Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Leveling Wind Power Variability and Environmental Hypocrisy

This is a comment I added to an Always On blog post by Ed Ring titled "The Double Standard" about the conflicts involved among landowners, environmentalists and companies developing wind power. You will find Ed's post and reader comments at http://alwayson.goingon.com/permalink/post/16140


My comment (added to several already posted in response to Ed's short post) is repeated below.



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Just a few weeks ago I was driving near Wasco, OR on US97 on the way to northern Idaho. I noticed a wind generator farm not far from Biggs Junction on the Columbia River. Upon doing a little research I discovered that a Scottish company (PPM Energy) has a number of wind farms of which this one is the 24 MW Klondike Wind Farm. You can find an interesting paper on the use of farmland and the benefits to both the company and the farmers at http://www.rnp.org/Resources/Klondike%20Paper.pdf .

What struck me about this was its relation to the problems with green energy and wind power that are nicely highlighted in the book "Heat" by George Monbiot (http://www.turnuptheheat.org/). He looks at the real challenge of reducing carbon emissions by 90 per cent (using the UK as the example) to be effective in limiting global warming from carbon dioxide emissions without reverting to third world country economies. As noted above and in George's book, the variability of wind makes it unreliable and therefore power companies pay significantly less for a MW of wind power as opposed to a MW from water, gas or coal-generated power. Wind power must have a storage component to improve the availability / reliability of that solution to carbon-free power generation. Now recall Ellensburg and Wasco are near the Columbia River. Doesn't that sound like a good source of storage give the dams that regulate water flow and generate power? It would seem that the combination of water power and wind power in reasonable proximity complement each other, especially when the wind power component is a modest fraction of the water power element. Given that water conservation is also on the global environment horizon, reducing water flow required just for power generation seems to be an added benefit for humans and fish and . . . Obviously the challenge is more complicated that this little thought exercise - perhaps someone can add some additional pro - con facts to my suggestion?

And as for the environmentalist hypocrisy, we all are subject to that failing, especially when our backyard is threatened by something "different". One antidote for "lazy thinking" is more discussion that exposes more facts about the realities. Most people will eventually listen at least a little if approached persistently with good intent. Ghandi illustrated this through his experiments with "Satyagraha" (http://www.quietspaces.com/satyagraha.html) and Steven Covey with his insights shared in his "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People" (http://www.stephencovey.com/7thhabit.html). As global warming impacts more people in tangible ways, the motivation to find practical solutions will help overcome our differences in what are reasonable compromises among being in a “consumption economy”, being "green" and being "sensitive" to preserving our natural spaces. We have the tools for the discussion. We need to choose to use them.

1 comment:

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