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Alternative Energy Confusion 558

Posted by Zonk
from the nuclear-energy-needed dept.
pcnetworx1 writes "New York State is starting to get crunched for electricity. While other states may just say 'pop a couple more coal/oil/natural gas/nuclear power plants down', NY has decided to take the green route. NY State wants to get more power by strategically placing windmill powerplants in upstate NY to help the grid. While getting a dedicated power plant placed on your property for FREE (and being paid $3,000 a year per tower) may sounds good to some Slashdotters, the citizens in upstate NY still need some education in the safety of alternative energy."
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Alternative Energy Confusion

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  • Where is the confusion in this article?

    And, is there a limit to the numer of towers one can have (to prevent "tower-whoring")?
    • by Tsar (536185) on Sunday January 15, 2006 @12:38AM (#14474151) Homepage Journal
      Ladies and gentlemen, er, we've just looked at the pictures, but, uh, what we've seen speaks for itself. New York State has been taken over - "conquered," if you will - by a master race of giant alien propellers. It's difficult to tell from this vantage point whether they will consume the captive townsfolk or merely enslave them.

      One thing is for certain, there is no stopping them; the props will soon be here. And I, for one, welcome our new rotary overlords. I'd like to remind them that as a Slashdot poster with excellent karma, I can be helpful in rounding up others to toil in their underground storage battery caves.
      --
      If giant alien robots invaded California, would they think the windfarms were just outdoor fitness classes?
  • by d474 (695126) on Saturday January 14, 2006 @11:38PM (#14473876)
    I hope you aren't talking about birds. But then again, how would I know what you are talking about, you didn't mention it!
  • Use less energy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 14, 2006 @11:38PM (#14473877)
    Why don't folks just use less energy? I mean, come on. Unneeded outside lighting, all the lights on inside, monitors left on all night long at work. People need to conserve energy a lot more than they need to start producing more of it.
    • Re:Use less energy (Score:5, Insightful)

      by CyricZ (887944) on Saturday January 14, 2006 @11:43PM (#14473905)
      It's basically a tragedy of the commons situation. Even if it is metered, electricity is so widely available and so relatively cheap that the people there have very little incentive to make efficient use of it.

      Of course, that situation may very well change, if they do not get their act together. Then, like any other scarce resource, electricity will become very wisely efficiently allocated by the market.

    • Why don't folks just use less energy? I mean, come on.

      We are talking New York here. Buffalo. Northern winters. Gray and cold. Morale sinks when the lights are dimmed.

    • Re:Use less energy (Score:3, Insightful)

      by chiller2 (35804)
      That's so true. At my workplace all the lights are on regardless of the fact there's sun pouring through the windows. I've managed to ditch the CRTs for LCDs, and have powersaving on all the PCs. If I could get my boss to spring for a couple of well placed skylights we could go all day with no lights on. If I can get digital thermostats installed that might help too, but things like solar water heaters and rooftop cells will never happen. The problem really is down to cost, and that there are few bosses th
    • I think one of the easier ways to reduce energy consumption is with labelling laws. Similar to food ingredient labelling, any electronic device sold should have a label that says:

      This device uses a maximum of X watts when in use, and Y watts when idle.

      This way consumers can make informed decisions when buying electronic equipment. Right now, it's hard to consider power consumption in purchasing decisions because the information is not readily available. Remember, information asymmetry [wikipedia.org] is a bad thing,

    • Re:Use less energy (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MikeFM (12491)
      I try to be thrifty of my energy use (to the point of annoying others) but I still think alternative energy is a good idea. Wind farms in rural areas is a good idea. They are not ugly if not packed to tightly but they are noisy which is why I think they should not be to close to homes. Solar coupled with the wind farms is an even better idea. If every home had solar panels just on the roof (grid tied) it could really help the problem by softening the problems associated with peak hour usage. Peak sunlight h
  • Because you know don't you that the bird population of Upstate New York will suffer huge culls! Oh, and babies will also start speaking in tongues, and, oh, who knows, the world might end.

