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Wind farms still face techno, enviro challenges

Early in their development, long-bladed wind turbines were seen as threats to birds, especially migrating varieties used to crossing certain mountain passes. Now, in spite of technological improvements and efforts to keep their propellers off at critical times, lawsuits are descending on wind farms - working ones and some on the drawing boards - to turn them off or to stop development in the path of some birds' migration and in bat habitat. But behind some environmentalist arguments against the increasing clusters of wind turbines is a more basic, if less compelling objection: They're ugly. They can be noisy. Besides that, opponents wonder, how do we know they're not sending surges of electricity into the atmosphere, doing who-knows-what damage to animals, two- and four-legged alike?

There's irony aplenty in the fields of alternative energy - and it's beginning to pile up around those increasingly popular power suppliers, the wind farms.

Early in their development, long-bladed wind turbines were seen as threats to birds, especially migrating varieties used to crossing certain mountain passes. Now, in spite of technological improvements and efforts to keep their propellers off at critical times, lawsuits are descending on wind farms - working ones and some on the drawing boards - to turn them off or to stop development in the path of some birds' migration and in bat habitat.

But behind some environmentalist arguments against the increasing clusters of wind turbines is a more basic, if less compelling objection:

They're ugly. They can be noisy. Besides that, opponents wonder, how do we know they're not sending surges of electricity into the atmosphere, doing who-knows-what damage to animals, two- and four-legged alike?

In the more fashionable parts of the country, including Cape Cod and parts of Long Island, the not-in-my-back-yard bloc has thrown up objections running from ostensibly valid to downright silly, in an effort to keep them... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

There's irony aplenty in the fields of alternative energy - and it's beginning to pile up around those increasingly popular power suppliers, the wind farms.

Early in their development, long-bladed wind turbines were seen as threats to birds, especially migrating varieties used to crossing certain mountain passes. Now, in spite of technological improvements and efforts to keep their propellers off at critical times, lawsuits are descending on wind farms - working ones and some on the drawing boards - to turn them off or to stop development in the path of some birds' migration and in bat habitat.

But behind some environmentalist arguments against the increasing clusters of wind turbines is a more basic, if less compelling objection:

They're ugly. They can be noisy. Besides that, opponents wonder, how do we know they're not sending surges of electricity into the atmosphere, doing who-knows-what damage to animals, two- and four-legged alike?

In the more fashionable parts of the country, including Cape Cod and parts of Long Island, the not-in-my-back-yard bloc has thrown up objections running from ostensibly valid to downright silly, in an effort to keep them from becoming part of the view.

So, in the case of Back East, wind-power companies have high-tailed it to the hinterlands, buying up rural-community rights to build generator complexes before city dwellers longing for life in the boondocks can bring their influence to bear against noise, unsightliness, or both.

Count on challenges to the Boone Pickens project in the wide-open spaces of Texas, and to proposals for wind farms out west of the Taos Gorge in New Mexico.

Meanwhile, there's another obstacle in the way of wind farms joining the energy mainstream: power storage.

As some perceptive readers have asked in letters to the editor, what happens when the wind isn't blowing? Turn off the coffee pot? Go without lights?

Only small storage batteries have been developed so far; they're not up to the electricity demands being supplied when wind farms are at full spin.

This is where science comes in - and it doesn't get much better than that of Los Alamos and Sandia national laboratories.

At Los Alamos, there's an effort afoot to take the notion of hydrogen fuel cells and turn them into energy-storage devices. What might evolve are home-cooler-sized appliances to store a certain amount of electricity, the transform the overflow from wind farms or solar collectors into ammonia or methane - which later can be converted back into electricity.

This, LANL physicist Albert Migliori told The New Mexican's Sue Vorenberg, might in time make everyone's home a mini-storage station - which could come in handy in case of blackouts and brownouts.

Sounds like a welcome development - especially if the científicos can take the pee-yuu factor out of the ammonia or methane. Decentralized storage has lots of appeal, on consumerist and security levels as well.

This could be a promising junction of basic science and practical application - something our state, and our congressional delegation, should encourage.

Sen. Jeff Bingaman noted recently that Sandia has a sizable budget for renewable-energy research. And LANL's Dr. Migliori has been giving a series of lectures on the science of energy storage. He'll wrap them up Thursday, 7 p.m., at the Nick Salazar Center for the Arts on the campus of Northern New Mexico College in Española.

The challenge of energy storage hasn't yet been overcome as a practical matter. But seeing some of our national-lab scientists riding out to meet it is good news, indeed.


Source: http://www.santafenewmexica...

SEP 2 2008
http://www.windaction.org/posts/16994-wind-farms-still-face-techno-enviro-challenges
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