Wind farms nobel, but impractical

July 30, 2009

I read with interest an article in the Lake Forester by Linda Blazer on Thursday, July 23:  Lake Bluff woman becomes a partner in wind turbines venture 

Carol Dorge, an environmental attorney who has “long worked for concerns that look to protect the earth”, hopes to bring wind turbine energy to industry, local government and to ordinary citizens as a means to supplement or substitute what is bought from utility companies.  As such Ms. Dorge has teamed up with North Wind Development Group LLC – Renewable Division in Grayslake. 

Although I do not wish to undermine the noble effort of Carol Dorge, one must be realistic about the use of wind power on a grand scale in meeting future energy needs.

Wind has limited possibilities as a green source of energy, but it fails as a reliable source of energy.  It is naive to believe that wind farms could ever provide more than a small percentage of our nation’s energy needs. To generate the same amount of energy with wind as an average-sized nuclear plant — 1,000 megawatts — you would  need 270 square miles filled with wind turbines.  By contrast a nuclear facility fits on far less than even one square mile.

There is also money to be made by investing in wind turbines.  Because the construction of wind turbines is not cost effective, generous government subsidies provide incentives for individual and companies to invest in the wind business..

Then there is the  problem of connecting wind power to current electrical grids, as oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens found out when he had to scrap plans for the world’s largest wind farm in the Texas Panhandle. Pickens had already ordered 687 turbines 400 feet tall at a cost of $2 billion dollars.  Now Pickens is looking for a home for his 687 giant wind turbines after finding that it was impossible to get the power generated from the proposed Texas to a distribution center. 

Even with an existing electrical grid, wind turbines have not fared all that well in CA.  There are hundreds of abandoned wind turbines that have been built since the 1970’s thanks to various tax-incentive subsidies given to promote the wind turbine industry.

One must also consider the safety of wind turbines.  According to a report from the Caithnes Windfarm Information Forum: (1) 39 incidents of blade failures have been know to travel over a quarter mile. (2) 110 incidents of fire that require 30–foot story ladder trucks. (3) 60 incidents of turbine failure and tower collapse. (4) 13 incidents of “ice throw” with human injury.

President Obama held up Denmark as an example when he lamented that only 3% of America’s electricity comes from renewable sources such as wind and solar when Denmark produces almost 20% of its electricity from wind. Evidently unknown to Obama is that  Denmark has the highest rate of electricity generation in Europe at 15 cents kwh.  Niels Gram of the Danish Federation of Industries said that “windmills are a mistake and economically make no sense.” 

Given that turbine blades don’t turn when the wind dies, wind power is unreliable.  Furthermore, there is no way to store generated wind energy when the wind does blow.  No place exists in this country, that I am aware of, where the wind blows more than 40 percent of the time – except on the tops of some mountains. 

Wouldn’t it make more sense to invest in nuclear power?  It is the one clean, abundant, and affordable energy source known on this planet. 

Presently there is a dual nuclear reactor plant built by ComEd in 1973 standing idle up in Zion.  David Hollein, a resident of Barrington Hills, formerly the Westinghouse Project Engineer for all the Commonwealth Nuclear Plants built by Westinghouse and General Electric, and who was intimately involved with the design of the Zion dual nuclear plant, has for years (like a voice in the wilderness) been trying to alert legislators and citizens to the vast treasure of energy that remains shuttered and has been demanding a second look.

Why have citizens here in Lake County never questioned why two 1,000 megawatt nuclear reactors in Zion were closed in the first place and then never restarted?  Readers of the Lake Forester need to take umbrage and contact their legislators about reopening Zion’s dual nuclear plant. 

Unfortunately Congressman Mark Kirk remains adamantly committed against its reopening.  It makes sense why Mark Kirk voted with 8 other Republican congressmen for the Waxman-Markey bill given that the largest donors ($94,873 dollars worth) over Kirk’s entire career, Chicago-based energy giant Exelon Corporation, would benefit by reaping huge windfall profits of $1 billion a year should climate change legislation be enacted.

Europe is way ahead of America in using nuclear energy.  Recently it has been reported that China intends to build 100 nuclear reactors. 

Only by increasing its nuclear energy capacity will Illinois and the rest of this nation be able to keep pace with future energy demands.  Not to do so would result in an escalation of the price we pay for energy and black outs.  It would also result in a substantial loss of our standard of living, while keeping us overly dependent on foreign countries for oil, which is the exact opposite from what the Waxman-Markey bill promises

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