    Stupidity knows no bounds.
  • by CyricZ (887944) on Saturday January 14, 2006 @11:41PM (#14473893)
    I noticed this gem in the article:

    "So I guess my final question is: Who do I sue if I have any health problems or my property value decreases because of this project?" asked Patricia Oakes, a Hartsville, New York, resident at a recent meeting.

    Innovation and a solid legal system were some of the key ingredients that allowed America to become the most powerful nation on earth during the past half-century or so. Unfortunately, innovation is often at odds with tort law, as shown perfectly by the comment above.

    With increasing competition from Europe, Japan, China, India, and other areas and nations, America will have to make a choice. They can choose to continue innovating, and perhaps maintain a lead over other nations. Otherwise, they can choose to let legalities unnecessarily interfere with progress, and they will fall behind those countries who aren't bogged down with pointless and greed-driven lawsuits.

    • by dbIII (701233) on Sunday January 15, 2006 @12:28AM (#14474099)
      America will have to make a choice. They can choose to continue innovating, and perhaps maintain a lead over other nations.
      The choice was made some time ago - look at the state of the patent system and the decline in private and government research.

      One example I saw a few years ago when I still did things in materials science was presentations from researchers from the USA and Japan in the lucrative feild of artificial body joints. The Japanese reasearcher had decent funding in a project with limited chance of a financial payoff (remember that the Japanese are supposed to only copy and not innovate) while the US researcher with a proven background couldn't get the funding for a single person to develop better designs of a flawed product that makes millions per year but would sell more if it was improved. If your design has made billions for the company due to solid research you would normally expect the company to put a bit more money in for billions in the future instead of sitting on their patents.

    • Well, to be honest, we should be using nuclear power anyway. It's very clean by relation to most currently available solutions. An interesting advocate of this, simply because, well, I like his computer science work, is Professor John McCarthy [stanford.edu]. Opponents of nuclear power would do well to read it.
      • Well, to be honest, we should be using nuclear power anyway. It's very clean by relation to most currently available solutions.

        It's certainly possible that nuclear power could be clean with adequate plans for reprocessing and disposal of waste but thats not the current situation. Currently nuclear is only "clean" in the sense that we've managed to sweep the problem under the rug by cramming tin sheds (er on-site temporary storage facilities) with far more waste than they were designed to handle for far lon
        • by NitsujTPU (19263) on Sunday January 15, 2006 @03:51AM (#14474718)
          It's political BS that makes the situation difficult, not any technical difficulty. People who believe that nuclear power is a problem are creating the problem of nuclear power.

          Swimming pool storage is just fine, it works, it's safe. The waste doesn't last for thousands of years, in 500 years, it's less radioactive than the ore it came from. Reprocessing is perfectly safe, and should be done, but the US cut it out in hopes that other countries wouldn't build reprocessing facilities, since the material could be used in weapons. Of course, North Korea and Iran have proved that countries that want weapons will get them, and most of the industrialized world that uses nuclear power reprocesses their material somewhere.

          What you are citing isn't a problem with nuclear power, it's a political problem that was created, mostly, but nuclear power's opponents. These arguments don't even make sense, since for them to be a problem, you have to do something wrong, and the reason that we have difficult times doing the right thing, is because we want to satisfy nuclear power's opponents (who wouldn't you can't appease by doing it right, since they want it gone altogether).

          If wind power is super-cheap, maintanence free, and inexpensive, hey, go for it. Most of the people whose views aren't backed by some strawman argument seem to go for nuclear power though.

          Here's a bit of trivia. Because we don't use nuclear power (which upsets its detractors), a large portion of the US power is provided by coal (we don't build so many plants). Burning coal puts more uranium into the atmosphere than nuclear power does. So, instead of storing uranium safely, we blast it into the atmosphere.
          • by nmos (25822) on Sunday January 15, 2006 @05:55AM (#14474961)
            It's political BS that makes the situation difficult, not any technical difficulty.

            Agreed, but until we at least get the political will to deal with the existing waste we should be cautious about creating more.

            Swimming pool storage is just fine, it works, it's safe. The waste doesn't last for thousands of years, in 500 years, it's less radioactive than the ore it came from.

