Sierra Club - Lake Erie Group

Northwest Pennsylvania


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Wind Farms - Update

Posted by Chuck Benson on April 7, 2011 at 9:50 AM Comments comments (77)


The largest offshore wind turbine ever installed is now up and running just off the coast of Ostend Harbour in Belgium. The 78-meter tower is as tall as the high-rise Hague in the Netherlands, boasts 73-meter blades, and pillars that are sunk more than 60 meters into the seabed to keep the wind turbine upright. The 6-MW Haliade 150 was made by the French company, Alstom, and will produce wind power at 15% better efficiency than current offshore wind turbines in the area. This singular wind turbine will be able to power over 5000 households compared to other forms of energy that pollute the water, soil, and air, and do it much less efficiently, but is it really the most ideal clean-energy technology for the growing needs of the world? Considering the monetary costs and long-term ecological and environmental effects of radiation, for example, or the ridiculous waste of petroleum-based energy -- the by-products of tar-sands alone, for example, are dirtier than anyone might imagine -- wind power is among the newer technologies that just might power the world without wasting it completely. As of August 2013, the UK currently has the largest wind farm array, followed by Denmark, Germany, and Belgium. Denmark is currently the largest producer of wind energy. The Netherlands and Sweden also have large interests in wind farming, but China is especially curious about wind-energy as a solution to their large population and dirty-energy problems. Due to China’s large landmass and long coastal areas, it is estimated that there are about 2,380 gigawatts (GW) of unused, exploitable, clean energy available. Just one gigawatt of power could produce enough energy to power around 700,000 homes. The US produces much less wind power currently, but has the capacity for more, considering wind currents that are available in multiple geographic areas, especially the Pacific Northwest. Iowa, California, and North Dakota currently have wind farms, as do North Dakota, Utah, New York, Minnesota, Illinois, Oregon, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Indiana, West Virginia and New Mexico, as well as some smaller farms in Hawaii. There are currently proposed projects inmore than a dozen states. One of the main concerns with wind power is that it can harm wildlife, namely, endangered birds, and this is a hurdle that large wind power companies looking for an energy grab will have to contend with. A Cornell University mechanical engineer, Francis Moon, has designed a turbine-less wind energy generator that instead utilizes piezoelectric pads to harness gentle breezes, and chilling winds alike. Another alternative wind-energy called the Windbelt generator, pushes the rotation technology aside as well, and relies on a ‘taut, vibrating machine, coupled with a no-contact direct-drive electrical generator, can tap the energy of flowing air. The effect we capitalize on is known as aeroelastic flutter, most famously exhibited in the Tacoma Narrows bridge collapse.” These types of wind-technologies are safer for bats and birds since they do not cut the wind to generate power. While the Belgium off-shore wind turbine might be grandiose, it may not be the best design to change our energy future. Senior Vice President of Alston Wind says of the companies’ latest project, ”The installation of our turbine which is simple, robust and efficient thus contributing in boosting the competitiveness of offshore wind energy. . . asserts our technological leadership and our innovative abilities,” but wind designs which also look to protecting wild life with similar efficiency will more likely take charge in the market place.