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A journey through the heated debate over wind power
Charles Komanoff, Orion
...But wind energy is never far from my mind these days. As Earth's climate begins to warp under the accumulating effluent from fossil fuels, the increasing viability of commercial-scale wind power is one of the few encouraging developments.
Encouraging to me, at least. As it turns out, there is much disagreement over where big windmills belong, and whether they belong at all.
FIGHTING FOSSIL FUELS, and machines powered by them, has been my life's work. In 1971, shortly after getting my first taste of canyon country, I took a job crunching numbers for what was then a landmark exposé of U.S. power plant pollution, The Price of Power. The subject matter was drier than dust-emissions data, reams of it, printed out on endless strips of paper by a mainframe computer. Dull stuff, but nightmarish visions of coal-fired smokestacks smudging the crystal skies of the Four Corners kept me working 'round the clock, month after month.
A decade later, as a New York City bicycle commuter fed up with the oil-fueled mayhem on the streets, I began working with the local bicycle advocacy group, Transportation Alternatives, and we soon made our city a hotbed of urban American anti-car activism. The '90s and now the '00s have brought other battles-"greening" Manhattan tenement buildings through energy efficiency and documenting the infernal "noise costs" of Jet Skis, to name two-but I'm still fighting the same fight.
Why? Partly it's knowing the damage caused by the mining and burning of fossil fuels. And there's also the sheer awfulness of machines gone wild, their groaning, stinking combustion engines invading every corner of life. But now the stakes are immeasurably higher. As an energy analyst, I can tell you that the science on global warming is terrifyingly clear: to have even a shot at fending off climate catastrophe, the world must reduce carbon dioxide emissions from fuel burning by at least 50 percent within the next few decades. If poor countries are to have any room to develop, the United States, the biggest emitter by far, needs to cut back by 75 percent.
Although automobiles, with their appetite for petroleum, may seem like the main culprit, the number one climate change agent in the U.S. is actually electricity.
(Sept-Oct 2006 issue)
Submitted by Big Gav who has commentary and related articles in his post for today: "Of Rodents And Men" at Peak Energy (Australia).
Wind power, downsized
Gail Kinsey Hill, Portland Oregonian
Projects to power a few thousand homes are springing up in the Columbia River Gorge
When alternative-energy enthusiasts ponder the potential of wind generation, they generally envision huge, 100-turbine projects capable of producing power for tens of thousands of homes.
But there's a new, more modest player on the block. It's called community wind, and if pent-up interest is any indication, it's destined for a small but determined place on the Northwest's energy grid.
Loosely defined, community wind projects involve fewer than 10 turbines and direct ownership by the farmers, ranchers and others who might live in the breezy, rural reaches that make for prime wind-turbine territory.
Generally, such small-scale endeavors are shunned by large developers, who want lots of turbines, windier wind and high-voltage transmission connections to population centers. In that light, they will help round out the national foray into wind.
Several community wind farms, years in the making, are poised to make their debut in Oregon, right alongside the big corporate enterprises that already lay claim to some of the choicest spots in the blustery Columbia River Gorge. Many more are in the works.
(24 Aug 2006)
Wind power's gusty forecast
Heather Green and Mark Scott, Business Week via MSNBC
The U.S. is seeing a big rise in this cleaner energy
Propelled by the twin pressures of global warming and high energy costs, wind energy's growth is picking up speed. In the U.S., wind farms were the second-largest source of new power generation last year, after natural gas, according to the Energy Information Administration.
But as companies and individuals chart out wind projects along coastlines, prairies, and lakeshores, local residents in communities from England's Lake District to the shores of Cape Cod are pushing back. Their objections run the gamut, from concerns that massive turbines will endanger migrating birds and ruin local tourism to good old-fashioned NIMBYism (Not In My BackYard).
For advocates of wind energy, learning how to navigate these residents' concerns is as important as measuring wind speed and lining up financing. By addressing these concerns rather than ignoring them, innovative wind developments are popping up that communities actually welcome.
(21 Aug 2006)