            Somehow I don't find that reassuring considering the fact that yesterdays uranium mines tend to become tommorows Superfund sites. In any event, everything I've read suggests that high level waste from spent fuel rods needs to be contained for thousands of years, not hundereds. From the nrc.gov site:

            Some of the radioactive elements in spent fuel have short half-lives (for example, iodine-131 has an 8-day half-life) and therefore their radioactivity decreases rapidly. However, many of the radioactive elements in spent fuel have long half-lives. For example, plutonium-239 has a half-life of 24,000 years, and plutonium-240 has a half-life of 6,800 years. Because it contains these long half-lived radioactive elements, spent fuel must be isolated and controlled for thousands of years.


            Even low level waste can be dangerous if it gets into the air or water. Are you really sure that none of those pools is ever going to leak or that the operators wouldn't cover it up if it did? It happens with all sorts of other toxic wastes and it's happened with uranium mines and processing facilities.

            One other quote from the NRC re. wet storage:

            Most pools were originally designed to store several years worth of spent fuel. Due to delays in developing disposal facilities for the spent fuel, licensees have redesigned and rebuilt equipment in the pools over the years to allow a greater number of spent fuel rods to be stored. However, this storage option is limited by the size of the spent fuel pool and the need to keep individual fuel rods from getting too close to other rods and initiating a criticality or nuclear reaction.


            Does that sound like a 500+ year solution to you?

          • by killjoe (766577) on Sunday January 15, 2006 @06:06AM (#14474996)
            "Here's a bit of trivia. Because we don't use nuclear power (which upsets its detractors), a large portion of the US power is provided by coal (we don't build so many plants). Burning coal puts more uranium into the atmosphere than nuclear power does. So, instead of storing uranium safely, we blast it into the atmosphere."

            The real problem with nuclear power is that it's cheaper, faster and easier to build coal power plants. Sure coal pollutes more and generates CO2 but the only people that have to pay for that are your grandchildren. Pollution and CO2 are officially somebody elses problem.

            Corporations and governments are faced with two choices. Choice 1 is to spend a buttload of money and take 15 years to build a nuke or spend 100 times less money and build a coal plant in half the time. The choice is a no brainer.

            Until somebody is charged for polluting and generating CO2 the cost benefit analysis won't change.
          • Burning coal puts more uranium into the atmosphere than nuclear power does.

            Here's a bit of trivia. "These studies concluded that the maximum radiation dose to an individual living within 1 km of a modern power plant is equivalent to a minor, perhaps 1 to 5 percent, increase above the radiation from the natural environment. For the average citizen, the radiation dose from coal burning is considerably less." "On this plot, the average population dose attributed to coal burning is included under the consumer products category and is much less than 1 percent of the total dose." "Radioactive elements in coal and fly ash should not be sources of alarm." ( Radioactive Elements in Coal and Fly Ash: Abundance, Forms, and Environmental Significance [usgs.gov])

            I do agree that this is somewhat of an issue, though, in that essay [ornl.gov] that pops up everywhere now (even though it's really old), Gabbard does raise some points, especially with respect to long term accumulation of hazardous materials. But I'm not a chemist, this might be a non-issue. I've briefly searched for more recent material, but so far haven't come up with anything.
    • Insightfull ?
      Its called responsibility.
      People or companies must be held responsible for thier actions.

      While you or I wouldnt allow our factory full of workers to get face cancer just so we can make an extra 7 dollars a day per person , not everyone has the same principles.

      The people calling for tort reform are the same people that want that extra 7 dollars a day.

      Be very wary of someone that wants laws to be changed to alleviate responsibility.
      • The woman was concerned that a wind turbine will cause her health problems.

        Wind turbines haven't been linked to any health problems.

        There's a big difference between a company doing something that is actually bad for you, and someone asking who they can sue over nonsense.
  • Things change (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ThatGeek (874983) on Saturday January 14, 2006 @11:41PM (#14473894) Homepage
    When the Eiffel Tower first went up [wikipedia.org], people said it was an eyesore and demanded that it be removed. Who wanted to live near a bunch of scaffolding? No doubt, they argued, it would destroy the character of the city and destroy property values. Now we can't imagine the city without it.

