Wind Turbines – Alternative Energy – By Rick Butler
In Canada, it is estimated, 16,000 people die prematurely each year and many more suffer from long term illness and disabilities caused by the fossil fuel burning polluted air we breathe. The electricity produced from wind power to supply the needs of 200 homes instead of coal fired generators would result in 900,000 kilo grams of coal being left in the ground and an annual reduction of 2000 tonnes of noxious gases, green house emissions and particulates from being dispersed into the air we breathe; about equal to removing 417 cars from the roads or planting 10,000 trees.
Man has been harnessing the energy of the wind for centuries, from propelling their sailing vessels to pumping life sustaining water from deep in the earth’s crust. In fact it is said, the west could not have been developed had it not been for windmills. To this day over 80,000 windmills remain in use throughout Texas. We had an opportunity to visitthe American Wind Power Centre in Lubbock, Texas displaying over 140 wooden and metal windmills, the oldest dating back to 1863. Another gem was an electricity-producing “Frepower 32 volt Windcharger” used to charge batteries from the 1930’s. We have come a long way in the development of wind turbines since this time.
In Canada, currently we have a Wind Energy capacity of 327 Megawatts (MW) of power, enough to meet the needs of approximately 100,000 homes, with Alberta leading the way due to its prevailing winds in the south western region of the province. Canada’s goal is to have Wind Turbines churning out 10,000 MW or about 5 percent of our country’s demand by 2010. An admirable objective indeed, and one we can achieve if our government co-operates by offering subsidies to “Green Power” rather than to oil companies and by taxing polluting forms of energy; such as, coal and oil generating plants. Here in the States, they have set their sights much lower (albeit their numbers are much higher); Americans are aiming for 5% of their nation’s requirements coming from Wind Energy by 2020. As of late 2003 they have a capacity of 6374 MW of power coming from the wind, with California leading the charge at 2042 MW of capacity. In 2003, 1,700 MW of Wind Power has been installed in the States, enough to power approximately 425,000 homes. Over the past 5 years the United States has increased Wind Turbine capacity at an impressive rate of 28% annually.
Unfortunately, while travelling throughout the States, we have not witnessed too much in the way of conservation. It appears to us the general attitude here is that things will take care of themselves somehow. An abundance of large V8 cars, pickups and SUV’s, freeway speed limits of up to 75 mph and speeds in excess of 80, vehicles needlessly idling for long periods of time; such as, while visiting the American Wind Power Centre we witnessed a Dodge Ram 2500 series diesel pickup truck idling for the entire hour we were there. Upon our inquiry we were informed the gentleman who owned the truck was in a meeting. Obviously he is not aware of the blatant squandering of the go-juice, (probably under the misguided impression that idling a diesel doesn’t use much fuel) and oblivious to the pollutants and particulates he is emitting into OUR air. Upon entering our hotel room at each new stop, we find the air conditioner humming away and the curtains open. Shops with open doors and air conditioning blasting out; the shows, museums and restaurants are so cold with air conditioning, one needs to wear a coat to keep warm. Conservation of our current energy is a vital ingredient in the recipe for cleaner air to breathe and the reduction of green house gases.
There are some encouraging trends emerging. More and more people are demanding “Green Power”. All the power produced by Wind Turbines must be sold to “The Grid” for distribution. Some communities throughout the States and Canada can in fact now request “Green Power”. An exciting piece of news – General Motors is reducing the production of the H2 Hummer, as demand is falling for this behemoth oil devouring piece of metal.
Since the “Big Boom” our earth has been constantly evolving; from severe heat, to temperate rain forests, to the ice age, and warming again. The climate has constantly changed throughout the eons of earth’s existence, and along with the climate changes, species have evolved and became extinct while others have endured the ever changing conditions. Is our current condition of “global warming” meant to be just one more epoch in our earth’s history? After all, the fossil fuels were produced by the earth and “humankind” was given the intelligence to make use of this form of energy. Is natural evolution, or mankind, destroying our atmosphere? Environmentalists will answer this question one way, while scientists will argue the opposite. The interval each one of us is given in this wondrous arena of life is but a grain of sand in the desert of time since our earth’s creation. What we do to improve the atmosphere may do little to change the future course of the earth; however, if cleaning up the air we breathe today, just a little, means we can enjoy the glorious experience we call life a little longer and our kids and grand kids even more, then I think it is incumbent upon us to do all we can now.