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Wind energy’s potential – and problems  

Reference the Nov. 8 columns "This wind farm is a good one" by John Passacantando and "Why wind power won’t fly" by Dennis T. Avery. I was disappointed with both pieces on the proposed Cape Wind project. Neither discussed what will ultimately be the core issues on alternate energy sources – reliability, ultimate costs to the consumer and greenhouse gases.

The issue of reliability is brushed aside. Cape Wind proposes to replace (Greenpeace citation) 75 percent of now-fossil-produced power to the area. Imagine what happens if the wind stops or becomes too brisk. In the former case, you had better have a source of standby power available immediately. In the case of too much wind, the effect is the same. The turbines are designed to "feather" to self-protect, but the result is the same as no wind at all.
Cost to the consumer is an issue both sides ducked. I have read of prices in Iowa (turbines in the middle of pastures and fields) in the 5.5 to 6 cents per kilowatt hour. If true, that is competitive with what we pay in Tidewater. However, there is a proposed wind farm project off Long Island. There, costs are cited as being slightly in excess of what Long Island consumers are currently paying (which is in the range of 20 cents per kWh). Offshore production is certainly more expensive. Maintenance is a huge issue.
Greenhouse gases are still a problem because the only way to ward off the second effect is to have standby power available. The old polluting power plants cited by Greenpeace would have to be replaced with gas turbines – the only sources that can go from standby to full power quickly. There is a net benefit in replacing an old polluting plant, but you are buying a new plant plus the turbines. And there is the necessity of obtaining a reliable gas supply on an intermittent basis. The plant will pay a premium for the privilege.
Wind energy has its place despite Avery’s comments. But Passacantando is dreaming.

Jim Hurst, Williamsburg

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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