Wind pulling a fast one on us?


I recently responded to a post on LinkedIn in the “Energy Innovation by Statoil” group about wind turbines being “unappealing” visually within the discussion brought about by a completely wide-open question “How do you feel about wind farms?”

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Obviously, that is a subjective question, setting the stage for far ranging arguments lacking substantiated reasoning.  This being akin to the common misunderstanding of billowing exhaust plumes at power plants thought to be laden with green house gases, pollution and toxic chemicals.  The reality being, most of the visible “offenses” are waste heat removal through water evaporation cooling, not the invisible fossil fuel combustion effluent as commonly believed.

It was also stated, wind farms can be the cause of drought, which initially caught me off guard as I have lived and breathed water issues the past 20 years and it is a major determinant in my self assessed classification as “A Westerner”. Water is in our blood, both figuratively and literally. A transplant, to the western US, can be easily identified based on their lack of understanding and comprehension of where their water comes from and exactly how precious it is to maintaining our lifestyles. “Water Wars” are not just some future post apocalyptic scenario, they have been fought for over a century here in the United States.

The final argument was… wind turbines are being promoted as “green energy” that has no manufacturing and installation environmental costs. That is just grasping at straws to be honest.

So without further ado… let’s examine these concerns, starting first with the “drought” causing impacts and a quick search to see if it has any credibility.

I found an origin to this claim… The Washington Post reported on this in 2009.  So it may be, opposite my initial impression that slowing of the air, much like an air mass rising over a mountain will chill and cause available moisture to drop out through rain, it appears localized turbulence in the wind turbine’s wake increases the water absorption capacity of the air.  Point taken.

However, I disagree with the overall climatic change and weather pattern altering causation as mentioned, and rightly noted as far from being verifiable or significant in the grand scheme of things.

O&G and Wind, side by side, from energy production to supplying the demand.  Sweetwater, Oklahoma just across the border from Wheeler, Texas and its substantial O&G plays.
O&G and Wind, side by side, from energy production to supplying the demand. Sweetwater, Oklahoma just across the border from Wheeler, Texas and its substantial O&G plays.

I believe we also have to keep in perspective, especially in the central and western parts of the US, most of the agricultural lands west of the 100th Meridian are already classified as semi-arid to desert climates naturally, and since the days of their first use in production. The “Breadbasket of America” has not fared much better with consistency between sporadic cycles of rain, drought and flooding prior to the advance of wind turbines and large scale farms.

All regions of the US have been supplemented with groundwater pumping, increasingly energy intensive as the “Tragedy of the Commons” depleted fossil aquifers, such as the nation’s largest Olagalla, where withdraw rates historically exceeded natural recharge. Large dams and massive irrigation infrastructure projects, had enormous construction costs reported in long since recovered subsidies and fossil fuel consumption to build gone unreported.

I believe this argument, of unaccounted for build costs and hidden environmental impact, is mostly drawing at straws as unfortunately, logical and reasoned discussions of energy, all too commonly fracture along emotional and ideological divides.

The race to produce oil is fueling the blatant waste of natural gas through flaring as natural gas costs have plummeted and infrastructure is not being built to collect it. I don’t think you will find anyone that finds flaring visually appealing, minus those more concerned with turning out another drum of oil.

Wind, harnessed for water and work in the old days, now is advancing to help meet out electricity needs.  Racing to meet our oil needs, natural gas collection becomes "uneconomical" and is flared.  A bit of irony to say the least.
Wind, harnessed for water and work in the old days, now is advancing to help meet out electricity needs. Racing to meet our oil needs, natural gas collection becomes “uneconomical” and is flared. A bit of irony to say the least. Photo by myself, just outside Denver, Colorado.

Denmark is implementing wind with results. Not some far off into the future, overly optimist dream for a balanced energy portfolio. I’m looking forward to my fast approaching “European Energy Adventure”, less reading and fighting over what is happening, more observing what is possible and being done.

Texas, struggling with its own water issues (indirectly related to wind turbines… look at who brought wind to Texas for that answer) is building grid to make it a substantial part of its energy mix.

Is wind a “solution”? Not a all. Will it make a difference and be a major player in our overall balanced energy supply and demand calculations? You betcha! It’s as certain as two cowboys fighting for the last sip of whiskey after the final drops of water have been bled from the western hard scramble.

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