    I think that once this farm is built, people will discover they like lower taxes and cleaner air. I suspect that the "science" mentioned in the article is mere pseudo-science anyway. I have no idea how a bunch of rotating blades could do as much damage to the human body as the fumes from coal and oil burning. (Note: I assume the human body does not actually come into contact with the blades)
    • by Trepidity (597)
      If there were 500 Eiffel towers dotting Paris, people might be less happy about them than they are about the one.
      • Generating tourism isn't dependent on there being 500 of them though. With wind towers, the more the merrier the people will be since they can run more stuff on the grid. After all, who likes rolling blackouts over unlimited air conditioning?
    • Re:Things change (Score:3, Interesting)

      by pnewhook (788591)
      Why not nuclear? Half the cost per megawatt than wind, doesn't kill any birds, and doesn't pollute like coal and natural gas.
    • people will discover they like lower taxes

      I absolutely guarantee you that New Yorkers (or anyone else in the NE for that matter) will NOT see lower taxes because of this, or anything else, anytime soon. RTFA . . . they're talking about increased tax revenue in rural counties, not reducing the tax rates. Counties in NY, MA, MD, CT and elsewhere which are currently flush with cash because of property taxes aren't reducing tax rates or paying back a dividend . . . why would you expect this to be any diff

      • Re:Things change (Score:3, Insightful)

        by phayes (202222)
        Having grown up in upstate NY, there's also a knee jerk reaction to having to contribute anything which would help New York City more than it would the locals. Over the past 50 years, NTC has usually recieved much more in benefits than it has paid back in taxes to the rest of the state. Upstate NY has been shafted many times and lots of people feel resentment.

        Much of upstate NY is really rural and many people can still remember how difficult it was to get on the grid and some people still aren't. When the e
  • WTF (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dark Paladin (116525) * <`jhummel' `at' `johnhummel.net'> on Saturday January 14, 2006 @11:41PM (#14473896) Homepage
    Oh. My. Goodness. I have not read about stupidity on such a level since my 7th grade algebra teacher. I read through the issues. Sunlight reflecting? Pulling out a Godwin to compare windmills to Nazi torture tactics? Women having extra periods?

    What the hell kind of stupidity is going on here? I used to think that all of the inbreeding was occuring in rural states - but this has got to be the biggest level of stupidity ever. And like my daddy used to say, I can abide a dumb person - that's just an ignorant one.

    These people are stupid - which means the inability to learn.

    (Sigh.) So, uh, any space up in Canada?
    • To be fair... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by YrWrstNtmr (564987) on Sunday January 15, 2006 @12:02AM (#14473991)
      Town board members surveyed the population and found that only 5.5 percent of townspeople are against the wind farm, while 58 percent are for it.

      Of COURSE the news outlets are going to interview the squeaky wheels. Sells more copies.

      I imagine in any population, you can find 5% who are against something, no matter how good an idea it may be.
      That 5% will get pushed aside, so that the rest of us can get on with things.

      • There will almost be at least 5% of people who will be for or against any idea. This is not always a bad thing, Windows has 95% market share. That leaves 5% for the other alternative os Users. The 5% of people are people who don't want to see windmills and don't care about the environment outside of their own eyes, or they just don't like the government looking at their land as something to exploit.
    • Oh, and upstate NY can be pretty damn rural. Its not all NYC.
    • Re:WTF (Score:2, Interesting)

      by geobeck (924637)

      So, uh, any space up in Canada?

      I know you're asking if there's any space for you, but I'll answer the other implied question.

      I have long thought that the ideal place for a wind farm is the Canadian province of Newfoundland, affectionately known by its residents as the Rock. And for good reason. Almost all of the island of Newfoundland's population lives in the capital city of St. John's, on the coast. Almost all of the rest of the island is a big, barren, windy rock.

      Since upstate New York has it

    • by radtea (464814)
      So, uh, any space up in Canada?

      Sure is, and we're building a big wind farm on Wolfe Island, which is barely a biscuit-toss from New York State. So if any women in Watertown or Rochester start giving birth to two-headed babies, or cows stop giving milk, y'all know who to blame. It's the witches... err... Canadians.

