Of late, Wind has become the darling renewable energy source especially since T. Boone threw down his gauntlet to the american public vowing to do his bit to free us from our dependence on american oil. Today’s New York Times Week in Review section (see link) concurred that it was likely due to the visual appeal of the actual turbine’s design, rather than a significant contribution to the electricity grid or more critically its ability to deliver a substantive power offset to reduce our current level of dependency on fossil fuels.
Anyone who has ever felt the wind across their cheek, or stood in the line of a strong wind, can readily understand how this force, once harnessed or redirected with a turbine, can be used to generate power. Solar, thermal or nanotechnology offers no such obvious, clear a transformative image or understanding.
Statistics published by the Department of Energy tracks another category of power generated that is even more visually arresting an image, that of falling water. Living in the midwest it is easy to forget the earlier public fascination with water and dams that literally jump started the delivery of cheap electricity to rural locations as well as delivered projects requiring lots of labor and helped put americans back on their feet in the 30s.
Hydro or water power is the original cheap and clean power. Only biomass/biofuels generate more electric power than hydro, accounting for 36% of all renewable generated power. Wind, increasing slowly, accounts for only 5%. Today’s caveat against increasing production and damming more rivers. Ironically, the environmental impacts to the habitat of local plant, fish and animals from damming rivers and streams have impeded future development. Whose to say that this won’t be the fate of wind too? [http://tonto.eia.doe.gov/energy_in_brief/renewable_energy.cfm]