Archives For Wind Farm

[tweetmeme source=”intercongreen”]A new report has been issued buy Wind Powering America, a Department of Energy initiative, that attempts to calculate the total potential energy to be captured off our nation’s coastlines via offshore wind farms. While erecting turbines out away from land has gathered significant support in parts of Europe, America has yet to construct a utility scale offshore wind farm despite a number of proposals remaining in the pipeline such as Cape Wind in Massachusetts. According to the report there is 4,150 GW of generating capacity potential for offshore wind in U.S. waters. If we grouped together all of the generating capacity that exists in the United States at the end of 2009 (including renewables, nuclear and fossil fuels) it would total 1,025 GW–one quarter of the capacity potential that sits off our coastlines. Continue Reading…

cutting dollar billAt the beginning of the recession there were many forecasters that foretold a dark future for sustainability after years of increased spending on numerous fronts. The result was quite the opposite, largely due to the amount of stimulus spending that guided money back into sustainable endeavors like renewable energy, home efficiency upgrades and high speed rail. However, now that the spigot has been closed on the unsustainable flow of stimulus dollars and sights are being set on spending cuts, the day of reckoning, though delayed, may finally be approaching for a number of industries. While some sustainable goals may still find success in a marketplace with shallower pockets (notably those that center around saving money) it is likely the most well known items that may suffer the most, challenging the level of frontage and recognition by the average American that greener goals have enjoyed. Continue Reading…

Grimshaw Wind TurbineCollaboration between professions can yield new, uncharted perspectives that lead to fresh ideas and in doing so, Grimshaw Architects has pushed the boundaries of what the perceived role of an architect actually is. With international engineering firm ARUP, Grimshaw has helped to design a new conceptual model of an offshore wind turbine dubbed the Aerogenerator X. The design is not only an example of what complimentary industries can accomplish together, but how the face and appearance of sustainability can be re-imagined beyond the icons that we are used to.

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Dear Mr. Droz,

I recently came across an article on that lead me to your presentation critiquing wind power. The decree that wind power is “an insult to science and mankind” seems a bit alarmist and wrought with exaggeration. I understand that you have labeled wind power as a deficient source of power generation and based this conclusion on seven points of criteria that you claim reasonable power sources should strive to meet. These points include:

  1. Can it provide large amounts of electricity?
  2. Can it provide reliable and predictable electricity?
  3. Can it provide dispatchable energy?
  4. Can it serve as more than one grid element?
  5. Can its facility be compact?
  6. Can it provide economical energy?
  7. Can it make a consequential reduction in carbon dioxide?

According to you, wind energy has failed all but the first point, after which you claim it to be an overly expensive, intermittent and restrictive form of energy production–something the world should stop devoting time and money towards. Instead, we should focus on improving our existing technologies so that they can be improved and better utilized to achieve environmental progress.

Though your individual assessments cannot be labeled as “incorrect”, I think you are unfairly painting a grim picture of wind energy while denying it both its accolades and opportunities for further improvement. Wind energy is a great industry and one of a number of technologies that will eventually allow us to reduce our environmental impact and reach a more balanced, sustainable society. I think a full critique of wind should include not only the shortcomings (which we all know exist) but the possibilities.

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wind turbine constructionWhile in the midst of an economy that is still viewed as fragile, state governments are limited in their ability to match all of their sustainability goals with appropriate funding. Money that is available, usually in the forms of grants and favorable loans, is small enough to rule out sweeping, societal changes but large enough to make people notice—and at this point that is a worthy goal. There are still far too many people far too uneducated about both threats and solutions.

Solaya Energy LLC and the State of Massachusetts are working together to install a 1.5 MW turbine near the Blandford Rest Area on the Massachusetts Turnpike. The press release from the governor’s office explains that the nearly 400-foot-tall turbine near the center of the 68-acre state-owned site, as well as a kiosk at the Service Area that will provide motorists with information about the turbine and its operation. Producing up to 3,000 megawatt-hours of electricity annually, the turbine could produce sufficient clean energy to power roughly 400 households.

