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Skeptic suspects wind power is just hot air  

When the Delaware Public Service Commission ordered Delmarva Power to obtain local power sources, that was supposed to be a means of providing price relief for electric consumers. At least that’s what the Delaware Legislature had in mind when they passed the legislation.

Somehow, eco-dreamers hijacked the price relief aspect of the plan, and the result is a pie-in-the-sky scheme to put a wind farm off the Delaware coast.

I’m all for conservation and saving the environment. But common sense dictates that we spend money on things that accomplish the intended purpose.

Efficient and long-lasting fluorescent light bulbs have a down side. They pollute when we dispose of them. The wind mills of 20 years ago caused lawsuits as neighbors objected to the noise they made. Many other magical devices, including perpetual-motion machines, proved to be frauds.

I have a really bad feeling about staking future energy availability on a proposal by a company to build an unreliable power source out in the ocean to transmit electricity to the mainland for distribution.

We have enough trouble with the 100-year-old technology that routes power from a Hockessin substation to our development. Every time there is a thunderstorm, we wonder how many hours we’ll be without power.

I can understand why Delmarva Power is reluctant to negotiate for something that not only does not exist, but may very well never exist.

Before deregulation and Enron, when there was every assurance of repayment, investors lost a lot of money when two nuclear power projects were allowed to default on their loans. Four reactors in Washington state were unfinished and scheduled to be dismantled. Shoreham’s $6 billion cost, 85 times the original estimate, stuck New York taxpayers with a bankrupt Long Island Lighting Co. Shoreham never opened.

Building ocean platforms isn’t easy or cheap. In recent years hurricanes have destroyed a number of oil drilling rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, reminding us that the ocean is a tough place to be in bad weather.

Aside from the formidable construction obstacles, who’s to say the proposers of this wind farm won’t retire in the middle of the project, leaving Delaware consumers and taxpayers holding an expensive empty bag.

Back during the last conservation go-round, my former house was a guinea pig to test conservation devices. The timer that controlled the electric water heater operation proved to save zero energy. Ditto the device that was supposed to make the refrigerator more efficient.

I guess the Styrofoam box over the attic stairway did something. I never noticed much difference with the vapor barrier and extra insulation in the family room crawl space. The ground-coupled geothermal heat pump cost two and a half times as much as a regular one. Add to that the destruction of the back yard to put in two 200-foot wells for the piping system.

Unfortunately, during prolonged hot or cold spells, the system couldn’t dissipate heat or extract it fast enough to keep up with demand. So the electric resistance backup heat ate any savings in winter, and the air conditioning couldn’t keep up during heat waves. I didn’t see any dramatic energy savings.

When the heat pump electronics got fried by a lightning strike, it took three weeks in July and August to get replacement parts. It took about six weeks to get an overlooked part replaced when winter rolled around.

So you’ll have to pardon me for my lack of enthusiasm for all-new, never-been-done-before eco-wonderful technology.

As for Bluewater Wind, does anybody but me remember the story of “The Emperor’s New Clothes”?

Patricia Cavender lives in Hockessin and is a member of The News Journal Community Advisory Board.

delawareonline.com

19 August 2007

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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