VAN WERT – When it comes to energy production, change is in the air.
Representatives from Green Energy Ohio, a nonprofit renewable energy advocate organization, as well as managers of two area “wind farms,” met Saturday morning at Van Wert’s Vantage Career Center as part of the annual Green Energy Ohio Tour. Attendees also were given the opportunity to take a look at Vantage Career Center’s solar energy array, generating 1 megawatt of power for the vocational school, now in its second month of operation.
The focus of the session, however, was on wind farms, such as Van Wert County’s Blue Creek Wind Farm, the largest wind farming operation in the state. Neil Voje, Blue Creek’s manager, explained the operation of the wind turbines, each one standing 328 feet high and weighing more than 800,000 pounds.
Blue Creek Wind Farm uses 152 utility scale turbines, each generating two megawatts of energy, for a total output of 304 megawatts.
“What can you power with one megawatt of electricity?” Voje asked. “You can cool a refrigerator for three months or charge 5,556 cellphones, or host 600 Super Bowl parties with one megawatt.”
Wind farms have often been the target of objections from the public, citing various concerns over the operation of these massive structures. While there were no naysayers at this event, Voje also took some time to dispel various myths regarding the turbines, from their noise level to their potential to affect the weather.
“They’re not fans, so they don’t actually blow air,” Voje said. “They actually take energy out of the wind. So they can’t affect weather patterns.”
Brian Alberts, operations manager at Paulding County’s Timer Road Wind Farm, spoke of another misconception he encountered.
“One time an older lady came up to me and said that the low frequency noise from an operating wind tower stunts the growth of the internal organs of children and puppies,” he said. “I could not convince her how incorrect that was.”
Voje and Alberts also said there are concerns that the increase in demand for natural gas for energy would diminish the need for sustainable energy sources such as solar and wind energy. Both Voje and Alberts said the opposite is actually true and that natural gas and wind energy can actually work together.
“In the long term, you could have volatile gas prices, plus there could be changes in environmental standards that could raise the price of natural gas,” Voje said, “so that makes wind farms an appealing way to hedge costs.”
“Natural gas could be great to offset these other forms of energy, because solar and wind are more intermittent,” Alberts said.
In addition, while wind power only contributes just more than 4 percent to the total amount of U.S. energy production, the 60 gigawatts of energy amassed yearly by American wind power is still very significant when viewed with a global perspective.
“It amounts to more electricity generation capacity than the entire countries of Australia or Saudi Arabia, and as much as all of Mexico,” Voje said.
That capacity is set to grow in the future, with eight more wind farms now approved to be built in Ohio, creating possibilities that excite Bill Spratley, executive director for Green Energy Ohio.
“Imagine, if we could have electric cars that ran on solar and wind power, we could practically cut off our dependence on foreign oil,” he said. “And this is the sunniest and windiest part of the state here. This is prime real estate.”
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