Saturday, December 31, 2011

Defining Wind Generated Electrical Power and Discussing Pros and Cons of the Technology

English: A barn and wind turbines in rural Ill...Image via WikipediaBy Charles A Juopperi


Wind generated electrical power exists through harnessing wind-power energy with turbines. To fully understand wind generated electrical power, one must understand how wind powered electricity is made; resources needed to utilize wind power; types and sizes of wind turbines; building a wind turbine; potential positive and negative impacts of the technology; where wind powered electricity can be effectively generated; and, offsetting the costs of wind powered electrical technology.

How Wind Powered Electricity is Made

The technology of wind generated electrical power functions by creating electricity through the use of various styles of wind turbines. Initially, one might ask, "So how do wind turbines make electricity?" Simply said, a wind turbine works the opposite of a fan. Instead of using electricity to make wind, like a fan, wind turbines use wind to make electricity. The wind turns the blades, which spin a shaft, which connects to a generator and makes electricity.

Resources Needed to Utilize Wind Power

The primary resource of Wind powered technology is, of course, wind. Wind is very abundant in many parts of the United States and other parts of the world. Wind resources are branded by wind-power density classes, ranging from class 1 (the lowest) to class 7 (the highest). Good wind resources (e.g., class 3 and above, which have an average annual wind speed of at least 13 miles per hour) are found in many areas. Wind speed is a critical of wind resources, because the energy in wind is proportionate to the cube of the wind speed. In other words, a stronger wind means more power.

Wind resource development requires land and may compete with other uses of that land, and those alternative uses may be more highly valued than electricity generation. However, wind turbines can be positioned on land that is also used for grazing or even farming. Wherever a wind farm is to be built, roads are cut to make way for shipping parts. At each wind turbine location, the land is graded and the pad area is leveled. Wind energy also requires the building of wind turbines.

Types and Sizes of Wind Turbines

Modern wind turbines fall into two basic groups: the horizontal-axis variety and the vertical-axis design, like the eggbeater-style Darrieus model, named after its French inventor. Horizontal-axis wind turbines typically either have two or three blades. These three-bladed wind turbines are operated "upwind," with the blades facing into the wind. Darrieus models, or vertical-axis wind turbines, have two vertically oriented blades revolving around a vertical shaft.

In addition to different types, there are many different sizes of wind turbines. Utility-scale turbines range in size from 100 kilowatts to as large as several megawatts. Larger turbines are grouped together into wind farms, which provide bulk power to an electrical grid. Single small turbines, below 100 kilowatts, are used for homes, telecommunications, or water pumping.

Small turbines are sometimes used in connection with diesel generators, batteries, and photovoltaic systems. These systems are called hybrid wind systems and are typically used in remote, off-grid locations, where a connection to the utility grid is not available.

Building a Wind Turbine

The first step in building a wind turbine is setting up the tower where the fiberglass nacelle is installed. The nacelle is a strong, hollow casing that contains the inner workings of the wind turbine. Usually made of fiberglass, the nacelle contains the main drive shaft and the gearbox. Its inner workings also contain blade pitch and yaw controls. The nacelle is assembled and attached onto a base frame at a factory.

The most diverse use of materials and the most experimentation with new materials occur with the blades. Although the most dominant material used for the blades in commercial wind turbines is fiberglass with a hollow core, other materials in use include lightweight woods and aluminum. Wooden blades are solid, but most blades consist of a skin surrounding a core that is either hollow or filled with a lightweight substance such as plastic foam or honeycomb, or balsa wood.

Wind turbines also include a utility box, which converts the wind energy into electricity and which is located at the base of the tower. The generator and electronic controls are standard equipment whose main components are steel and copper. Various cables connect the utility box to the nacelle, while others connect the whole turbine to nearby turbines and to a transformer.

Potential Positive and Negative Effects of Wind Powered Electricity

There are a variety of potential positive and negative impacts of wind powered technology.

