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On wind power  

I get the feeling that if we focused on integrated power generation that included small back yard wind mills, small hydro where feasible, photo voltaic, geothermal and even manual generation we could generate a lot of electricity right at our own homes.

I want to thank the Barre/Montpelier Times Argus and Rutland Herald for their coverage of wind generated power. I found the articles in the combined Sunday paper of 11/20/05 to be extremely interesting, and the support/don’t support oped pieces (Wind, Is it the answer? Yes/No) in that same paper provided a good opportunity to think about this issue in practical terms. Actually it was one of those oped pieces, the ‘yes’ piece, that has pushed me off the fence and onto the greener grass of the “no to large scale wind projects” side.

“When the wind isn’t blowing, the customers will still be able to turn the lights on because we are all part of the New England electric grid,” wrote Lawrence Mott in his ‘no’ article, and that bothers me. Are we building these wind towers for Vermont usage or are we merely providing more electrons to run through the New England system? And if this electricity is capable of being passed around New England why wouldn’t it find its way into the national market? This idea of regional connectedness also has problems due to power loss that occurs as electricity is pushed through miles and miles of line … I’ve read as much as 30% loss!

Efficiency alone dictates electricity should be generated as local to the users as is possible, and we can simultaneously make electrical independence a reality and the possibilities of today’s knowledge practical. In the instance of wind power we should be discussing storage capacity so we can effectively save windy days for use during the calmer ones. For example we could use excess wind generation to pump water into large holding ponds that could then be used to run hydro powered generators on days the wind mills aren’t doing so well.

Actually the above mentioned oped was just the final straw that broke my wind mill camel’s back. The most convincing argument against industrial wind mill electrical generation (emphasis on the industrial) came from a friend who has been active in both the research and practical application sides of this issue. From this friend’s perspective using wind power simply as another means to centralized power generation is self defeating. Large projects present themselves as sore thumbs on the landscape, force my needs upon others and help me not confront my own personal activities. I’m convinced. We can address these issues by being sensitive to our own power usage and by building smaller closer to home alternatives.

I’m a Washington Electric Coop member, and as such am a party to at least one of these giant wind mill farms … I do not have clean hands in this. I supported the concept and approved of WEC moving ahead with this project. But now I’m somewhat belatedly urging the coop’s board instead to pursue wind generation in the backyards of WEC members. I think wind is good, but I also think my backyard is a better place for my electricity generation than some stranger’s.

I get the feeling that if we focused on integrated power generation that included small back yard wind mills, small hydro where feasible, photo voltaic, geothermal and even manual generation we could generate a lot of electricity right at our own homes. And imagine combining that with personal commitments to be frugal with our energy usage! Imagine how much we could save in health care by exercising with our bicycle powered generator … hmmmmm.

Wind power is good … but the scales currently envisioned are not.

Rama Schneider

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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