to point as many large mirrors at the sky as possible, we seem to have forgotten to consider the fact that sometimes people like to, you know, go up there for stuff. In Zurich, Switzerland, airport officials forced a church to adjust its solar panels because they feared the massive glare would blind pilots when they attempted to land. And this isn't the first time: One green home had to be redesigned because reflections from the solar panels were causing fighter pilots at the local military airport to make dazed landings while trying to blink the spots out of their eyes.
"Fuck it, I'm just gonna drop the nose and gun it."
As larger solar panel farms are built, the risks become even greater, to the point that the possible side effects read like the warning label from an ACME crate: Scientists have warned that a plan for 170,000 large solar panels in the Mojave Desert could "vaporize birds, blind drivers miles away, flip small airplanes or even attract Air Force heat-seeking missiles." That's right -- build a big enough solar panel, and you've basically created an enormous trampoline allowing Ra to jump down out of the sky, bounce back up and dick-slap small airplanes right out of the sky.
Of course, airplanes being airplanes, they could always just, oh, we don't know, maybe fly around the vast swath of nothingness that is the Mojave Desert. That still doesn't solve the whole vaporizing birds issue, but we see that one as more of a golden opportunity for people to achieve YouTube superstardom.
"Shit, where's my "Yakety Sax" MP3?"
Some of you have already upgraded to those swirly fluorescent light bulbs, but the real future is in LED.
LED light bulbs can use up to 80 percent less energy and last 25 times longer than traditional bulbs. Plus, unlike the traditional light bulb, they weren't "invented" by an unequivocal dick. If you want to see how much energy a standard incandescent bulb wastes, just feel how hot it gets -- in any system, heat = wasted energy. LED bulbs are just as bright, and stay cool. All the juice is going toward lighting the room, not warming it. Everybody wins!
Plus, they're small enough that if you're good enough at palming, you can steal like six at a time.
Well, there is the fact that LED light bulbs are wantonly murdering our drivers. OK, that might be a bit melodramatic, but it does turn out that, at least for a few months out of the year, LED traffic lights are making our roads less safe. Those few months are what we call "winter."
You see, when heavy snow and ice fall onto an old-fashioned traffic light, the heat from the old, inefficient incandescent bulbs melts it away. But LEDs generate so little heat that the snow and ice just build up and eventually crust over the light. With visibility already limited by bad weather and no way for drivers to see the traffic signal, car accidents have increased at intersections with LEDs and led to at least one death that police believe could have been otherwise avoided.
If they'd made them out of light saber stuff like we suggested, this wouldn't be an issue.
But cities aren't quite ready to give up on the potential of LED traffic lights just yet. One attempted solution has been to have workers drive around and blast air at the offending traffic signals -- which sort of negates that "reduced maintenance" selling point. But hey, if that whole global warming thing pans out, it might be a moot point anyway.
One megawatt of wind power can provide electricity to as many as 300 homes per year, and it can do all that without creating air, water or land pollution. Find a nice patch of land where the wind is always blowing, and let the wind do all the work. Yes, the occasional bird might get caught in the blades, but it's not like those same birds exactly enjoy breathing the smoke belched from coal-fired power plants.
So what's the problem? This:
Annoying, huh? It's called shadow flicker -- and yes, the world really has coined an official term for "wind turbines keep flicking the sun's light switch off and on like an asshole roommate." This is what you get when the turbine is sitting right between you and the setting or rising sun. Blinking, flickering sunlight, worsening your headache with each pulsing flash. Combine that with the constant low-frequency hum emitted by the turbines and you can imagine how it wouldn't take too long for even the mentally healthiest person to start developing a nervous tick. Experts are pretty divided on what the actual effects on the human body are, but scientists agree that having the sun blinking on and off is annoying as shit.
Community doctors have noted that after living up to a mile away from turbines, patients have developed headaches, sleep disorders and anxiety and depression symptoms that were previously nonexistent. However, government studies haven't acknowledged an official link between proximity to wind turbines and human health except to say that shadow flicker could cause annoyance.
"Scientists have determined that no one we know lives here, so it's fine."
Apparently the prisoners at the high-security Whitemoor prison in the U.K. agreed with this conclusion. Prison director Martin Adler negotiated with a nearby energy company, who eventually caved in and agreed to turn off their turbine during certain hours of the morning because the shadow flicker was making the deranged prisoners even deranged-er. Oh sure, annoying average homeowners is no big deal, but annoy a bunch of violent criminals, and ... actually, yeah, that makes total sense.
The closest anyone in the industry has come to acknowledging that the turbines might have adverse health effects is a study commissioned by the American Wind Energy Association, in which Dr. Geoff Leventhall and his colleagues argued that the effect of being in proximity to turbines is "similar to the effect of any other noise and will disturb people if they are listening to a noise they do not want to hear. One of the main effects is sleep disturbance, which can lead to other stress-related effects." But the problem is that they generally aren't erecting turbines in the middle of the city, where people are accustomed to noise pollution -- they're putting them out in the middle of nowhere, where the noisiest thing residents previously had to deal with was livestock flatulence. So pretty much any noise is "a noise they do not want to hear."
Brrvvt. "Oh my God, shut the fuck up!"
Again, it's not like these people will be happier with catastrophic climate change, so we kind of have to take the long view. But maybe put the turbines farther away from the houses next time.
For more "greening" attempts that made us shake our heads, check out The 6 Most Half-Assed Attempts at Corporate Green Washing and The 7 Most Retarded Ways Celebrities Have Tried to Go Green.