June 21, 2007

Global Warming: Wind Power

Global Warming: Wind Power

california windmills

California windmills [Ron’s Log / Flickr]

The Danes are doing it (to the tune of 20% of their electricity needs), so why can’t we?

Wind power comes in two basic forms: from small windmills designed for individual use (up to 35 m tall with a rotor diameter up to 15 m); and from gigantic, utility-scale versions (as large as 80 m tall with rotors over 80 m in diameter). Neither form seems to have gained more than a toehold in America’s electricity market; wind power accounts for less than 1% of it.

It’s puzzling that a more robust wind-power market hasn’t developed in the US. Is the barrier technological? Is it an issue of NIMBY, which has characterized much of the opposition to the Cape Wind project? Is the problem that traditional fossil-fuel energy companies are given bigger subsidies and tax breaks?

We hope this hour can be both a close look at wind power and also a window into the struggles of alternative energy more generally. Anyone have thoughts on how to breathe fresh air into this debate (very bad pun intended)?

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