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Edison approach is wrong on wind  

By the time everyone realizes wind power is more expensive and less reliable; by the time we realize it is actually environmentally destructive, it will be too late. The landscape will be destroyed by thousands of 130-170 foot-high steel and copper objects that have destroyed the views, disrupted habitat, poisoned the water, obliterated the peace and quiet, and caused headaches, nausea, and sleeplessness. When we do develop better ways to provide alternative energy, how will we take them down? Where will we put the scrap? How will we heal the land? How will we cleanse our water supply? When will the trees re-grow; when will the birds come back?

Credit:  Carole Owens, The Berkshire Eagle, www.berkshireeagle.com 28 December 2011 ~~

More than a hundred years ago, Thomas Alva Edison lit a filament in a glass globe using electricity. It was lucky the electric generator was very close to Edison’s light bulb because Edison was a devotee of direct current (DC). DC only transmitted electricity over short distances. If Edison had remained the guiding force for electricity, generators would have been next door to users: an ugly, inefficient, source of energy that may not have caught on.

Enter William Stanley. Stanley was certain that alternating current (AC) could provide wide distribution of electricity for homes and businesses. In March 1886, Stanley lit a few stores on Main Street, Great Barrington from a generator blocks away. It was the first practical application of his patented transformer that allowed the use of alternating rather than direct current. It made electricity transportable, and the rest is history.

Interestingly, today we are in the same position with wind-generated energy, and unfortunately “Edison” is at the helm. Instead of investing in development so that the energy generated by wind can be stored and transported, a local approach is being proposed.

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According to Professor Ben Luce, physicist and chair of Sustainable Studies at Lyndon State College, Massachusetts is far from the ideal place to generate wind energy. This state is able to generate 1/10,000 of the wind energy that could be generated on the
Great Plains, for example. To generate just 5 percent of the energy used daily, thousands of giant turbines would have to dot every ridge line in Massachusetts.

Why not place wind turbines where there are high sustained winds and low population? Why not store and transport the energy generated to the users? Because we don’t know how. There are theories and attempts: lithium ion batteries, super capacitors, and DC lines. None work yet, and the cost benefit of each is unclear.

We are not ready for wind turbines in the Northeast. Nonetheless, we are planning to place wind turbines willy-nilly. Old Edison would be pleased – put wind turbines all over, close to users, the way he envisioned electric generation. The turbines are enormous, ugly, can be seen for miles, disturb the air, and emit sound at a level below human hearing. Installing the turbines requires dynamiting to create roadbed to move the huge mechanical objects, gauging out the earth, felling trees and trampling plant life to create giant flat pads on which to place them, poisoning the water on the ridge: in short, the permanent disfiguring of the ridge line.

The ridge line as you know it gone, but you will have a renewable source of energy. Unfortunately it is an inefficient renewable source of energy.

Energy is only generated while the wind blows therefore power generation is inconsistent – unreliable. When the wind does not blow, standby power plants are necessary to fill in and create the constant source of power we have become accustomed to. 4000 wind turbines, when they are running, only produce as much electricity as one conventional power station. The turbines are not cost effective – they cannot be built without subsidies or operated without increased rates.

Everyone understands the frustration of the environmentalists. They have been sounding the alarm about global warming and energy based on fossil fuels for decades and not much has happened. They want action. The question is: will any action do?

The cost of saving energy is the cost of generating it. In a recent speech, President Obama said that “trickle down” economics don’t work. Yet government energy programs are trickle-down: money to corporate America to create alternative energy. If the government would give money directly to individuals to insulate their homes, install solar panels, and in other ways reduce their energy footprint, it would cost less and help more in the interim until we have developed the best means to replace our current energy production.

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What happened next, over a hundred years ago? Corporate America took over. The Patent Wars began, inventor and entrepreneur Stanley was forced out, and Westinghouse and General Electric were in business. That is already happening with wind. With little interest in whether it is efficient or which geographic areas are the most appropriate for wind, oil companies are taking over. Chevron and Shell Oil are offering to dot the landscape with turbines in exchange for government subsidies – the more the better in their opinion. Local control? It is being legislated out of existence to allow the onslaught.

By the time everyone realizes wind power is more expensive and less reliable; by the time we realize it is actually environmentally destructive, it will be too late. The landscape will be destroyed by thousands of 130-170 foot-high steel and copper objects that have destroyed the views, disrupted habitat, poisoned the water, obliterated the peace and quiet, and caused headaches, nausea, and sleeplessness. When we do develop better ways to provide alternative energy, how will we take them down? Where will we put the scrap? How will we heal the land? How will we cleanse our water supply? When will the trees re-grow; when will the birds come back?

Preferably we will consider very carefully before we allow construction. Hopefully, the government will not legislate away our right to do so.

Carole Owens is a frequent Eagle contributor.

Source:  Carole Owens, The Berkshire Eagle, www.berkshireeagle.com 28 December 2011

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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