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Friday, December 19, 2014

WHY IS WIND ENERGY NOW SO UNPOPULAR?

For reasons that confound me, wind energy has become relatively unpopular.  This renewable option already has technical deficiencies, for our winds only blow part of the time, and at various speeds.  If there are mountains, the profile is turbulent, so that gears and and joints give way.  The power increases with the cube of the velocity, so optimal wind regimes are difficult to find.  Congress treats wind power like a punching bag and environmentalist decry the noise, aesthetics and size.  Mind you, while it does take "bad" energy to manufacture and ship wind machines, once in place, the winds are free, no carbon dioxide is emitted and there is a total absence of nuclear radiation.

I was there at the beginning, which in my mind was 1974, exactly thirty years ago, and to quote from SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Planet Earth:

I left “My Life” (go to May 10 blog) in 1974 on a plane from Washington, D.C. to Denver, Colorado. I drove to the annual conference of the American Solar Energy Society (ASES), and arrived just in time to walk into a semi-darkened room of the annual meeting of the Wind Power Division, which had already started. An hour or so later towards the end of the meeting I volunteered a somewhat optimistic statement about Hawaii wanting to lead the nation in wind power R&D, and that I was “asked” by Lou Divone (who then ran the government's wind power office--this is pre-Department of Energy--and who I had just met in the Forrestal Building) to interact with this Division. I don’t think I exaggerated anything and sincerely asked for their help. Half an hour later, I was elected chairman of that Wind Division of the American Solar Energy Society. At that moment I had not yet even seen a windmill in my life. There was an important life lesson learned here, but let me go on.

I followed this ASES leadership role while teaching energy courses at the University of Hawaii and recruiting people to Hawaii to work on this technology.  In 1979 found myself  on staff with the U.S. Senate in DC.  Tom Gray, a House staff member had drafted some wind energy legislation, so I signed on to help out in the Senate, and we succeeded with the Wind Energy Systems Act of 1980.  Tom went on to help found the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), and served as Executive Director from 1981-1989. 

Interestingly enough, Ed Ing, General Counsel for Senator Matsunaga, who shared the same office area with me and a few others, went on to become chairman of the AWEA board.  Also, too, his mother recently moved into 15 Craigside, and I sat next to her on Casino Night on Vegas-like 3-card stud.  We both won, but so did everyone else.

I remember three decades ago visiting the Department of Energy Wind Energy Test Center near Boulder, Colorado, where I met the manager, Andrew Trenka.  Not long thereafter, I hired him to move to Honolulu to head the ocean thermal energy conversion program for the Pacific International Center for High Technology.  His crew succeeded in 1993 with a major OTEC facility of 255 kW (gross) at the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority.  More than 20 years have passed by and no one has yet built anything larger.  Anyway, in the 1990's we marveled at how well wind energy had developed, something WE DID NOT IN THE MID-80'S EXPECT.

So what happened to wind energy? Some think, and this is so ironic, environmentalists are the problem.  Apparently, more and more, too, normal citizens are now suffering from something medically termed the wind turbine syndrome.  They get dizzy, mild nausea, insomnia and headaches when they live close by wind farms.  Then, there is the matter of lifestyles.  On the islands of Lanai and Molokai, people have successfully fought off the installation of Big Wind.

Thus, when I saw this article in Wind Energy World today:

What the Senate's Tax Extender Bill Means for Wind Energy

I noticed a comment that kind of says it all:

Ignorance is bliss. With the abundance of information available at your finger tips, you think OS wind costs more than nuclear, not in the build cost, or long term running, disposal and decommissioning. $1 billion plus to build, $1 billion to decommission, no place to dispose of the leftovers. Have room in your basement. The nuclear industry has the biggest subsidy of any of the energy producers, 100% +/- 10%. This doesn't include the cost of the military defense of the areas where they are located. No insurance companies in the country will insure a plant, your tax dollars do, Kind of like the big banks, come out of your pocket on both ends. 
Domestic cats are the biggest killers of wild birds in this country. 
Pesticides are devastating the bee population, 

Ever seen a house with a coal plant on top of it--NO. 
Ever seen a house with a nuclear plant on top of it--NO. 
Ever seen a house with a wind turbine on top of it--YES........... 

Would you live with in breathing distance of a coal plant? 
Would you live with in the radiation zone of a nuclear plant?


The nuclear industry ballyhoos the beauty of a nuclear power plant with this graphic.


However, they  don't say that there could be a cattle ranch sharing the same space with those wind turbines.  Is wind power perfect?  Of course not.  But would you rather live next to the next Fukushima?  Can we totally ignore global climate warming?  Not in my backyard attitudes perhaps best explain why wind energy has become unpopular.  

By the way, if you bothered to read that article cited above, it says that our Congress' recent action only preserves wind energy incentives for a few days more.  This is bad news for the technology.  What more can I say?

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