      The locals on Wolfe Island are pretty keen on the wind farm. The people working to develop it have done a lot of work over the past five years to keep them in the loop. And besides, as well as b
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 14, 2006 @11:42PM (#14473898)
    Windmill safety warnings:

    Do not place windmill into eye.
    Never use windmill chop vegetables.
    Windmill cannot be used for personal hygiene.
    Tilting windmill may result in cliché.

  • by melvin xavier (942849) on Saturday January 14, 2006 @11:43PM (#14473901)
    So, all I have to do is buy some small plot of rural land in upstate NY, then lease it to the government to get 3K a year in rent? Awesome! If I can rent out 34 of these plots, I'm a millionare without any effort on my part!
  • Simple Economics (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Put a market price on pollution... that's the way to do it. Fuel supply/demand determines a good price for fuel. But in the pollution market, there is no balance. Why should I care how much pollution is caused by the energy I use, just altruism?

    People making green choices should be compensated for that in the pocketbook... and people will therefore do it!
    • Kyoto (Score:5, Informative)

      by InfiniteWisdom (530090) on Sunday January 15, 2006 @12:42AM (#14474174) Homepage
      That's precisely the idea behind the system of pollution credits in the Kyoto treaty. Companies get some number of tradable pollution credits. That way companies have an economic incentive to curb emissions so that they can sell off their credits to other companies who pay real dollars to keep on polluting. Regulating the supply of pollution credits allows one to curb the total amount of pollution going into the atmosphere.
  • *Scratches Head* (Score:5, Insightful)

    by maynard (3337) <j DOT maynard DO ... AT gmail DOT com> on Saturday January 14, 2006 @11:49PM (#14473931) Journal
    "[...]the citizens in upstate NY still need some education in the safety of alternative energy."

    Uhhh, ok... so, I'm all for wind farming. It's cheap and competitive and safe. The NIMBYers (including those in my home state of Massachusetts) need to start considering their alternatives WRT coal, gas, and nuclear. Which would *you* prefer nearby, and how much do you want to pay for electricity? But when I read the term "education" used in this context, it just drives me up the wall. It's as if by being "educated" I would -- of course -- agree with the proposition at hand. IOW: The reframe of using the term "education" in the context of whatever agenda happens to be yours has now become cliché. *shrug*
  • People fear change (Score:2, Informative)

    by TomsMander (924864)
    This is happening within my own county, and it's difficult for very conservative folks to imagine that this could possibly be a GOOD thing. There's the aesthetic argument, some griping about birds being affected, but I think maybe *part* of it is the unspoken downstate-versus-upstate struggle. The NYC metro area funnels off water from this region for its own use and is not cognizant of the fact that every spring, people die because they are reluctant to raise the floodgates and release a few million gallo
  • I am sure that the dislike of the NYC region bby the upstate residents plays a big part in this. Upstate NY per se has plenty of cheap hydroelectric power, much of which gets shipped to NYC making the electricity rates in upstate much higher than they otherwise would be. Rather than build an ugly tower in their back yard most upstate residents would rather NYC float out to sea then sink.

    • The problem lies in the middle.

      Suburban counties in the Hudson Valley refuse to allow rights of way for new high-tension power lines for the usual NIMBY reasons...

      NYC & Long Island refuse to bring new power plants on line, period. To build a gas power plant in the metro area, you need to go through about 12-20 years of litigation, hearing, permit processes, etc.

      The situation is retarded... the NIMBY people in NYC & Long Island don't want pollution, etc, so they rely on hydro & coal power importe
  • The green solution: Everyone stand on top of your building and exhale to the North!
  • by grqb (410789) on Saturday January 14, 2006 @11:56PM (#14473968) Homepage Journal
    I have to be a bit skeptical about some of these claims about wind turbines:

    1. Wind turbines make the same noises as Nazi troops torturing Jews? WTF??
    2. Wind turbines causing women to have multiple menstrual cycles a month?

    Come on. The real issue is that these people think wind turbines will decrease their property value. They don't have to make up shit like this. Especially if you compare the health effects of what would be built instead of wind turbines...probably coal power plants, which would be far worse health wise.

