Blowing away the alternative: a case for wind power

Following up on his previous post, Wiess Energy Hall Master Docent Julian Lamborn shares his case for the further development of wind power in the US: 

PICT1018
Creative Commons License photo credit: s2art

If coal-fired power stations were to be forced to sequester their greenhouse gases then production of electricity from wind generators would be cheaper than from coal.  There are optimists who believe that the present USA wind generating capacity could be raised from 1% of the country’s electricity needs to 20% (although 5% to 7% by 2020 is believed by most to be a more realistic number, particularly since some of the Federal subsidy programs for wind generators are scheduled to run out at the end of 2008!)
If you are considering putting a 2 MW wind/power generating machine in your backyard (remember that it would be some 360 ft. tall!) it would set you back around $2 million but, remember, the wind resources in the United States are vast. Using today’s technology, there is theoretically enough wind power flowing across our country to supply all of our electricity needs.  North Dakota alone could supply about one third of the nation’s electricity

Adequate winds for commercial power production are found at sites in 46 states but only a small portion of our country’s vast wind potential will likely be tapped in the near future since there has to be an integrated approach to energy management with both political and industrial participation.

Here in the USA, in Iowa, at the Iowa Stored Energy Park, a $200 million system that will take surplus electrical energy from nearby wind farms and use it to compress and store high pressure air underground will go online in 2011.  When needed, this compressed air can be released into a natural gas fired electricity generating turbine to produce some 268 MW of supplemental power.

The World Wind Energy Association anticipates that the installed capacity of wind powered generators will be around 170,000 MW by the end of 2010… this represents an 81% increase in world wind generating capacity from the end of 2007. This is the fastest growing source of alternate energy the world has at present. 

PICT1015
Creative Commons License photo credit: s2art

Although there are many NIMBY (“not in my back-yard”) activists interested in where to site wind-farms, many ornithologists interested in avian problems created by the rotor blades and many people that just don’t like change, the alternate of burning more and more coal and producing potentially more and more greenhouse gases has also to be put into the equation.  In the long term (as there always is) there will be an acceptable balance wherein, at least in the US, there will probably be wind generation producing between 5% and 10% of our daily electricity needs as part of our daily power grid input. But I’ll also bet with you, though, that none of these wind generators will be in or very close to a National Park!

2 thoughts on “Blowing away the alternative: a case for wind power

  1. Interesting stuff…wind power. I have seen many “blades” of windmills traveling north on IH 45 on flatbed trucks in recent months. In late June I saw two trucks at an intersection on IH 35 heading west in Hillsboro. Where are these windmills made?

  2. Hi Sharon,
    Thanks for your comment! I have seen a few photos on giant wind turbines on the freeway on Flickr – it’s always surprising how large they are!

    Here’s an answer for you from Daniel, our assistant program coordinator for the Wiess Energy Hall:

    “The parts are made all around the United States. American Wind Energy Association has a list of companies that make 250 kilowatt to 250 megawatt turbines. Most of the large blades (40 meters to 50 meters in length) are made using a fiberglass composite. The larger ones (60 meters) are made using carbon fibers.

    In cae you’re interested, most of the large blades are made using a fiberglass composite. The larger ones are made using carbon fibers.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>