wind power

Obama's State of the Union punts on climate change... but what did you expect?

rm iwest mugWell, President Obama certainly did go on at some length tonight in his just-concluded State of the Union address. But he once again failed to elevate the climate issue to urgency. I have to agree with David Roberts over at "Pretty weak tea." (Hat tip to Roberts for posting the transcript of that part of the speech before Obama was even done talking.)

Now, some of our faithful correspondents and even some friends thought it curious that Dateline Earth faulted Obama for falling short on the climate and energy issue in his inaugural address a year ago, after which we held forth thusly:

 That is not the speech of a man who intends to launch a World War II-style domestic campaign -- think Rosie the Riveter and the Manahattan Project. And that's what scientists are saying we'll need.

He did it again tonight. The president -- wisely -- started out talking about jobs or, as we've put it before, "Fighting climate change = ending the recession." He was clearly aware that Americans are saying in polls now that climate is pretty low on their list of concerns. And just a day before the talk, Republican Lindsey Graham caved on Cap'n Trade, provoking Roberts, for one, to accept that we probably won't be going down that road this year, if ever in Obama's presidency.

But the sheer brevity of what Obama had to say tonight portrays a president so pummeled by problems that on climate, he punted.

China would wind up a winner with wind power

chinese-flagAmazing as it may sound, that two-coal-fired-power-plants-a-week building orgy going on in China could prove to be completely unnecessary.

It was on Twitter that I discovered a kinda wonky news service that calls itself SciDevNet (I think I've got the capitalization right...)  that just ran a story headlined "Wind power could blow away coal in China."

Do tell! This could be significant. 

Seems that by 2030 China could be getting all its juice from wind turbines. There is a tradeoff, though: They'd have to cover an area three-quarters the size of Texas with those big propellers.

As with the idea of blanketing much of the United States' southwestern deserts with solar arrays, you have to wonder what kind of environmental effects that might have. For example, what will this do to migrating birds? It's a question we've been asking ourselves here at InvestigateWest as we report on the Pacific Flyway.

But when you consider what an environmental and human disaster Chinas' Three Gorges Dam is becoming, and the population growth the country is facing, wind turbines seem like something that's at least got to be considered. (What about solar? Folks -- are there downsides to solar other than the fact that it uses water in the desert? We're all ears.)

SciDevNet's Shanshan Li and Yidong Gong tell us that the study they're writing about, by Chinese and U.S.

Rita Hibbard's picture

Timber companies looking to sun, wind for future

Timber companies and their unemployed workers are going green -renewable energy green - as the timber industry in Washington state continues to wither and die. Alternative energy projects involving wind and solar power, and some just plain alternatives - like producing products used in toothpaste and ice cream - are coming out of the companies that once pumped out logs, reports Arla Shepherd in High Country News.

Projects include participation in the largest solar plant ever proposed in the Northwest, the 400,000 photovoltaic panel Teanaway Solar Reserve in Kittitas County. Timber company American Forest Land Co. is leasing the project 400 acres of clear-cut land near Cle Elum, Wa. InvestigateWest also wrote about the Teanaway Researve in July.

"Since 2001, 16 wind projects -- totaling nearly 1,600 megawatts -- have sprung up in the state, which now ranks fifth in the nation for wind capacity. On Earth Day this year, Gov. Chris Gregoire authorized two pilot projects in eastern and western Washington that would experiment with converting wood waste into energy. And in the lower Kittitas Valley, Puget Sound Energy operates a small-scale solar project -- 500 kilowatts from 3,000 panels -- which has demonstrated that solar can work just fine even in the relatively cloudy Northwest.

-- Rita Hibbard

Wind energy could supply most of our needs

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It's always dangerous to evaluate how many news reporters wrote about any given scientific study, particularly if you're relying on Google News, but I can't find anything about a recent study that seems pretty significant:

Xi Lu of Harvard and colleagues report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that the overall potential for production of wind energy could supply our current electricity more than 40 times over.


Now, clearly, there are some caveats in order. Lu's calculations represent the output of a network of 2.5-megawatt wind turbines smothering  everything on Earth that's not water, forest, covered in ice or inhabited by humans. Given wind turbines'  environmental downsides and eyesore issues, that's obviously not something we'd want to do.

Still, the study gives pause when you consider just how big wind could be. The 40-times-over estimate contemplates replacing electricity alone. If one were to look at how Lu's envisaged network could do when those units are translated into replacing all our energy use, the numbers say it could produce more than five times our *total* energy use.

Endangered bird endangers wind-power project

The need to protect the marbled murrelet, a seabird that nests in old-growth forests, is standing in the way of building a wind-power project in Pacific County, Washington, the Longview Daily News reports. The story by Don Jenkins highlights the most negative aspect of wind power -- the turbines' tendency to act like a Cuisinart for migrating birds. The seabirds have to fly right past where the wind farm is planned.

Green jobs going strong in OR

Jobs in wind power, solar energy and other "green" fields show signs of continuing to grow despite the recession, Kate Ramsayer reports for the Bend Bulletin. Some of the state-identified "green" jobs aren't what one might attach to loving the earth, though. For example, the biggest 2008-2010 forecast increase, 68 percent, is for "community and social services."

Rita Hibbard's picture

Windpower for 60,000 Homes

An Idaho firm is beginning construction of 14 wind parks across southern Idaho that will produce 228 megawatts of electricity and put Idaho in the top 20 states for wind power, the Idaho Statesman reports today. The Exergy Development Group will produce enough electricity to power about 60,000 homes.