Potential positive impacts include:

- Wind energy is friendly to the surrounding environment, as no fossil fuels are burnt to generate electricity from wind energy.
- Wind turbines take up less space than the average power station. Windmills only have to occupy a few square meters for the base; this allows the land around the turbine to be used for many purposes, for example agriculture.
- Newer technologies are making the extraction of wind energy much more efficient. The wind is free, and we are able to cash in on this free source of energy.
- Wind turbines are a great resource to generate energy in remote locations, such as mountain communities and remote countryside.
- Wind turbines can be a range of different sizes in order to support varying population levels.
- When combined with solar electricity, this energy source is great for developed and developing countries to provide a steady, reliable supply of electricity.

Potential negative impacts include:

- Wind turbines generally produce less electricity than the average fossil fuelled power station, requiring multiple wind turbines to be built.
- Wind turbine construction can be very expensive and costly.
-  Wind turbines can have a negative impact to surrounding wildlife during the build process.
- The noise pollution from commercial wind turbines is sometimes similar to a small jet engine.
- Protests and/or petitions usually confront any proposed wind farm development. People feel the countryside should be left intact for everyone to enjoy its beauty.

Where Wind Powered Electricity Can be Effectively Generated

Places in the world where wind blows strong and often, people and businesses can harness the wind as an option to use in the generation of electricity. Globally, these places include much of North America, southern South America, Greenland, most of Europe, Northern Africa, eastern Asia, most of Australia, and anywhere there are mountains or large hills. The top 5 countries producing electrical wind power in 2007 were: Germany, United States, Spain, India and China, respectively.

Considerable wind speeds also occur across oceans and large water bodies. Since most of the world's population lives near oceans, wind farms with strong offshore and onshore breezes could produce an abundant amount of electricity. On land in the USA, the major wind corridor is the Great Plains which includes the states of North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.

The wind corridor also extends into the states west to the great mountains west, including eastern Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico. There are also considerable wind resources in eastern and southern Minnesota and the entire state of Iowa, diminishing south through Missouri and east through southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois, Indiana and Ohio. Parts of New York and the New England states also have considerable wind.

The Department of Energy (DOE) estimates that wind power could supply the US with 100% of its electricity, just from the Great Plains wind corridor or from offshore wind farms alone. According to the "Pickens Plan," a $10 billion wind farm with 2500 generators can supply enough energy for 1.3 million homes, and for $1 trillion the Great Plains wind corridor could supply 20% of America's electricity. That would be about 250,000 generators to supply 130 million homes.

In a report published by the U.S. Department of Energy, "20% Wind Energy by 2030: Increasing Wind Energy's Contribution to U.S. Electricity Supply," that report concluded that:

- Reaching 20% wind energy will require enhanced transmission infrastructure, streamlined siting and permitting regimes, improved reliability and operability of wind systems, and increased U.S. wind manufacturing capacity.
- Achieving 20% wind energy will require the number of turbine installations to increase from approximately 2000 per year in 2006 to almost 7000 per year in 2017.
- Integrating 20% wind energy into the grid can be done reliably for less than 0.5 cents per kWh.
- Achieving 20% wind energy is not limited by the availability of raw materials.
- Addressing transmission challenges such as siting and cost allocation of new transmission lines to access the nation's best wind resources will be required to achieve 20% wind energy.

Offsetting the Costs of Wind Powered Electrical Technology

Although wind generated electrical power seems to be an unlimited resource, and, the best wind sites appear to be competitive with market electricity prices in most U.S. regions, several factors exist that make it a less appealing source of alternative energy in terms of economic cost. First off, wind is not uniformly priced resource. Its costs vary widely depending on project scale, wind speed, region, and other factors. Second, the benchmark for comparison with wind to other fuels varies regionally. Third, extra revenue is required to make a project viable, sunk costs are considerable.

