The International Wildlife Coalition, the Ocean Conservancy, The Humane Society, and The Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, are unhappy. The folks on Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket Island are not happy. Nimby, not in my backyard, has created an unlikely coalition of environmentalists and bent-out-of-shape residents from Cape Cod's Hyannis Port, all the way to Buzzards Bay. For years the Sierra Club and Greenpeace promoted wind power as a way to reduce or control the use of fossil fuels. But when there was a proposal to locate a wind farm offshore in Nantucket Sound, between ferry lanes to Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket, that was just too much, even for environmentalists dead set against coal and oil and global warming .
War has been declared between Cape Wind Associates of Boston, who want to install a parcel of 130 towering turbines, soaring to 420 feet about the sea, 6 miles out in the middle of Nantucket Sound, covering a 24-square-mile area, while yet another company has proposed another wind farm on Nantucket's backside. Formed up in full battle dress against these interlopers are residents and environmentalists who see looming threats to migrating birds, as well as to the habitat of dolphins and seals, as the turbine's 161-foot blades, churning at 16 revolutions per minute (rpm), would rattle the seabed. Additionally, air traffic controllers are upset, believing that small planes, of which there are many shuttling to and from the islands, would tangle with the rotors. Yachtowners were distraught that the many towers would thwart their annual Hyannis-Nantucket regatta. Adding to the displeasure was the fact that untrammeled views of the sea would be lost to the thousands of tourists who vacation there. For Cape Coders, a wind farm would be a disaster. As the Wall Street Journal editorialized, "The great pleasure here is watching affluent environmentalists condemn one of their pet causes just because it happens to obstruct the view from their wrap around porch." Further, as Walter Cronkite, owner of a summer home on Martha's Vineyard, intoned, "Our national treasure should be off limits to industrialization" . Indeed, it's a battle between aesthetics, climate change, particulate matter, and celebrities.
It didn't take long. In April 2006, a Senate-House Conference Committee approved an amendment to a Coast Guard budget bill that effectively killed the proposal for a wind farm in Nantucket Sound. The amendment gave Governor Romney of Massachusetts veto power over any wind farm in the Sound. Score one for politicians, environmentalists, and local residents (celebrities).
Residents of the New Jersey Shore have a similar concern. With the pros and cons each pleading their special interests, the then Acting Governor Richard J. Codey, wisely seeking time for a cooling- off period, declared a
15-month moratorium until a panel could study the issue. Winergy, based in Shirley Long Island, submitted a proposal to place over a thousand towers on five sites off New Jersey's beaches: 98 off Asbury Park, 122 off Atlantic City, 298 at Avalon, and 531 along the coast from Cape May to Avalon. The price of oil and the cost of generating a kilowatt of electricity may well determine how fast these towers arise. It will also be an interesting test for Jon Corzine, the newly elected governor .
What has been a fixture of California's hilly midlands has crossed the Mississippi into West Virginia. The wind farm in Thomas, West Virginia, developed by Florida Power and Light, is the largest east of the Mississippi, where local zoning laws do not yet exist, and is attracting developers. Some 400 turbines could be sprouting across 40 square miles of West Virginia's scenic landscape. According to some residents, "They look like alien monsters coming out of the ground."
For wind farms to be financially viable, they must be huge, which to many residents means a blight on the countryside, and a source for chopping up birds. One farm in California was dubbed the "Condor Cuisinart." The fact that they produce such small amounts of energy and the unreliability of wind, along with the inability to store energy, are dominant complaints. Here, too, divisions within environmentalist ranks has caused shock and dismay given the belief that "there are appropriate places for everything." After all, "You wouldn ' t want one in Yosemite Park, or in Central Park" [ 10] . Manifestly, the reason wind farms are springing up, is the huge financial incentives provided by the recent government subsidies such as the federal tax credit. This credit allows companies to deduct 1.8 cents from their tax liability for every kilowatt-hour they produce for 10 years. The savings are huge—and a great motivator.
Discord is not limited to the United States. The Battle at Trafalgar (October 1805) remains sacred to many people, especially the British. Cape Trafalgar, Spain, south of Cadiz, where Admiral Nelson won an epic naval victory against the French two centuries ago, has become the site of another battle at Trafalgar, where privately owned wind parks have sprouted on the hills behind the Cape. The current rush to develop wind farms is off shore, especially near the spot of the famous battle, where winds rushing through the Straits of Gibraltar provide substantial wind every day. Incentive also comes from the European Union, which has been pushing for alternative energy sources to supplant fossil fuels as part of its commitment to the Kyoto Protocols. But the tuna fishermen are challenging the proposed 400 towers, which, they argue, would make their work far more difficult by perturbing the migration of the tuna, and by forcing their small boats to venture further out into the treacherous waters near Gibraltar. Given the fact that "there is good money in wind," the fishermen's grievances will more than likely fall on deaf ears .
Carlisle, Keswick, and Shap form a triangle of towns at the fringes of England 's compellingly scenic Lake District, a stone ' s throw from Scotland. Shap is also the center of Britain's giant wind power dispute. Here again, the campaign is between Britain's desire to affirm its reduction in CO2 emissions inline with its commitment to Kyoto, while deriving 10% of its electrical power from renewable sources by 2010, and its desire to maintain its wilderness heritage. Here in Shap, a 1500-foot-high hill known locally as Whinash is at the center of the rumpus, and where anti-wind-power sentiment runs high, objecting to the 27 turbines (each 370 feet high) planned to be mounted on its summit. The $100 million proposed Whinash wind farm has again divided the environmental movement, turning former allies against one another. The essential argument questions whether wind power is nothing more than a costly experiment that enriches the people who build the farms, without seriously reducing greenhouse gases. Here, as in Cape Cod, Whinash is considered the wrong place for turbines, in addition to the demonstrated fact that the wind does not blow steadily enough to generate constant power, and government subsidies cost consumers far more than gas, coal, or nuclear power plants . As with many battles, the outcome remains uncertain. Nevertheless, wind power is not without its backers and advocates.
China, with its vast, unobstructed terrain, its colossal need for energy, and its obligation to reduce its gargantuan CO2 emissions, second only to those of the United States, is investing heavily in wind farms. Its Huitengxile wind farm in Inner Mongolia, northwest of Beijing, has 96 turbines, producing 68 MW, with plans calling for 400 MW by 2008. Harvesting power from the wind is a high priority for the Chinese government, and readily understandable, with the stiff breezes that are a permanent physical presence in this area of Asia. By 2020, China expects to supply 10% of its energy needs via renewable sources, with wind leading the way. Wind farms have been installed in six heavily populated provinces around the country, and the demand for turbines and towers is so great that manufacturers cannot keep pace. The government's targets call for 4,000 MW by 2010, and 20,000 MW, [20 gigawatts (GW)] by 2020 . China has set out on an exceptional national policy that it intends to meet.
Turbines and towers stretch even skyward to catch more wind. The higher, the better. New York City is reversing that trend. They' re placing turbines underwater—tidal turbines, to capture the kinetic energy of the 6-mph current flowing in Manhattan's East River. Six miles an hour may not sound like much, but actually it is one of the fastest flows of any waterway on the East Coast. Six turbines were to have been submerged in the East River alongside Roosevelt Island in August 2004, to produce 150 kW, and by 2006, 200-300 turbines (each 15 feet tall), turbines would have been deployed below the surface to produce 10 MW of electricity for 8000 homes locally. Verdant Power, of Arlington, Virginia, the company producing the turbines, has finally managed to cut through the bureaucratic inertia and obtain the necessary permits that will allow them to place the turbines in the river in March 2006. After that, it would take 9-18 months of data gathering before several hundred are placed in.
A 10-MW field would save New York City the equivalent of 65,000 barrels of oil annually, and reduce CO2 emissions by 33,000 tons . The residents love the idea because it will clear the air that they refer to as "asthma alley," and because the energy production is local—no foreign or long-distance providers to rely on. Although the kilowatt-hours will not be price-competitive at startup, the price is expected to drop as more families sign on. Unfortunately New York City does not have China ' s determination. Perhaps now that the elections are over, that will change.
We will not have heard the last of underwater turbines without considering Alexander M. Gorlov. Professor Gorlov, emeritus professor of mechanical engineering at Boston 's Northeastern University, arrived from Russia with commendable experience credentials, and including work on the design and construction of Egypt's Aswan High Dam. That dam convinced him that large-scale dams were not the answer for the generation of electricity via falling water, which led him to develop his triple-helix turbine. This novel turbine won him the prestigious American Society of Mechanical Engineers 2001 Thomas A. Edison Patent Award, which the ASME declared had the potential "to alleviate the world-wide crisis in energy."
Gorlov's helical turbine (see Fig. 7.4), often described as resembling a DNA spiral, was designed to harness the kinetic energy of flowing water. Electricity, as we know, can be generated anywhere that water flows; oceans and rivers are sources of enormous amounts of potential energy, and are far more dependable than wind or solar energy. Furthermore, Gorlov's turbine does not depend on the direction of a current, which means that it needs no reorientation with changing tides.
Hanging well below the surface, or sitting on the bottom of a channel, the whirling blades of these flowthrough turbines, coupled to generators via cental shafts, set them spinning, producing electricity without the need for fuel, and with no noise, no air or water pollution, no obstruction to surface vessels, and no harm to marine life. Measuring 1 meter in diameter by 2.5 m high, (36 x 40 inches) and sitting in a barrel-shaped cage, its helix-shaped blades, unlike a propeller, present a rectangular cross section, to current flow. The total electric power that could be generated from tidal estuaries and rivers is simply (and theoretically) tremendous.
If the speed of the turbine blades attains 3.6 knots, the average power produced would reach 4000 watts or 4 kilowatts (kW). Over a 20-hour day (assuming 4 hours of slack water, depending on location), 80 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electrical energy could be generated.
The future of the Gorlov Turbine (GHT), now being field-tested in South Korea—a country in the throes of an energy crisis, as it possesses no fossil fuels and must import all its oil and gas—may well depend on its success there, where the fast-moving tides on its west coast could generate huge amounts of much-needed electrical enegy. If it succeeds, the South Korean government plans to install thousands of underwater turbines generating thousands of megawatts of power. Furthermore, this helical turbine can produce hydrogen and oxygen by electrolysis. An array of 40 GHTs running 20 hours a day at 3.6 knots could produce enough hydrogen to drive a fuel cell car 300 miles. Is it too good to be true?
The bottom line with both wind- and tide- water- generated electricity is reliability. The question most often avoided is: When does the wind blow, and when does the tide reverse? When the wind will blow is unpredictable. "West Texas, for example, is notoriously windy, but mostly at night and in the winter, when the electric market is glutted with cheap power from coal and nuclear plants. Peak electric load occurs in summer, during the day." In New York City, there supply shortages are expected during the 6 hours of slack tide, when the tide causes the water to change direction, making the current too slow to turn the turbine's rotors. The same problem afflicts wind farms around the country and world—when slack winds are unable to spin turbine rotors beyond 15 rpm when 20 is optimum. Furthermore, wind energy plants produce only 30-40% of their capacity . A panacea they are not. Nevertheless, farming the wind has come of age and can provide clean energy, and together with other renewa-bles should make a fair contribution to the country's energy needs.
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