Thursday, April 26, 2007


A good current overview and an option needing much more research and development, especially, it would appear, off the coast.

Air Power
Don Quixote tilted at windmills. We can use them to increase our energy supply.
Wednesday, April 25, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

Where does America get its electrical power, the annual four billion megawatt-hours of electricity consumed by our industries, cities, transportation, hospitals, homes and personal needs? Coal plants provide 51% of the nation's electrical energy; nuclear power 21%, natural gas 16%, oil 3% and renewable resources 9%, most of which is hydropower.

And where do the electrical sector's carbon dioxide emissions come from? About 82% from burning coal, 13% from natural gas, 3% from petroleum, and none at all from nuclear power plants.

So if additional electrical power were needed in a community, as it is in Delaware's growing coastal Sussex County, what kind of a power generation facility should be built? Nuclear is politically untenable, especially with a plant across the river, in New Jersey, so two traditional proposals have been submitted, one for a 177-megawatt gas turbine at an existing energy facility, and another for a new 600-megawatt coal-fired plant.

And then came a third proposal: construction off the Delaware coast of 200 wind turbines that would generate 600 megawatts of electrical power.

Wind power is global, clean and environmentally safe. Germany has 18,000 wind turbines generating electricity; Denmark has 5,300; and America has more than 20,000 wind turbines, which in 2006 produced less than 1% of our electricity--26 million megawatt-hours.

Unlike Europe, where many turbines are offshore in the ocean, our wind turbines are all on land. But two years ago a proposal was advanced to build 130 turbines in the waters of Nantucket Sound. It was opposed by environmental lawyer and activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who complained that they would "damage the views from 16 historic sites," including the Kennedy compound at Hyannis, Mass. In March the project was deemed in compliance with the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act, but the argument over whether to build it will go on for some time.

Depending on the site selected, Delaware's 200 turbines would be 12 or 17 miles off the coast, and although very large--extending 256 feet in the air with 163 foot blades that would further extend their height to 400 feet at the top of their spin--they would be seen as only pinpoints on the horizon. They wouldn't be built in the shipping lanes or have a negative impact on the fishing industry or marine life.

They are estimated to produce enough electricity to supply 130,000 homes, and would be pollution-free--no oil, coal, no natural gas is needed to make them run, so they would generate no CO2, particulates, or pollutants of any kind.