    That being said, wind power is definitely inconsistent. From what I've heard about Denmark, which has the most wind power per capita in the world, most Danes are so untrusting of the quality of their electricity that they wouldn't even think about powering something without a UPS, otherwise they'd fry their electronics. Can any Danes back that up?
    • The real issue is that these people think wind turbines will decrease their property value.

      I suspect that even this is not the "real" issue. Let me summarize the important points of the article:
      • We have a Republican billionaire preparing a run for governor.
      • We have a number of voters in upstate New York who are itching for a reason to hate the city liberals.
      • We have an eco-friendly alternative energy proposal (i.e. a liberal project in upstate NY).

      Do the math. This guy's trying to rile the people u

    • by scarlac (768893) on Sunday January 15, 2006 @12:51AM (#14474207) Homepage
      Yes, Denmark is one of leading countries when it comes to windmills. I don't know about how many we have, but you do them every once in a while when driving around in the country. We are getting more and more, but there are, like many others pointed out, other alternatives.

      Wind power is great, and there are really no known sideeffects of them, besides a nice view. Wind power has been around for a long time, so other alternative energy methods are not as widespread. Each year we hear of windmill companies expanding and increasing sales, and I'm very satisfied with that "on behalf of the environment".

      Our electricity over here is very stable compared to other contries, _afaik_. I don't know of _anyone_ who would complain of more windmills. When mother nature does her thing sneezing (yes, I know - it's usually very quiet over here) on the trees making them fall on power lines, there aren't much we can do, but actually NESA is putting power lines into the ground, so that's less to worry about.
      In short: No we are not paranoid about electricity, and yes - I personally do fine without an UPS. I bet our electronics are just as sensitive as any other electronics from Taiwan ;)

      However, like i said: Alternative methods are approaching, but far from popular.
      Amongst other methods are "wave-farms" (I don't know the formal term). Swedish scientists and Danish scientists recently improved this technology to such a point that... well i don't know any numbers, but I remember it being more promising/effective per square mile and cheaper set-up than windmills.
    • Yes, Denmark has more windmill power per capita than anyone else. And the Danish windmill producers have half the global marketshare, chances is that the NY windmills will be of Danish origin.

      No Danish electricity supply is not untrustworthy. The avarage time between a power grid failure (affecting a specific houshold) is around 10 years. Apart from one (which was a network configuration error in Sweden), the ones I have experienced have all been extreme weather related (trees blown into power lines, stu
  • by jellomizer (103300) * on Sunday January 15, 2006 @12:03AM (#14473999)
    While I am sure most slash-dotters are based in Urban areas, Or in other countries. Where while land prices are expensive they are not always considered as valuable. In the more Rural areas of New York, (NY is one of the larger States in the North East and most of it is NOT New York City). A lot of the people in Upstate want to live the Anti-NYC life. Where they can get up in the morning and look out the window and not see signs of Human Life, there are also many who bought this land for investment, where they can one day sell it for millions from their $50,000 investment. Things like Windmills, and other things make the land seem less pure and polluted. There was an argument about a year ago where a Cell company wanted to put a tower on top of a mountain and there ware many problems with it making it look ugly. So what the Cell company agreed to was to make it look like all the other trees, Just slightly taller. Many Upstate NYers want a life without much changes. If I had a house with like 20 achers I probably allow some windmills but I would want them away from the view from my house, and If they are in the way of my Neighbors view then Ill have some other problems.
    • by Belseth (835595)
      How about the importance of afordable power? I'm far less worried about land speculators hoping to get rich than people that very soon aren't going to be able to aford to heat their homes in the winter. We're freezing our asses off but boy is it pretty. I'm a fanatic about land preservation but people need to be practical. It's easy to say put it somewhere else but it needs to be done. You're worried about eye polution. Well I used to live in LA and I'll a tiny amount of eye polution over air polution any d
  • by Belseth (835595) on Sunday January 15, 2006 @12:03AM (#14474000)
    I say paint a swirl pattern on the blades of the windmills so they look like the old hyponosis wheels. The birds will be too dizzy to fly near the windmills. If the birds are forced to walk they can't hit the blades. Better to have staggering birds with bad headaches than dead ones.
  • by dbIII (701233) on Sunday January 15, 2006 @12:03AM (#14474002)
    Wind power has a really big advantage in the short term over any sort of thermal plant - the lead time is short due to the small unit size.

