Wind turbines use energy from the motion of the wind to make mechanical energy, which is then converted to electrical energy. This, in turn, is fed into the utility grid and distributed to customers.
"Wind power, once a costly proposition on the flaky fringe of the energy debate, is going mainstream fast."
(U.S. News & World Report, Nov. 12, 2001, p. 36)
Wind power, like other renewable energy sources, is back on the public's agenda. The recent California energy crisis and nationwide rise in fossil fuel prices made sure of that. Fossil fuels are subject to extreme price fluctuations and more often than not influenced by geopolitical realities.
But U.S. reliance on finite supplies of fossil fuels is more than just risky business. Energy produced from these sources is dirty business. Sure, when prices are low, these sources are relatively easy on consumers' pocketbooks. But here are the hidden costs of fossil fuels, the so-called "cheaper" energy option:
OIL spills... Remember the Valdez?
COAL spews... greenhouse gases, carcinogens, particulates, etc.
NATURAL GAS leaks... harmful chemicals linked to asthma and other ailments
Add to this the liabilities of other traditional energy sources:
DAMS kill... not just fish, but entire river ecosystems
NUCLEAR frightens... no one wants radioactive waste buried in their backyard
Darkest areas of the map have the highest wind. Note the dark areas around the Massachusetts coast. Map by Dennis Elliot.
Wind power projects are ongoing in more than half of the country. CA, TX, IA, MN lead the nation in current output, but many other states, including MA, are potential "powerhouses."
WHY promote wind power?
No technology is perfect. We must weigh the benefits and costs of adopting wind power. Understanding both sides should lead to recognition that any tradeoff is a good one.