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The tip speed of a wind turbine is approximately six times the wind speed — 90 mph in a 15-mph wind — independent of the diameter of the wind turbine. What looks like a big fan making lazy circles in the sky (because of its low rpm) is actually three blades moving at high speed. So raptors see a blade move across their field of view and then disappear. They fly into the void only to be clobbered if they don’t pass through the 6-to-10 foot gap by the time the next blade comes by. It gives new meaning to getting whacked.br> The suit blames the “obsolete, first generation machines,” installed at Altamont Pass between ten and 20 years ago. In contrast, the latest wind turbines have blades much higher off the ground and they also generate more electricity. They are also considered less deadly to birds “on a per kilowatt basis.” A single modern turbine can replace 20 or more of the older ones, the suit claims.
So now they are building wind turbines the size of the Statue of Liberty. There’s a big project underway five miles off Cape Cod, in the hallowed waters of Nantucket Sound. One hundred thirty turbines (over 400 feet high) will in theory be able to supply 75 percent of Cape Cod’s electricity. But the Kennedy family worries the turbines twirling away on the horizon will spoil the view from Hyannis. And Robert Kennedy, Jr. is against the whole new-fangled idea. He imagines that visitors want to see “what the Pilgrims saw when they landed on Plymouth Rock.”
But Walter Cronkite, who was initially opposed, has changed his mind, and now thinks that Nantucket Sound “is a waste area, really.” It’s so shallow that “nobody would sail through it,” he says. The early opposition, his own included, was “almost hysterical.” (Why did we ever trust this man?)
The Cape Wind Project is not yet under construction but my guess is that its supporters will prevail. My further guess is that maintenance will turn out to be a bigger headache than anticipated and that ever-increasing subsidies will be needed to keep the electricity coming.
I WAS CONTEMPLATING THE THREAT to raptors posed by those old, too-small Altamont-type turbines when I read this Washington Post headline: “Researchers Alarmed by Bat Deaths From Wind Turbines.”
Now bats. Aren’t they supposed to have pretty good sonar? This was in Appalachia, where giant turbines the size of huge construction cranes rise 350 feet above the West Virginia mountains — well above the tree canopy. Researchers are said to be “baffled,” “uncertain whether bats are attracted to the spinning blades or if their sonar, which allows them to find food and avoid trees and other objects, fails to detect the turbines.” Many thousands of dead bats have been found, “some with battered wings and bloodied faces.”
The deaths “appear to violate no federal laws,” says the man from U.S. Fish and Wildlife, unreassuringly. We do know that bats perform a useful service, gobbling up mosquitoes and other insects. And waiting in the wings there’s a group called Bat Conservation International, in Austin, Texas. Its leader is already talking about “unsustainable kill rates,” so I’m sure we’ll be hearing more from them.
ONE THING WE DO KNOW about renewable energy sources like wind and solar is that they are not getting the job done. In 1979, President Carter called for a “national commitment to solar energy,” with the goal of producing 20 percent of the nation’s energy from various renewable sources by the year 2000. Remarkably, their actual contribution to the energy pie, in percentage terms, declined from 1980 to 2000. And that despite all the tax credits and subsidies.
The latest figures show that renewables contributed 5.9 percent of the nation’s energy in 2002. But that includes hydroelectricity, which makes by far the greatest contribution. And the enviros want to tear down as many dams as they can. President Clinton’s EPA head Carol Browner removed hydro from the list of “renewable” sources because dams are politically incorrect.
Leave out hydropower and firewood, Howard Hayden says, and the residual “high-tech” sources, meaning photovoltaics (“solar”) and wind, contribute a mere 0.19 percent of total U.S. energy needs. Hopeless, in other words.
It’s hard to disguise these numbers, although the media sometimes try, for example by claiming that wind is the most rapidly increasing source of energy in the country. (Yes, but increasing from a minuscule base.) In its bat-kill story the Washington Post reported that the wind-turbine industry “provided nearly 17 billion kilowatt hours, enough to serve some 1.6 million households — less than 1 percent of the country’s electricity production.”
DON’T EVEN ASK about the environmental impact of generating commercial amounts of electricity from sunlight, because the enviros cringe when the subject is brought up. And rightly so. There’s a demonstration project called Solar Two in the Mojave Desert, and that is pretty much where they have to put these things, to have any chance at all. To remind: solar power needs sunlight, which means that it works quite well in places like Barstow, California, at mid-day.
The basic problem with wind and solar is that they are already “dilute” sources of energy. A magnifying glass can “concentrate” sunlight on a spot of paper, but that is only one spot. Same problem with photovoltaic cells. Small PV cells can power an electronic calculator, but not even the dimmest light bulb.
For an installation of solar reflectors to produce as much power as a typical nuclear plant in a year, Hayden writes, “it would have to cover 127 square miles.” In other words, an area twice the size of Washington, D.C. has to be covered with movable mirrors. And to maintain their efficiency these mirrors must be washed every few days. Oh, and there has to be a natural gas back-up system to keep the therminol (fluid) bubbling when it’s cloudy, or when the sun has set.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?
H/T to National Review Online