To offset the factors that make wind powered electricity a less appealing source of alternative energy and promote its continued growth, wind energy in many areas receives some financial or other support to encourage development. Wind energy benefits from subsidies either to increase its attractiveness or to compensate for subsidies received by other forms of production, such as coal and nuclear, which have significant negative impacts.

In the United States, wind power receives a tax credit for each Kilowatt hour produced; that was 1.9 cents per Kilowatt hour in 2006. The tax the credit has a yearly inflationary adjustment. Many American states also provide incentives, such as exemption from property tax, mandated purchases, and additional markets for "green credits." The Energy Improvement and Extension Act of 2008 contain extensions of credits for wind, including micro-turbines.

Secondary market forces also provide incentives for businesses to use wind-generated power, even if there is a premium price for the electricity, socially responsible manufacturers pay utility companies a premium that goes to subsidize and build new wind power groundwork. Companies use wind-generated power, and in return they can claim that they are making a "green" effort.

Undoubtedly, further tax credits, subsidies and incentives will also be needed to achieve the goal of 20% Wind Energy by 2030. Today, wind power approximately accounts for about 2% of the electricity generated in the United States.


The technology of wind generated electrical power functions by creating electricity through the use of various styles of wind turbines is a very viable alternative energy. Although wind generated electrical power does have some negative impacts, this author feels that in terms of long-term cost and benefit compared with other types of energy, such as the burning of fossil fuels, using a renewable resource such as wind generated electrical power economically, environmentally, and socially is making more and more sense.

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Saturday, December 24, 2011

Cities Take Up the “Ban the Bag” Fight: Why New Policies Across the Nation Could Mean the End of Plastic Bags

English: Thin plastic shopping bags Polski: To...                                 Image via Wikipediaby Rebecca Leisher, Yes! magazine:

Environmental activists are reducing plastic waste pollution by tackling disposable plastic bags, one city at a time. About 20 U.S. cities and towns have passed disposable bag reduction laws, including San Francisco and Washington, D.C.

Whether they impose a nominal fee for single-use, disposable bags, or ban them altogether, the laws encourage consumers to develop habits to replace disposable bags, particularly those made from plastic.

The most recent city to join the effort to ban the bag is Portland, Ore., which has banned single-use plastic bags at the checkouts of large retailers. The change was met with overwhelming support from most Portlanders, says Stiv Wilson of 5 Gyres Institute, who helped give out free reusable bags at grocery stores to ease the transition for shoppers on October 15, when the ban took effect.

The Portland ordinance, unanimously approved by Portland City Council, was the culmination of a four-year campaign by the Surfrider Foundation Portland Chapter, 5 Gyres Institute, and the Oregon League of Conservation Voters. It reflects growing public concern about the environmental impact of disposable plastic.

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Saturday, December 17, 2011

Poaching In Africa Is Still Prevalent

Deutsch: Zwei wilde Breitmaulnashörner in Nami...Image via WikipediaBy John Gordon Alexander

In 2011 alone there have been 23 black and white Rhinos killed due to poaching in both Zimbabwe's National Parks and private reserves. In response to this there have been 37 arrests of suspected poachers and illegal ivory dealers.

With the lucrative Asian and Middle Eastern market present it's no surprise that poaching still exists in Zimbabwe. With poverty at its highest level in Zimbabwe people living on the outskirts of National Parks and animal reserves have the temptation to poach a Rhino and sell the ivory on to a dealer to make some quick money for himself and his family. There are very few job opportunities in Zimbabwe so in many cases it's a 'needs, must' scenario.

Efforts are being made by the wildlife authorities in Zimbabwe by devising new ways to tackle this on going problem. A solution to the problem lies in the Rhino's horn, so horn removal projects have been implemented across the country in aid of saving the Rhinos. By removing these magnificent creatures horns, poachers will have no value in taking a Rhino's life and may therefore leave them alone. The ivory will then stay with the authorities who will keep it under lock and key away from the poachers.

