World’s Largest Wind Farm Opens Off English Coast

ALL HOMES IN SCOTLAND CAN BE POWERED BY THE WIND, with Britain’s newly augmented capacity. Read more in the New York Times.

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Vow What?

After several reports of its demise, the Climate Bill is back on the burner. The president made a speech in its support today at Carnegie Mellon University . If Obama passes this one, he will be known as the President of reanimated zombie bills. Speaking of familiar, Republican support for the bill is no where to be found since Sen. Lindsey Graham backed off from Sen. Kerry’s shadow, but there are a pack of moderates targeted for swinging sides. Mentioning them, Obama said, “The votes may not be there right now, but I intend to find them in the coming months,”

While he had the microphone, he took the time to outline some of his ideas for the legislation. The President said he would like to roll back the oil tax breaks and use that money to invest in our energy independence. This is something that has been talked about during drum circles for over four decades, but this time the talk may become law in the wake of the disaster in the Gulf.

Here is an excerpt from his speech,

And the time has come to aggressively accelerate that transition.  The time has come, once and for all, for this nation to fully embrace a clean energy future.  (Applause.)  Now, that means continuing our unprecedented effort to make everything from our homes and businesses to our cars and trucks more energy-efficient.  It means tapping into our natural gas reserves, and moving ahead with our plan to expand our nation’s fleet of nuclear power plants.  It means rolling back billions of dollars of tax breaks to oil companies so we can prioritize investments in clean energy research and development.
But the only way the transition to clean energy will ultimately succeed is if the private sector is fully invested in this future — if capital comes off the sidelines and the ingenuity of our entrepreneurs is unleashed.  And the only way to do that is by finally putting a price on carbon pollution.
No, many businesses have already embraced this idea because it provides a level of certainty about the future.  And for those that face transition costs, we can help them adjust.  But if we refuse to take into account the full costs of our fossil fuel addiction — if we don’t factor in the environmental costs and the national security costs and the true economic costs — we will have missed our best chance to seize a clean energy future.
The House of Representatives has already passed a comprehensive energy and climate bill, and there is currently a plan in the Senate — a plan that was developed with ideas from Democrats and Republicans — that would achieve the same goal.  And, Pittsburgh, I want you to know, the votes may not be there right now, but I intend to find them in the coming months.  (Applause.)  I will continue to make the case for a clean energy future wherever and whenever I can.  (Applause.)  I will work with anyone to get this done — and we will get it done.

read more at the Atlantic

The problem with wind power is…it makes electricity too cheap!

Thanks almighty to The Oil Drum for a brilliant parsing of the news. They quote a Bloomberg News article stating,

After years of getting government incentives to install windmills, operators in Europe may have become their own worst enemy, reducing the total price paid for electricity in Germany, Europe’s biggest power market, by as much as 5 billion euros some years, according to a study this week by Poeyry, a Helsinki-based industry consultant…

…which The Oil Drum then recognizes as meaning WIND POWER REDUCES THE COST OF ELECTRICITY TO CONSUMERS. Bloomberg News, to its credit, afterwards recognized the pro-industry bias in its article. AFTER TWO REWRITES, the article now says:

“We’re seeing that wind energy lowers prices, which is great for the consumers,” Kjaer said at his group’s conference in Warsaw this week. “We as producers have to acknowledge that this means operating the existing plant fewer hours a year, and this has an effect on investors” and profit.

So from now on, whenever you see ANY objections to wind power voiced by ANYONE, it’s reflecting the impact on THEIR bottom line – not yours.

Reap the Wind, or Reap the Whirlwind

Way back in 2003, I visited The Netherlands, and was amazed at how incredibly modern everything seemed – at least in comparison to Middle America. The cab I took from Schiphol International was a black, late-model Mercedes E-Type with an awesome flat-screen t.v. on which I could watch Dutch MTV – just like every other cab in the Dutch fleet. The contemporary architecture was cutting-edge and electric trams skirted down the cobblestone streets.  Not to mention the rather avant-garde attitude the Dutch held with regard to cannabis and prostitution.

What impressed me more than anything else, though, was the sight I beheld as the cab rode up to the top of those famous berms and dikes which keep the North Sea at bay. There, glinting in the sunlight, white and pinwheeling above the deep blue sea, was a forest of wind turbines, ineluctably carving the air in graceful circles like the world’s most profound modern art installation. That’s the future, I thought, smiling, and it is beautiful.

A little later, I talked to some Dutch townspeople. “We hate those wind turbines,” they said. “We think they’re ugly.” I had to stifle a guffaw. This was Holland, Great Land of Windmills! I mean, okay, 400 years ago Don Quixote mistook one for a monster, but aren’t those wind turbines just magnificent technological updates of the very same quaint rickety sorts that are Dutch national symbols? Aren’t they even prettier than the originals, now that they’re not merely obsolete fodder for postcards – but symbols of the clean energy future?

Well, change is tough on everybody, I suppose, and it just goes to show you that if the Dutch, of all people, can go NIMBY on wind turbines, then it’s going to be quite a sell for Americans. And indeed it is, as The New York Times reported today. This week is post-time for Obama’s decision on the big wind farm off the Massachusetts coast – in the works now for more than a decade – and our objections are looking even stupider than the Dutch.

Opponents have argued that the venture is too expensive and would interfere with local fishermen, intrude on the sacred rituals and submerged burial grounds of two local Indian tribes and destroy the view.

Too expensive? True, it’s twice as expensive to develop offshore; but we’ve already seen T. Boone Pickens’ plans for a giant Texas windfarm deep-sixed when it became apparent that hooking up the grid to the farm made the whole plan go wildly over-budget. Offshore wind farms positioned near major population centers means no such problem.

Interfere with local fishermen? Okay, so wind turbines that are placed, on average, a half-mile apart interfere with large-scale trawling; but isn’t large-scale trawling the primary cause of extinction-level overfishing? The Masshole anglers might have issues, but over in Rhode Island, the Fishermen’s Energy Company is collaborating with local fishermen. After all, they know the ocean bottom better than anyone, and bringing them in not only reduces the costs and fishery impact of offshore wind farms, but gives the fishing companies a tidy consultancy fee, and investment in the project – not to mention the energy savings in their coastal towns.

Indian tribes? The Wampanoag tribe of Nantucket has important sunrise rituals that, apparently, depend upon an unbroken view of the horizon. Now, normally I’m all for Native American rights and think the idea of the ceremony is beautiful. But I also remember this PSA from the ’70s:

Finally, finally we’re getting off our asses and preventing pollution – and – and –– Hell. Give ’em stock. Give ’em casinos and tobacco-trading posts on the service gantries. Sorry for the callousness, folks, but this is a pretty classic example of not seeing the forest for the trees. Or rather, not seeing the protection of the environment from some pinwheels on the horizon. Eminent Domain has been used to such nefarious ends in our recent history, and we can’t use it to facilitate a clean-energy future? I am appalled by this nation’s past, but there should be limits to its limitations on our future.

I just wish people could see those wind turbines with my eyes, spinning gracefully in the brash winds, glinting the sunlight with melodious reflections, counterpointing the sunlight glinting off the bluerough steel waves – and in each turn, speaking: clean, clean energy; clean, clean energy; now, later, onward.