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Wind energy sweeps plains; course correction in order?

Must we wait until every tract of land from Kansas to California bristles with propeller-topped towers before wondering if there's a way to concentrate this new industry and consolidate transmission costs? Will we carpet the country in concrete-based wind farms only to discover more compact means of making and storing electricity?

Even when they were promising novelties, wind turbines were anomalies: air-age impositions on timeless landscapes, they struck denizens of our dreariest deserts as, well, out of place.

Never mind that the only oil wind-generated electricity needed was to lubricate bearings and load capacitors. Forget their economic and ecological benefits. For some, the notion of row upon row of propellers atop towers, like so many alien invaders crossing mountain passes, was a disruption of scenery some consider sacred.

During the past quarter of a century, wind farms have popped up in many parts of the world - drawing similar resistance in spite of their obvious advantages to a world of consumers demanding ever more energy.

Now, with our nation on the verge of an alternative-energy boom, the chorus of concern about fast-proliferating wind farms is growing. And the closer someone is to the turbine towers, claro, the greater the concern - not just over eyesores and headaches, real and imagined, but over noise, over threats to birds and bats, even over electromagnetic radiation that might or might not be surging out into the atmosphere.

Here in New Mexico, some... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Even when they were promising novelties, wind turbines were anomalies: air-age impositions on timeless landscapes, they struck denizens of our dreariest deserts as, well, out of place.

Never mind that the only oil wind-generated electricity needed was to lubricate bearings and load capacitors. Forget their economic and ecological benefits. For some, the notion of row upon row of propellers atop towers, like so many alien invaders crossing mountain passes, was a disruption of scenery some consider sacred.

During the past quarter of a century, wind farms have popped up in many parts of the world - drawing similar resistance in spite of their obvious advantages to a world of consumers demanding ever more energy.

Now, with our nation on the verge of an alternative-energy boom, the chorus of concern about fast-proliferating wind farms is growing. And the closer someone is to the turbine towers, claro, the greater the concern - not just over eyesores and headaches, real and imagined, but over noise, over threats to birds and bats, even over electromagnetic radiation that might or might not be surging out into the atmosphere.

Here in New Mexico, some environmentalists wonder why there isn't more emphasis on solar power, leaving wind to 10 or 11 states with greater potential in that field. Good question - even if environmental objections arise over solar farms.

But with oilman Boone Pickens pushing wind generation, whatever his motives, and the Western Plains soon to be the scene of some kind of wind rush, utility regulators, environmental officials, land planners and promoters alike ought to ask themselves - and each other - where this lurch into alternative energy might take us.

Must we wait until every tract of land from Kansas to California bristles with propeller-topped towers before wondering if there's a way to concentrate this new industry and consolidate transmission costs? Will we carpet the country in concrete-based wind farms only to discover more compact means of making and storing electricity?

Perhaps most important at the moment to New Mexicans soon to be too-close neighbors to wind farms, do the turbines have to turn ridgelines into scenes from science fiction, or can they be nearly as effective in less-obtrusive nearby locations? And, as an industry, shouldn't it be subject to zoning of some kind?

Wind and solar, among many new forms of energy, are still in their pioneering stages. There's been precious little time for fine turning, let alone major modifications - but there's great promise in the technological improvements already being made, even during decades of American leadership under fossil-fuel sponsorship.

There's cause for optimism over a new secretary of energy, and over Los Alamos National Laboratory's view of its mission evolving into at least some serious power-grid research.

The public and private sectors, here and in many parts of the world, have great potential for refining, maybe even revising, what's under way on the alternative-energy front.

Now, while lots of wind-energy projects are on the drawing boards, is the time to review that source's rapid progress - and make some course corrections.


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

JAN 12 2009
http://www.windaction.org/posts/18560-wind-energy-sweeps-plains-course-correction-in-order
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