Another method being implemented is poisoning the horn of the Rhino, not in an attempt to harm the animal but to poison the poacher and the ivory dealers once they get their hands on the tusk. Both these methods could prove to be a resounding success as it will make life a lot trickier for both the poachers and the ivory dealers.

In other African nations, poaching is still an issue but not to the extent of Zimbabwe. Many other countries including Kenya and Tanzania have employed more fully trained rangers to patrol National Parks in search of poachers, laying traps and snares to catch them. Kenya also hopes to purchase another 14 light aircraft to patrol National Parks and suspected poaching sites which will enable them to respond much more swiftly than they would be able to on foot.

Ultimately to quell this problem there needs to be a more forceful ban imposed in Asia and the Middle East to cut off the buyers. As long as there is demand for the ivory I'm afraid there will always be people trying to supply them whatever the cost. Until that day comes the only thing authorities in Africa can do is to be vigilant and keep coming up with new ideas on how to catch poachers and ivory dealers.

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Saturday, December 10, 2011

VIDEO: Fighting Goliath: Texas Coal Wars

Fighting Goliath: Texas Coal Wars Synopsis

From the outset FIGHTING GOLIATH: TEXAS COAL WARS was intended to serve as a tool for raising awareness, inspiring action, and creating a meaningful dialogue about how to overcome one of the greatest threats to public health contributors to global warming faced by the U.S. - conventional coal-fired power plants.

FIGHTING GOLIATH follows the story of farmers, ranchers and Mayors fighting against the construction of 18 new coal-burning power plants in Texas.

TXU Corp. withdrew eight of the 11 permit applications shortly before the case went to court, when it was announced that shareholders would sell the utility to private equity firms. The film was produced by the Redford Center at the Sundance Preserve and Alpheus Media, and directed by Mat Hames and George Sledge.

Film Credits

Narrated by Robert Redford
Written and Directed by Mat Hames and George Sledge
Executive Producers: Julie Mack and Jill Tidman
Producer: Cara Carney
Director of Photography: Shane Kelly
Editor: Sandra Guardado
Associate Producers: Beth Hames, Mat Hames and Anne Nagelkirk
Location Sound: Mark Lutte and Djakhangir Zakhidov
Assistant Camera and Photography: Stuart McSpadden
Production Assistants: Taryn Hall and Djakhangir Zakhidov
Additional Cinematography: Wilson Waggoner
Post-Production Supervisor: Mat Hames
Post-Production Assistants: Jeff Spross, Taryn Hall and Ginny Patrick
Archival Footage Coordinators: Cara Carney and Dacia Saenz
Graphics: Erik Lauritzen
Audio Design: Carl Thiel
Music By: Steve Bernal, BerxWerx, Sean Craypo, Tom Hamer, Sativa Quartet, Peter Stopschinski and Adam Sultan

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Mother’s Care: Empirical Evidence Shows That Convening With Nature Can Heal the Mind

Golden Gate Raptor ObservatoryImage via Wikipediaby Richard Louv, from The Nature Principle, on UTNE: Best of the Alternative Press:

As director of the Golden Gate Raptor Observatory, Allen Fish teaches raptor migration study and wildlife monitoring. Ninety percent of his work is with adults, the hundreds of volunteers who count, band, and track hawks.

“Many of our volunteers hang on for five or more years. Their raptor work becomes deeply therapeutic in their urban lives,” he says. “I have heard stories of self-healing here that would make a therapist tear up: of manic depression, of abuse, of chemical dependency. The strength that these people bring to their resolve to connect with nature is utterly stirring.”

To find hope, meaning, and relief from emotional pain, our species embraces medication, meditation, merlot, and more. These methods work for a time, some longer than others, some quite well, and some to our detriment.

But the restorative power of nature is there, always. Spending time in natural settings is no panacea; it’s not a total replacement for other forms of professional therapy or self-healing, but it can be a powerful tool in maintaining or improving mental health.

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