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Engineer questions wind energy claims

With 49 years as a power engineer, going from engineer apprentice to manager of power supply for approximately two-thirds of rural Illinois, my blood curdles when I read some of the rabid pro-windmill articles rampant in the press these days.

Statements like “the wind is free” (then why do they need the massive tax breaks and subsidies) and “this wind farm will supply 35,000 homes,” neglecting to finish the sentence with “for maybe 25 percent of the time, if you are lucky.”

One has to come to the conclusion that these people do not even understand simple arithmetic let alone the power situation in the United States or, heaven forbid, the world.

It takes about 800 X 1000MW power plants or the equivalent to run this country on a daily basis. To be conservative, let’s say 700 X 1000MW plants. Power demand in the U.S. increases a little over 2.5 percent per year, but again, to be very conservative, let’s say 2 percent.

This means that we must build at least 14 X 1000MW power plants every year just to keep up. Windmill enthusiasts would of course have us build 7000 X 2MW windmills instead, blissfully ignoring the fact that the 14 X 1000MW coal or nuclear plants would still have to be built to fill the considerable gap left by the non-operating windmills when the wind didn’t blow.

Customers would thus have to pay for two very expensive power plants to cover just one block of power. None of this would reduce the present CO2 load on the environment even if the windmills could run 100 percent of the time. What do we do then….build 350,000 X 2 MW windmills?

Jim Greenwood

Two Rivers

Tri-County News

9 May 2008