    If you want a big steam turbine or several of them you have to order it years before you need it, and then it takes a long time to build all of the other infrastructure that turns it into a power station. If you go nuclear you have a choice between an expensive white elephant or becoming a pioneer with a full scale version of one of the more promising prototypes out there - so unless you have many years (more than a term of government certainly) you can forget about it.

    There are several downsides of wind. With that small unit size the price per MW is high. Maintainance shedules are short (around 1 year vs 5 years for thermal plants) - but once again if you have a lot of small units you can afford to have a few down at any time. Wind isn't reliable, but paired with a thermal or hydro station that can do reasonably quick changes to load (sorry nuclear guys - this is your weak point) and control system like we've had for decades that isn't really a problem. Compare it to a solar water heater - it had a secondary heat source for those times when there isn't enough sun - so you have wind to save on oil or coal fuel costs.

    Another quick fix solution is gas turbines. These are usually similar to jet engines driving generators and they aren't much cheaper than wind. Wind scales a bit (you can make big windmills and bring the price per MW down a bit) while photovoltaics don't - double the area of photovoltaics and you only get twice the power - which is why the nuclear crowd like to use it as a comparison because anything else built big enough is going to outstrip it at some point.

    All of the above ignores CO2 - and if you consider it then that makes gas turbines less of an option. Nuclear in the short term would only work if someone parks a submarine nearby - everything that uses a large scale to get the efficiency up will require a lot of planning and constuction time.

  • It says: "'pop a couple more coal/oil/natural gas/nuclear power plants down'", implying that nuclear power is an option in the US (as it is in France, Japan, Czech Republic and so on).

    That's simply not true. Since the accident at 3-mile island, nuclear power is dead in the US.

  • Always naysayers (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Belseth (835595) on Sunday January 15, 2006 @12:21AM (#14474075)
    How anyone can claim health problems from windmills is beyond me. People are calling them an eyesore but would they be happier with a coal burning plant next door? More of that anywhere but here BS. Tell you what. Communities that say yes to them get their power for half and your power bills are going to double. Not fair? Wait'll oil starts running out and everyone is paying 4X the current rate. I don't get the eyesore part myself. I lived in Wellington NZ where there was a massive one and it was a tourist attraction and I can't remember anyone complaining about it. Personally I love the ones between LA and Phoenix. The drive is boring and they are a lot more interesting to look at than desert scrub. The placement may not have been ideal but what birds are dying pale to what encrochment and polution cause. Not a perfect solution? Welcome to the real woirld where there are none. It's simply one of the best solutions. Third world countries are embracing the technology. It's sad that we in the oil whoring US of A are whining about asthetics.
  • I recently saw a demo of a Stirling engine. It can generate energy from hot air. All they need to do is ship a few of these to the Governor's Mansion in Albany NY and that state's energy problems will be history.
  • Ugh. (Score:4, Funny)

    by velocipenguin (416139) on Sunday January 15, 2006 @12:24AM (#14474082)
    Upstate New York is full of short-sighted, selfish idiots. These people will continue to be militantly stupid until something impedes their access to cable TV; once that happens, they'll be fighting tooth-and-nail to get wind turbines installed. After that, they'll cover the turbines in bright yellow "Support Our Troops" magnets and sit down in front of the TV until another opportunity to delay technological progress appears.
  • Upstate NY (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NitsujTPU (19263) on Sunday January 15, 2006 @12:29AM (#14474104)
    I'm in upstate NY.

    Politics are on the lips of just about every person residing in upstate, as far as I can see. I couldn't go down from my office to get a coffee in Collegetown without overhearing at least 2 or 3 townies discussing politics if I wanted to.

    It's also a fertile breeding ground for rather furious debate about such things. The Socialist party has a strong presence here (seriously, and they're proud to be Socialist). The town prints 2 forms of currency to be used in addition to US currency, City Bucks and Ithaca Hours.

    So, to hear people talking about building wind farms in upstate is unsurprising. People have been talking about that for quite a while.

