Friday, December 10, 2010

Capturing Wind by Wendy Fullet

How to Access Natural Resources?
Environmental Study
Warner Pacific College

December 9, 2010

For many residents of the Columbia River Gorge the term “chasing wind” is going with the flow of Mother Nature. When the wind blows gather your kite board and run for the river. For scientists specializing in renewable energy the motive is more like “capturing the wind”. With an impressive wind power classification of level six, Oregon has become a leader in the production and utilization of wind power as an energy source forging new ground in the advancement of this industry.
Before there were acres of wind farms and grounds to test urban wind/solar hybrid turbines there were assessments required. The purpose of the research is to examine the sustainability, impact and the balance of the ecosystem when introducing an exotic 80 meter (262 ft) wind turbine with 130 ft blades to the local environment and the affects on indigenous species. How do we go about assessing the value of our natural resources and determine the considerations for our choices? There is a cliché that “knowledge is power”. It can also be our survival. To be good stewards of our land and natural resources, we must strive for further advancement in our understanding, improve our technologies and better utilize what is constant like the sun, wind and waves. To avoid any adverse affect, we must also walk through life and leave behind a better place than how we found it. Can life be as simple as what we learned in boys and girls scouts? While easier said than done, there is a price to pay, a cost to bearer for our economy, environment and quality of life. What is the price tag or value we as society will place on Earth’s ecosystem services? For a wind farm the assessment might include soil erosion, disturbance, habitat for fauna to migrate, noise pollution and survey of public opinion. The laws of supply and demand determine price in the free markets of our economy. For decisions regarding natural resources and our environment, we take a view of cost vs. benefit approach. If the infinite resources like wind can be substituted for less or replaced then vote with fewer Greenbacks. Unfortunately, it’s not like the next generation of iPhones or Apple TV’s. Throw- away society produces creative destruction of limited renewable or nonrenewable resources that can lead to depletion with no real solutions. And, what do we do with the obsolete power cords and old phones nobody wants?
How does environmental regulations and policy impact our culture and lifestyle? Policymakers rely on scientific research and regulate through a command-and-control approach. Other tools government can use to mandate economic policy are tools like subsidy to incent a desired effect, impose green taxes on undesirable activity, and permit trading in a cap-an-trade system that allows companies to receive credits and sell to other parties. Taking this approach allows the free markets to find more innovative optimal solutions and generally at a lower cost of the administrative policy. This can be viewed in some instances as a win/win of government and the private sector working together. The economic effects of wind energy are very beneficial. Wind is free to harvest. The cost is minimal for wind generators and turbines. In the 1980’s wind energy cost 40 cents per kWh, compared to today with cost less than 5 cents kWh. (The Solar Guide). The economic and quality of life benefits are significant from replacing energy sources that are hard to locate or extract such as oil, gas and coal. Wind is efficient to capture. Wind does not pollute the air we breathe and no waste is generated like nuclear power. Specializing in this industry demands high-tech pay job and landowners benefit from the benefit of leasing the land. While we may not know the downside long term effects of harvesting wind power the evidence of current information is we should be relying more on this technology and less on other hard to extract energy sources. If I were participating in the game of Settlers of Catan, seeking land on the leeward side would be advantageous. It would be like The America’s Cup of energy!

Withgott, Jay and Brennan, Scott (2008) Environment The Science Behind the Stories
Pearson Education, Inc.

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