Monday, June 27, 2011

Renewable Wind Energy

Is the answer blowing in the wind?

Energy from natural resources including sun, wind, and geothermal heat, is called renewable energy because the source is replenished as a byproduct of the natural ecosystem. I spend a good deal of time on and around the ocean, and I see and feel the power of nature first hand. It’s impossible not to notice how much unharnessed energy is all around us.

Can wind play a significant role in generating the energy we need in the coming years? The upsides are that wind is renewable (it’s infinite!) and it’s clean – no release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, no radioactive or toxic byproduct to dispose of. The downsides are that it hasn’t yet reached a level of efficiency to warrant construction of large scale energy plants when compared with legacy power plants, and some people object to the appearance of wind generation infrastructure near to where they live.

How can we overcome the negatives? What investments do we need to make in order to let wind power develop into a cost-effective approach, and are there ways to make wind power plants acceptable to neighbors?

I believe that the two primary contributors to cost effectiveness will be time and scale. Time allows successive generations of infrastructure to get more efficient. Scale, through broad deployment, allows for economies. I believe that tax or other incentives for both consumers and suppliers have a place here.

Offshore deployments may come first. Offshore wind farms have the advantage of strong winds and the ability to locate the infrastructure farther from the eyes of worried neighbors.  There have been several projects developing in the northern Atlantic states.  Maine in particular has a growing interest in wind energy. Other areas, though, are also interested in scaling up quickly not only for the clean energy but for job creation and for reputation.  The Great Lakes area is currently making a big push. On the west coast, Oregon is exploring community based deployments as well as larger scale wind power infrastructure. When it comes to concern from neighbors, opinion may be shifting in some circles.  Virginia protestors recently demonstrated to promote wind over oil drilling.

  • Do you believe that wind power can be efficient and a major contributor within the next 10 years?
  • Are you against wind farms being built near you for any reason? Aesthetics, noise, property value impact, wildlife impact?

If you have thoughts to share on wind power, please post your comments here.


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