May 05, 2008

Wind power: not just stupid, but dangerous

Bucolic Rural Iowa
Last week the old feeder drove through NW Iowa. My route used to offer pleasant scenery most of the way from the feedlot to my destination. I get off of I-29 at Onawa and take the county blacktops to Arnolds Park. For the last 10 years, a growing part of the drive has been through a wind farm. Its like driving through a hellish, whirling machine.

Almost everyone agrees that these monstrosities are hideous eyesores. Nobody with any sense of the rural aesthetic wants them anywhere near where they live. Even a citified eco-nut like Ted Kennedy won't have 'em. Now the scenic Iowa roads between Galva and Peterson are studded with the ugly contraptions as far as the eye can see. Perhaps portending worse to come.

Whenever I drive through this grotesque mistake, I note that a significant number of the windmills sit idle, their 'props' feathered. Parts and technical skills to repair wind generators are scarce. Unlike an ordinary hydrocarbon or nuclear power generation plant, the workplace is spread out over many square miles. How efficient! The plant workers have to drive all over several counties, hauling their tools and huge parts, just to get from one end of the 'power plant' to the other.

Average sized generator blade
Think of the fleets of pickup trucks spewing exhaust on the crops, the livestock and the farm families as they zoom up and down the special access roads in the fields to perform regular maintenance. These towers and roads take many acres of prime Iowa cropland out of production. Add the corn ethanol boondoggle and its no wonder food is getting pricey.

Did I mention that wind power isn't dependable? This means that a non-alternative power generation facility must be up and running at all times with enough output to take over from the wind instantly. Otherwise, serious outages will result, like this one in Texas. Where's the green advantage? In Al Gore's dreams, thats where.

Blade on the road - three trips per pinwheel
Wind generators have also been called the "Cuisinarts of the air" for the number of birds they kill. DadGum once opined that the blades turned too slowly to cause much damage to birds. Not so. The ends of the blades must travel a distance equal to pi times twice the length of one blade per revolution. Windmills like this can turn from 30 to 60 rpm. Do the math; a wind generator could cut you in half!
Now and then, I see a windmill with its blades broken. Last Saturday morning, I stopped and took a few pictures of one of them. The blades are gone and the main shaft is severely compromised. These breakups can be dangerous.

Blades missing
Where do you suppose the pieces ended up when this whirligig flew apart? Those are some mighty big slivers. The parts for wind generators are hard to get, difficult to transport, and require cranes to install. The repairs are impossible in bad weather. Many of these generators with less obvious problems like bad gear boxes or electrical trouble sit idle for months before they can be put back to work.

How long before this gets back on line?
If your fear of decapitation, your distaste for bird whacking and the nasty environmental hypocrisy of it's inefficiency aren't enough to put you off wind energy, consider this horror. Still want to see more of our rural beauty pocked with ugly giant pinwheels?
I forgot to mention that these generators can be sabotaged with a deer rifle.
Drill the ANWR. The caribou want us to do it.
Other Plains Feeder posts about this Iowa wind farm:
Wind Power Efficiency Update
Wind Power: not just stupid, but a "Boone-doggle"

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