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Wind power is a bit of a paradox to me. On one hand it's good to see more of it as compared to say coal power but on the other, it seems that we're missing something. I guess I've come to this because I see a lot of parallels between wind power now and hydro power at the time of water wheels, particularly in that both were/are essentially free forms of power with no obvious side effects or constraints, aside from the obvious energy input requirements.

Water power of course progressed from water wheels using only a portion of the energy available to dams capturing all of it. So individually the water wheels had little impact but when you increased the scale enough, the impacts became very significant. With the lack of apparent physical constraints on wind, I can see something similar happening. Is this something at all discussed in the industry?

by Jace on Sun Jan 23rd, 2011 at 12:00:49 AM EST
The effects of sourcing all viable wind sites should be weighed against the effects of climate change.  The loss of say the gulf stream would be far more harmful than the fraction of a percent change in wind speed produced by a wind farm.

One way to consider it is to look at the magnitudes of energy involved.

by njh on Wed Jan 26th, 2011 at 12:51:47 PM EST
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"One way to consider it is to look at the magnitudes of energy involved."

That's my point. When water wheels were being developed, I bet no one thought that they'd ever be able to put a hydro-electric dam (the ultimate water wheel) on the Colorado River due to the energy involved. While the technology with wind power is somewhat different, the attitude seems to be very much the same: it's free energy and there's lots of it. When an attitude like that predominates, progress is all important and impacts tend to be overlooked especially when they're new.

by Jace on Fri Jan 28th, 2011 at 09:58:30 AM EST
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And like hydro, as we start to notice problems, we back off (chinese not withstanding).  That's true of every energy source we use.  I believe it is better to use one with no known side effects (wind, solar, to a lesser extent nuclear) than to continue using those with big problems (coal).

Your point is of course completely correct - we must monitor and research the costs.  But at this point I believe the balance as in favour of wind.

I feel comforted by the fact that strong powers are against wind and they haven't found any show stoppers yet.  You can be sure that the anti wind faction would jump at even the slightest evidence there was an issue.

by njh on Fri Jan 28th, 2011 at 09:24:52 PM EST
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