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NIMBY Wind Farm

Sometimes the products of technology and infrastructure have a certain beauty that compliments their functional necessity, but all too often our aversion to the appearance of key service components conflicts with our desire for their services to be readily available. Renewable energy production, such as wind turbines and solar power stations, are increasingly becoming the targets of backlash, even from environmental supporters, when it comes time to locate them. A new strategy for overcoming the next generation of NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) sentiment is imperative to avoid our recent progress in sustainability from hitting a wall.

Polling from numerous sources repeatedly points to a growing population of U.S. citizens supporting the need to address climate change and transfer our production of energy to renewable sources. People will sign petitions, click “yes” on websites and maybe even call their Congressman in support of green energy. But in true American style, when it comes to actually implementing the goal the discussion turns into a barrage of finger-pointing with no one wanting to have to look at the finished product.

The lack of willingness to actively participate in the necessities of society is one of our blaring moments of shortsightedness. As a country that enjoys an elevated standard of living, its rise has been paralleled not only by an increasingly complex and expansive array of technology necessary to sustain it, but also a lack of responsibility for making it possible. Having a water treatment facility within a block from your home is a fallacy, but blame is thrown instantly at the onset of an E. coli breakout. No one wants to see high voltage power lines but brownouts are unacceptable.

One of the more famous examples is the repeated stalling of the Cape Wind Project that meant to erect 130 wind turbines in Nantucket Sound with a maximum capacity of 420MW. The program claims that in average winds the wind farm could provide 75% of the energy for Cape Cod and its surrounding islands. However, local residents have opposed the project due to the possibility of tarnishing their ocean view. Keep in mind that the wind turbines will be 5 to 13 miles from shore so that an onlooker could reportedly extend an arm and cover one with the fingernail on a thumb.

Unsurprisingly, continuously pushing renewables to the outskirts of society increases the amount of transmission (materials, land, installation, maintenance, replacement) needed to transport the power, increasing the amount of power lost in transit and raising the price of the power that gets there (which in turn compounds the problem.) Heaven forbid we need to pay more for power that is more sustainable and less polluting. Who would think that in a capitalistic economy the cheapest solution is not always the best?

One option is to give the federal government more power in making decisions for renewable energy sites and new transmission lines, but the prospect of increased government intervention is already causing politicians to butt heads on the Climate Bill. Another option is to use government policy that sweetens the deal for proximity to new energy solutions. (For Liberals, this would mean tax people the farther they get from renewable energy. For Conservatives, it would mean provide subsidies for those willing to live next door. For me, I would say do both.)

Yet another possibility is to redesign these facilities for a new aesthetic reading. After all, most of the time these components of infrastructure are designed by engineers. As an architect, I can respect and appreciate the simplicity and functional efficiency of how engineers design. Their goal of streamlined products that serve a specified purpose can be seen in old warehouses, factories and power stations. Nonetheless, they are usually not trying to win beauty contests. Some of these creations could not get a facelift to draw a different impression from surrounding onlookers.

Trash and Recycling CenterSpanish architecture firm Abalos and Herreros has a portfolio of work that has reinvestigated the appearance and nature of industrial programs like their recycling center in Valdemingómez, Spain. Contrary to the American standard of cheap metal siding and standing seam roofs, their facility is wrought with light to illuminate a terraced interior designed with an elegant order for industrial function. Solar farms and biomass plants could conceivably be realized in a second generation that is more viewer-friendly.

I do not believe that the largest impediment in the path of environmental stewards is convincing people that changes should be made. Regardless of the debate on climate change, sustainability and efficiency just make sense. Preserving our resources, keeping our air, water and land clean; it is just smart and more people realize that everyday. The impasse is instilling not the notion, but the drive for everyone to contribute and accept part of the collective onus to change—and make no mistake, things will need to change. Sustainability is not a technological fix. Our levels of consumption cannot be supplemented with gizmos.

Personally, I think that wind turbines and CSP plants have their own manner of beauty to them, like an ipod or a 40” Samsung LCD television, but I do not know if my sentiment has reached the majority yet.

Photo Credit: Flickr via AbracaDebra