Wind Energy is Not Just Hot Air

Anaheim Convention Center, Southern California, last week was a hot bed of one of the ultimate forms of renewable energy. The “fuel” used by wind turbines (really the wind) is free for the 30 year life span of the windmill installation, is considered inflation proof, and is 100 % domestically available.

Just a brief walk through the trade exhibition convinces any visitor of European as well as Chinese commitment to wind energy. One guest speaker, Ted Turner put it: “Just do not look at the next 30 years, look for at least a few hundred years of human energy needs.”

Conventional energy lobbyists claim that wind is unreliable and will harm operation of the grids. However, grid operators have observed that wind power is more reliable and predictable.

There are rumors that sound of operating wind will cause a variety of dangerous health effects, including headaches and disturbed sleep. The studies have shown that wind turbines at a distance of 2,000 feet (normal building codes for Wind Mills) have a dB rating close to 45 (comparing that to 55 in an average home in the USA). Normally, two people can carry on a conversation on any wind mill farm. Please remember: this energy source has no side effects such as air or water polluting emissions, no hazardous waste, and has a direct impact on reducing the public health impact of any other energy generation.

Are birds get affected by wind energy? A very legitimate question by the American Bird Conservancy needs to be addressed with honesty. The bird loss caused by buildings is about 550 million, by power lines 130 million, vehicles 80 million, poisoning by pesticide 67 million, and radio and TV towers close to 4 million. The tabulated loss by wind is under 150,000. Special attention is being paid to bats: The bats and wind energy coalition was formed in 2003 by Bat Conservation International, the U.S. Fish and wild life Service, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
The view of a wind energy facility or the distance of a home from a wind mill farm had no consistent, measurable or significant impact on home values.

The current worldwide installed capacity gives a snap shot of Wind energy penetration in a given region. By 2010, the European Union was leading the world with 84,000 MW, China with 42,000 MW and the USA was at 40,000 MW. However, Denmark leads the world as percentage of total power needs fulfilled by Wind Energy: close to 20 % in 2010.

The potential of up to 20 % electricity generation that can be derived from Wind Energy is feasible, both technically as well as financially by 2030. Most land used to construct wind farms can be used for its original purpose of harvesting, grazing and farming. The actual foot print of turbine farms, roads and generating and transmitting facilities is under 3 percent of total land taken out of commission.

Wind Energy should be debated in the public forum with both energy independence and long term sustainability for our planet beyond the next election cycle.

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Health Impacts

I have heard the health-related arguments against wind energy before, but never knew whether there is any truth behind them. Very interesting ....

Timely topic, as the debate

Timely topic, as the debate of wind energy vs. natural gas as an alternative energy source heats up. Although natural gas probably wins in the near term (more reliable, less subsidies), wind certainly seems to be the "cleaner and greener" of the two. As I get my kids to bed, I can't help but hope wind energy continues to gain the attention and investment needed to make it a success in the long run.

Interesting perspective

It'll be fascinating to see which direction wind energy takes over the coming decades, and how that 20% of total electricity generation is attained. Will wind-farm generation continue to dominate, or will smaller scale home-based generation become increasingly prevalent?

In the realm of "clean energy", it seems to me that wind (and solar) have an advantage. Unlike hydroelectric, geothermal, nuclear or tidal plants, wind plants can be built on a household scale, with an energy source that is available (in varying amounts) everywhere. Current designs, such as the Bergey Excel mentioned below, can meet an average American household's energy needs (paired with a limited solar panel array) with a 6 or 7 meter rotor diameter. If technological advances can reduce that requirement to 2 or 3 meters, home wind turbines will start to be visually palatable and economically feasible for the masses.

Would that kind of technological leap, which would perhaps eliminate the need for vast (and unsightly) wind farms, finally make wind power appealing on a wide scale?

Future of Wind Energy

From an investment perspective, this topic is building a lot of momentum. It's important to understand alternative energy and how it would impact us now and in the future.

I'm a huge fan of wind

In 1984 I bought a 10kw Bergey Wind Generator which would have paid for itself in less than 5 years. The City ended up buying the generator from me after 3 years, but that generator is still putting out power on a local farm. Dollar for dollar, wind in certain areas of the country far outperforms solar. Talking to Bergey today, that same generator is much quieter and produces much more power, yet the cost has not significantly increased since I purchased mine.

This is not to say that all wind systems are equal. Back then there were some fly-by-night companies, and others using technology that was developed about the same time Ford introduced the Model-T, so buyer beware!

For a report on my 'green experiences' including wind generator ownership see: