From: Bruce Mulliken, Private Landowner Network, More from this Affiliate
Published October 11, 2007 01:34 PM

Full Sail Ahead For Wind Energy

Find a site. Buy’em. Plant’em. Plug’em in. Aside from the growing worldwide demand for clean power, it’s relatively easy to build wind energy capacity. Why would anyone consider building a nuclear power plant of say 1000 megawatts - which can take years to build - when power developers can buy off-the-shelf products (those megawatt-class wind turbines) and plant them in the soil for the same amount of power as the nuke in a very short period of time?

(Given recent announcements of record, ten-years-ahead-predictions, greenhouse gas emissions along with record Arctic ice melt, we might not have enough time to build nukes or develop mythical clean coal power plants.)

The announcement of plans from German renewable provider Conergy for a 1000 megawatt wind farm in the Australian Outback serves as a reminder as to how big and how smart and how much potential the wind energy industry still has. The wind is not only still in the sails of the wind energy industry, the wind is getting stronger as well.

True, a wind farm may not provide the 24/7 power that a nuke can. And true, transmission lines, particularly to remote areas, have to be installed bring wind power to people. But compared with the development and construction headaches along with lifelong and end of life decommissioning responsibilities that go along with nukes, why wouldn’t one turn to wind? Wind is just plain easier.


The remoteness issue for wind farms is set to be solved in the wind capital of the US, the state of Texas. The Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT) has issued an interim final order to designate five Competitive Renewable Energy Zones (CREZ) in West Texas and the Texas Panhandle to authorize the development of transmission lines to those windswept areas. With transmission lines to the sites the potential for new wind development would be enormous: up to 22,800 megawatts of new wind energy could be built in the zones. A final order is expected early in 2008

Fortunately the CREZ model of transmission lines first has already been embraced by California and Colorado, with additional Western states also considering its use. If remoteness is the key to massive wind development worldwide why isn’t the CREZ model - bring the power lines first to potential areas of renewable energy development - being applied to other remote, and often desolate areas? (Think the vast underpopulated regions of Canada. Siberia. More in Australia. The deserts of Afghanistan and Iraq (eventually). And further down the line too, offshore, over the horizon wind.)

Wind turbine technology still has a way to go upward as well. American Superconductor’s recent announcement that it was beginning research and development work on turbines with a nameplate output of 10 megawatts - without being any larger than some machines available today - that is one example. There are more.

Someday, perhaps in the next year or two, we should be hearing news of further development work on floating offshore wind turbines by Hydro of Norway and Siemens.

There are still more technological possibilities for wind as well. According to researcher Izosimov Evgeny, with his fledgling company WindRotor, wind turbines would generate more electricity if the tips of the rotor blades were connect by a ring. (He’s done the research to prove it, he says, and is offering the results of his efforts at a very reasonable price.) (Don’t push his idea aside just yet. Remember that the best inventions still come out of garage workshops and small companies.)

Back in Australia, the site for the Conergy New South Wales wind project has some of the best wind resources in the country. It’s about 16 miles (25 kilometers) from northwest of Broken Hill, which is best known as the backdrop for several Australian movies such as Mad Max II (known in the US as The Road Warrior) and A Town Like Alice.

The price tag for the one-gigawatt project would be 2 billion Australian dollars ($1.8 billion) and the company is betting on the passage of legislation supporting renewable energy to support the project.

The German-designed wind farm would be 10 times the size of the next-largest wind farm approved for New South Wales and would provide 4.5 percent of the state’s power demands. It could also reduce Australia's carbon dioxide emissions by at least 3 million tons per year.

A gigawatt - 1,000 megawatts - will produce energy for 400,000 homes Australian homes.


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