    The flip side, however, is that you can always hear opponents of such actions. For instance, Cornell University does its cooling with water from the Cayuga River. We're not talking about dumping hot water into the river. Cold water from the Cayuga is pumped through campus buildings to cool them, reducing the amount of energy required by the campus. As far as sustainable, environmentally sound solutions are concenred, it's probably one of the cleanest ways to do it. It's definately pushing the curve a bit and showing that such solutions are viable.

    This solution has vocal opponents as well.

    To be brief, you can find just about any statement, as long as it's left-wing, that you want in upstate, and, according to people who've lived her longer than I, quite a few right wing ones too if you look hard enough. It's just the nature of upstate. People like politics.
  • by John Nowak (872479) on Sunday January 15, 2006 @12:30AM (#14474107)
    They're a symbol of "green" energy and sanity. I couldn't give a fuck if it is blocking someone's view of some hill across yonder. I... I don't even have any coherent words to say about this. Since when is your "view" more important than the environment and public health!? I'm sucking on pollution and being irradiated due to coal plants because of these idiots! Fuck your view! Bring on the windmills!
  • I don't think ugliness is a good enough excuse to not put them up there. If they are so worried about their property value, ask the government to compensate them for 100% of their land loss, or maybe ask to be exempt from any property taxation.
  • ... windmill farms ... provide clean and practically free energy once they're installed.

    And my house provides clean and practically free shelter once I've built and paid for it.
  • Where do I sign up, I live upstate New York and I need a windmill to help power my own datacenter and my storage with pr0n and 3000$ would be a nice extra (given that some people here earn only 15000$/year.
  • by Animats (122034) on Sunday January 15, 2006 @01:31AM (#14474337) Homepage
    At long last, big megawatt-sized windmills work. They don't throw blades, they survive storms, they produce power under low wind conditions, they play nice with the power grid, and they don't take excessive maintenance. They're available from GE, Vesta, and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. Thousands of wind machines in the 1 MW to 3MW range are running today. After decades of work, these things are big enough to be useful.

    And that's the problem. These things are big. 400 feet high [gepower.com], the size of a 40 story building. And that's the old 1MW model. The new 3MW units are even bigger, with a 341 foot blade diameter.

    But that's only 3MW. These things need to installed in large numbers to generate enough power to drive whole cities. So thousands of these huge towers have to be built. This is happening. And, let's face it, the result looks like an industrial park. [friendsofbruce.ca] We're not talking about those little hippie windmills from the 1970s. This is serious machinery.

    Upstate New York people are bitching about this, as mentioned in the original article. The Cape Cod and Nantucket people are furious. [capewind.org] The plan there is to build a wind farm six miles offshore, with 130 turbines. This seems huge, but it will only provide about a quarter of Cape Cod's electricity. Residents are upset about how it will "ruin the ocean view". Six miles offshore.

    Actually, the Cape Cod site probably should be about 10x bigger. Someday it will be.

  • by imuffin (196159) on Sunday January 15, 2006 @02:26AM (#14474525)
    Here in Austin, we've had the Green Choice Program [austinenergy.com] available for a while. There's a huge farm of windmills out in west Texas by El Paso. I've driven past them--it's really amazing how many there are. I remember last summer getting a flier in the mail touting this program. They said that for a typical household that used 1000 kilowatt hours/month, it would cost about an additional $5 to know that all of your power came from these sustainable sources. I kept meaning to sign up but never got around to it.

    After Katrina and Rita, I heard predictions that the price of natural gas (which is what most of the electricity is made with around here) was going to skyrocket. I figured that I'd better sign up for Green Choice immediately, because if the predictions were true, then Green Choice would be cheaper than regular energy. Plus, the Green Choice program locks in a 10 or 15 year contract with the energy providers, so the price doesn't go up.

    I wish I had signed up, becuase come October it was too late and the program was full. Now if you look at the Green Choice site [austinenergy.com] you'll see that Green Choice energy is in fact cheaper than regular energy, and they're having a drawing to sign up a relatively small number of additional customers.

    I think this is fantastic--it's bound to cause expansion of wind and other sustainable energy production methods.

    ---
    watch funny commercials. [tubespot.com]

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