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Wind turbines: manmade wonder or blight?

Despite its high-tech wizardry, turbine design has two major drawbacks. First, they are ugly — at least when compared to a pristine rural landscape. A spinning turbine is an affront to the esthetic sensibilities of anyone who looks at one with other than an engineer’s eye. Worse, from an environmental standpoint, these things are killers. While there is little chance of danger to people, flying creatures have plenty to fear. Bats and birds are killed by the thousands across the world by wind turbines. Our efforts to make them silent make turbines efficient killers.

Anyone who has taken a drive anywhere near Lake Erie has seen the latest technology in energy production – the wind turbine.

These deceptively large structures are becoming common across the landscape and, in addition to electricity, generate a lot of controversy. While useful, they are also considered a blight on the landscape by many people.

As well, they also kill wildlife at an alarming rate.

Their existence is a balancing of meeting our energy needs for clean electrical power against the environmental and esthetic damage they cause to the countryside.

Wind power is slightly misnamed. While it is the wind from which we take the energy, it is really solar power as it is the sun that makes the wind blow. Almost all energy that we use in our civilization, except in some respects nuclear power, can be traced back to the sun, either directly or in the form of fossil fuels that used the sun’s energy to exist.

Of course, wind power is also a way of storing solar power as the wind still blows at night when the sun is down.

The total world wind turbine capacity in 2019 was 650,557 megawatts, with China leading the way with 36 per cent of the total followed by the United States at 16... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Anyone who has taken a drive anywhere near Lake Erie has seen the latest technology in energy production – the wind turbine.

These deceptively large structures are becoming common across the landscape and, in addition to electricity, generate a lot of controversy. While useful, they are also considered a blight on the landscape by many people.

As well, they also kill wildlife at an alarming rate.

Their existence is a balancing of meeting our energy needs for clean electrical power against the environmental and esthetic damage they cause to the countryside.

Wind power is slightly misnamed. While it is the wind from which we take the energy, it is really solar power as it is the sun that makes the wind blow. Almost all energy that we use in our civilization, except in some respects nuclear power, can be traced back to the sun, either directly or in the form of fossil fuels that used the sun’s energy to exist.

Of course, wind power is also a way of storing solar power as the wind still blows at night when the sun is down.

The total world wind turbine capacity in 2019 was 650,557 megawatts, with China leading the way with 36 per cent of the total followed by the United States at 16 per cent.

Canada ranks eighth in the world with two per cent of the total global generation capacity.

Ontario leads the country with an installed capacity of 5,436 megawatts.

From an engineering standpoint, wind turbines are technological marvels. While the technology of turning a rotation into electricity has been around for more than a hundred years, the ability to extract energy from something as ephemeral as the air is an impressive achievement.

While they may look large on the horizon, it is only when you get close to the turbines that you can truly appreciate their tremendous size. Some are larger than a 30-storey building and the tip of the blades can travel at almost 300 km-h.

Each turbine can generate 1.5 megawatts of energy in a 20 km-h breeze.

And the energy is essentially free, once you pay for the construction of the wind turbine and put something aside for maintenance.

The blades are some of the most high-tech components ever made. Each blade is almost 40 metres long and has design features taken from Mother Nature. In an effort to keep the blades from making a lot of noise, there are small projections on their trailing edges that are inspired by the wings of the owl, a bird that flies almost silently. These features greatly reduced the noise signature for turbine blades compared to earlier designs.

Despite its high-tech wizardry, turbine design has two major drawbacks.

First, they are ugly — at least when compared to a pristine rural landscape. A spinning turbine is an affront to the esthetic sensibilities of anyone who looks at one with other than an engineer’s eye.

Worse, from an environmental standpoint, these things are killers. While there is little chance of danger to people, flying creatures have plenty to fear.

Bats and birds are killed by the thousands across the world by wind turbines. Our efforts to make them silent make turbines efficient killers.

Human surveys of dead bats and birds dramatically undercounted the numbers slaughtered, but a study by the U.S. Geological Survey using dogs to sniff out dead animals showed that dogs were many times better than human surveys. In one case, out of 69 searches, humans found only one dead animal , while 55 searches performed with dogs found 71 fatalities. One good thing to come out of this USGS study is the indication that a trend toward fewer but larger wind turbines will not increase the deaths of flying creatures.

Wind turbines have lots of advantages as we try to gain energy self-sufficiency without increasing the content of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

We also must not lose sight of the fact that this technology is not environmentally cost-free.

Tim Philp has enjoyed science since he was old enough to read. Having worked in technical fields all his life, he shares his love of science with readers weekly. He can be reached by e-mail at: tphilp@bfree.on.ca.


Source: https://www.brantfordexposi...

AUG 6 2021
https://www.windaction.org/posts/52672-wind-turbines-manmade-wonder-or-blight
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