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Professor says wind is the answer to energy concerns  

Much of the opposition to wind farms stems from a lack of understanding, he said. Turbines are not noisy, do not kill birds and are not ugly, Pavlides said.

Eleftherios Pavlides is an accidental advocate for wind power.

Now one of the most passionate champions for harnessing the power of Rhode Island’s coastal winds, the Roger Williams University professor of architecture knew next to nothing about its use three years ago. Then some of his students came to him with a proposal to study the feasibility of building wind turbines in Rhode Island. He’s somewhat of an expert now.

So last week when a visitor stopped by his cramped campus office, Pavlides waxed poetic and nonstop for more than an hour about the positive impacts wind power could have on the area. Not only is wind energy cheaper than fossil fuels, it would reduce pollution, improve the health of area residents, and, unlike oil, gas or coal, never be depleted, he said.

Pavlides is no Don Quixote tilting at windmills either. The American Wind Energy Association estimates on its Web site that wind could now supply more than 20 percent of the nation’s electricity needs. In fact, with increased transmission capabilities, North Dakota alone could provide a quarter of the electricity used annually in the United States, according to the association.

And wind energy may be picking up steam in southern New England. Besides the much-publicized project to erect a wind turbine at Portsmouth Abbey, the towns of Bristol and Portsmouth are exploring the idea.

"Our level of interest is relatively high," said Portsmouth Town Administrator Robert G. Driscoll.

Driscoll said the town’s Economic Development Committee has been researching the concept, but is now waiting for the Abbey project to be completed before moving ahead with the idea. The conceptual idea, at this point, would be to erect from one to three wind turbines on town property to generate electricity for town government use. Excess electricity generated would be sold to Narragansett Electric to further reduce the town’s electric bill, Driscoll said.

State law, passed in 2004, requires utilities to increase electricity generated from renewable energy sources – such as wind, solar or geothermal energy – by at least 1 percent a year until 2020. Pavlides compared that goal to the projected impacts of the wind farm proposed for waters off Nantucket. The Army Corps of Engineers estimated that project would supply about 16 percent of Massachusetts’ energy needs.

"The economics are good," Pavlides said. "Wind energy will lower the rates for all of us."

Because it costs less to generate electricity from wind, the Cape Wind project would save Massachusetts utility ratepayers about $25 million a year, according to the Army Corps of Engineers. But the benefits do not end there.

Wind turbines use no fuel and have no emissions, and, therefore, are more environmentally friendly than power plants burning fossil fuels. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is threatening states that do not meet federal ozone caps by 2007 with severe penalties that will threaten job growth. So adding wind power to the energy mix will help Rhode Island, which does not currently comply with federal ozone cap requirements, Pavlides said.

Any reduction in pollution also would result in lower health care costs for the region, he added. The Army Corps estimated that the Nantucket wind project would save about $53 million a year in health care costs by lowering the incidence of asthma, bronchitis and hospitalizations related to the burning of fossil fuels in power plants.

And speaking of jobs, some Rhode Island companies, such as TPI Incorporated in Warren, make wind turbine blades and would stand to benefit from any increase in wind power facilities.

Recent increases in gas and oil prices show the volatility of the fossil fuel market, Pavlides said. But wind is not subject to market pressures and would provide some much-needed stability to energy costs, he said.

"It’s the only energy we can produce that stays constant," Pavlides said. "You can predict with great accuracy how much it will cost in five years, 10 years, 18 years. And once you build it, the bulk of your (infrastructure) costs are done."

Wind power has the side benefit of reducing our dependence on foreign fuels, he added.

Much of the opposition to wind farms stems from a lack of understanding, he said. Turbines are not noisy, do not kill birds and are not ugly, Pavlides said.

Anyone who has doubts about the technology need only take a short trip to Hull, Mass. The town erected a turbine in 2001. It cost $753,000 to put it up and the town expects to recoup that cost by next year. Hull officials are so enthralled by the success of the turbine, which generates about 3 percent of the electricity used by the town, that it is building a second larger turbine near the town’s high school.

"Once you start (adding up the benefits) it becomes a total no-brainer," Pavlides said of wind energy. "But it’s not just the costs. We need diversity in our (energy) supply."


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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