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Wind Farms Are No Panacea for Hawaii - Grassroot Perspective

Even if wind turbines were built in Hawaii, excess capacity would have to be built to handle peak loads in the event that the winds weren’t blowing or the islands would experience brown-outs or black outs. The fact that the periods of highest demands would coincide with a drop off in wind speed means wind turbines cannot be counted on the meet peak load demands in Hawaii. So electrical generating capacity would have to be built twice, first as wind turbines and second as backup peak capacity protection.

A common panacea for solving the increasing demand for energy touted by the environmental movement and many politicians is using wind energy to generate electricity. The practical side of wind energy is rarely considered, especially here in Hawaii. Wind energy plans are rarely well thought out.

One of the major problems concerning energy generation is meeting peak demand. Peak demand is those rare occasions when nearly everyone is using electricity at high levels. Typically this is during severe weather conditions either extreme heat or cold. This is time that the greatest demand is placed on electrical grids. And since burning heating oil cannot be used to cool residences as air conditioning can, most peak demand events happen during extreme heat rather than cold. Electric Companies always have to plan their capacity to handle peak demand.

Wind power requires certain conditions, depending upon where it is built, in order to operate efficiently. The wind farm in the San Gorgonio Pass of the San Bernadino Mountains outside of Palm Springs is just such a unique situation.

The Coachella Valley is deeply inland and protected by a mountain range. This drives the temperatures in the... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  
A common panacea for solving the increasing demand for energy touted by the environmental movement and many politicians is using wind energy to generate electricity. The practical side of wind energy is rarely considered, especially here in Hawaii. Wind energy plans are rarely well thought out.

One of the major problems concerning energy generation is meeting peak demand. Peak demand is those rare occasions when nearly everyone is using electricity at high levels. Typically this is during severe weather conditions either extreme heat or cold. This is time that the greatest demand is placed on electrical grids. And since burning heating oil cannot be used to cool residences as air conditioning can, most peak demand events happen during extreme heat rather than cold. Electric Companies always have to plan their capacity to handle peak demand.

Wind power requires certain conditions, depending upon where it is built, in order to operate efficiently. The wind farm in the San Gorgonio Pass of the San Bernadino Mountains outside of Palm Springs is just such a unique situation.

The Coachella Valley is deeply inland and protected by a mountain range. This drives the temperatures in the valley very high during the summer months. As is common knowledge, hot air rises. So the pressure of the valley is less than the surrounding area.

The Gorgonio Pass is the only place where the cool, moist air from the coast can rush in to offset the pressure differential between the Coachella Valley and the San Gabriel Valley which channels the coast air mass. The air gains speed as it rushes through the narrow pass and this is why it is most advantageous for the wind farm to be placed there.

The relationship of airspeed to energy retrieved is that for every doubling of airspeed there is a 4-time increase of energy available for the same area. This means that a 4-time increase in wind speed results in a 16-time increase in available energy.

The Venturi effect is the principle that gases or fluids speed up when the flow is forced through a constricted area such as the Gorgonio Pass. The inland airflow speeds up as it enters the narrow Gorgonio Pass as the lower air pressure of the Coachella Valley draws in the higher pressure air from the coast.

This last point is important because the hotter it gets in the summer the more the rising air lessens the pressure in the Coachella Valley and the greater the differential between it and the coast. This increases the wind speed through the Gorgonio Pass and makes the wind turbines there more effective at precisely the time that they are needed most, when there is a greater demand for electricity to feed air conditioners in Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley.

The situation in Hawaii is much different. Typically the strongest winds are trade winds which are often, euphemistically, called the island “air-conditioner.” When the trade winds blow the islands are cooler and the electrical demand is less.

The hottest periods are when the trade winds weaken and the Kona winds blow. These winds are typically much weaker than the trade winds, and much less consistent. They also usually bring much higher humidity levels which impact on the comfort level of island residents. The hottest days are days when the wind hardly blows at all.

All of this works together to mean that when the demand for electricity increases due to higher temperatures and higher humidity the consistent winds needed to power the wind turbines falls off rather than increases as it does in Gorgonio Pass. Therefore, just when the peak demand for electricity increases wind power in the islands would typically fall off. Not an ideal situation.

Because of the above facts, in order to properly prepare for the peak demand requirements of electricity in severe weather situations excess capacity over and above whatever wind turbine generation would exist must be built to meet the peak demand. If this isn’t done then the island would experience brown-outs and black-outs as California did in the days of that state’s energy crisis. Even the wind farms in Altamont Pass which are driven by the same dynamics as those in Gorgonio Pass weren’t sufficient to forestall such brown-outs. Any wind farms built in Hawaii would be subject to even greater weaknesses.

Even if wind turbines were built in Hawaii, excess capacity would have to be built to handle peak loads in the event that the winds weren’t blowing or the islands would experience brown-outs or black outs. The fact that the periods of highest demands would coincide with a drop off in wind speed means wind turbines cannot be counted on the meet peak load demands in Hawaii. So electrical generating capacity would have to be built twice, first as wind turbines and second as backup peak capacity protection.

The lauding of wind generated electricity as a solution to Hawaii’s energy problems is a false one. Wind farms are proving problematic even in areas where they do work such as Altamont Pass where environmentalists, who insisted they be built in the first place, now want them removed because of the large number of birds the turbine blades kill. Why do the people of Hawaii have to re-create these mistakes instead of learning from them.

The search for renewable energy isn’t a bad one but it is driven more by ideology than facts. The “we have to do this, no matter what” mentality of renewable energy advocates leads them to ignore the facts and press ahead in spite of them. This isn’t the way public policy should be conducted. It should be conducted by gathering the facts and then making a rational decision based upon the evaluation of those facts. In this case wind turbine technology isn’t the panacea for generating electricity in Hawaii that it is often made out to be.

Don Newman, senior policy analyst for the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, Hawaii's first and only free market public policy institute focused on individual freedom and liberty, can be reached at: mailto:newmand001@hawaii.rr.com

This editorial is intended to provoke thought, discussion and an examination of issues. It does not reflect official policy of the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii. See the GRIH Web site at: http://www.grassrootinstitute.org/

Source: http://www.hawaiireporter.c...

DEC 22 2005
https://www.windaction.org/posts/797-wind-farms-are-no-panacea-for-hawaii-grassroot-perspective
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