Sunday, March 2, 2008

Can Wind Power Our Future?

By ChrisCape Cod Mass., holds many of its deep rooted traditions very close to it. It is no surprise that when and energy entrepreneur proposed building 130 wind turbines standing over more than 400 feet tall 5 miles south of Cape Cod, locals were shocked. The turbines would provide most of the electricity in the area, but they would be visible from the million dollar summer-home shoreline.

Immediately, year round residents were divided over the plan. Lynn Sherwood, a fifth grade teacher loved the idea. "It's a no-brainer," she said. About a third of Sherwood's students have asthma, and experts say that if the town's electricity wasn't produced by fossil fuels, that the air quality would significantly increase the air quality. In Massachusetts, Cape Cape Cod air quality ranks among the worst. On the other hand, some people argued that the turbines would ruin the beauty of the area.

Today, nearly seven years later, Cape Cod remains divided about the proposal. Wealthy objectors have spent around $20 million trying to end the project, but the energy developer has spent more than $30 million to push it foreword. Polls show that more than 80% percent of the state at large support the idea, and state officials say that the turbines could save electricity consumers of New England $25 million a year.

Throughout the nation, battles similar to the one in Cape Cod are raging. Many opponents to wind turbines have successfully stalled their building. They say that wind turbines are noisy, unsightly, expensive, harm wildlife, rely on federal and state subsidies, and do not provide a dependable supply of electricity.

To counter, supports say that the technology would reduce America's dependency on fossil fuels, provide high-paying jobs to locals, and clean up the nation's dirty air and water. They say that damage to the environment could be reduced by building away from certain areas. Experts add that while not controllable, wind patterns can be predicted, and therefore is reliable.

Wind energy has been around for many years. The Romans used windmills to grind grain, the early Americans also used windmills to pump water, and even in the early 20th century to generate electricity. Inventor Charles F. Brush designed the first windmill that powered electric lights in 1877. The bulky machine lasted 12 years and had 144 blades. Today, turbines are sleek, powerful, and highly efficient.

Although the United States is well suited to generated electricity from wind, less that 3% of the nation's electricity is produced this way. Texas is the leader in the wind industry, but even there wind contributes only 4% of the electricity generated in the state. California sits in a distant second. In Europe, however, wind energy plays a major part in electrical production. Experts say that the production of more wind plants in the U.S. would significantly reduce the amount of fossil fuels used.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I believe wind can provide part of our future energy needs. There are terrific energy demands coming. We need wind, Gen3 solar, geo-thermal, biomass, hydroelectric, wave motion and nuclear. Building these systems can put people to work, reduce the amount of money we ship offshore and help clean our environment. Keep tinkering, push your representative to fund alternative energy efforts with direct investment and tax credits. We need to do this. We can do this.