Wind power is one of the fastest growing alternative energy sources, both nationally and internationally. Large utility generators are, depending upon design, capable of producing around 2.5 megawatts of clean sustainable energy; and new prototypes are aimed at increasing capabilities up to 4 – 6 megawatts.
To generate this type of power, these wind generators are approximately 200 – 250 feet tall with giant propellers that can each be as long as a football field. To run effectively and economically, wind turbines need to be located where wind blows on a sustained basis of at least 12 miles per hour. The windy plains states with their wide open spaces, little native populations, and good wind conditions are a great location for wind farms. However there will be costs to get this energy to consumers who don’t live nearby, or where connections to an existing power grid are not available.
Much of the nation’s electric load resides in the Atlantic coast states. These states are excellent locations in terms of wind power, but finding sites for large wind farms will be difficult and costly. Population density, urban sprawl, open space legislation, and public opinion seeing wind farms as eye sores all work against this clean technology. But the dream of providing clean wind energy to the power hungry costal states is getting closer to reality.
In October, Google announced an almost 38% equity investment in a revolutionary $5 billion transmission system for interconnecting Atlantic seaboard offshore wind turbines. This 350-mile underwater backbone would first provide a superhighway to bring power from the Virginia area up through the New England states; and then allow soon thereafter for offshore wind turbines to conveniently connect into the electricity superhighway as well. While permission is still pending for the off-shore wind farms, Google’s significant investment has excited others in the industry and generated buzz.
GE, founded by Thomas Edison and one of the world’s leading wind turbine suppliers with over 13,500 wind turbine installations worldwide, is teaming up with Caithness Energy LLC at the Shepherds Flat Wind Project in Oregon. A massive 845 megawatt wind powered energy generating facility is being constructed. Enough clean wind energy will be produced to power over 235,000 homes.
This wind facility, consisting of over 338 wind turbines, will be the largest deployed in North America and will avoid 1,215,991 tons of carbon dioxide per year – the equivalent of 212,141 passenger vehicles being taken off the road. As one of the Thomas Edison quotes goes “If we all did the things we are really capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves…” Imagine what we could accomplish if more companies followed Google and GE’s clean energy goals.
Photo Courtesy: GE