On a recent road trip, my family and I passed by a number of wind farms.
There were hundreds of these wind turbines as far as the eye could see. As we passed by, they were all gently and steadily turning with the wind. If you’ve never seen them, it’s really a sight. It reminds me of some futuristic or alien planet in a sci-fi movie.
We got into a discussion of why we saw them in some places (Iowa), but not others (Wisconsin) and generally I surmised that is was due to a number of reasons, including, but not limited to:
- The general wind climate of the area (some places, like very flat areas would be better suited for a steady stream of uninterrupted wind).
- NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) – Even many who might be pro wind energy would fight having them in their own backyard.
- Political lobbying efforts.
It was an interesting discussion about a variety of issues involving alternative energy and government involvement.
On our return trip, as we again passed these wind farms, we were met with a different scenario…
All of the wind turbines were still. None of them were turning.
This brought up another discussion about the problems with these alternative energy sources.
In this case, when there is no wind, the blades do not turn, and when the blades do not turn, no energy is produced.
In other words, the energy production is wholly dependent on the whims of the wind. This makes it an unreliable source for the production of steady, consistent energy that we rely on. Can you imagine being completely reliant on wind energy for all of your energy needs in your home? When it’s windy, things operate smoothly…but as the wind dies down, things start powering down and if there is no wind for any extended period…well, sorry.
Now think about more crucial energy needs, such as in the hospitals where many people rely on life support systems. How do you explain to the mourning parents of a child who died because there was no wind?
There is a similar problem with solar energy…when the sun shines, all is roses, but on cloudy days?
We owe a lot (if not all) of our standard of living on affordable, reliable, consistently steady, store-able energy. Thus far, only fossil fuels of fit those requirements. Alternative energy sources like solar and wind may make for good supplemental energy sources, but it’s foolish to believe we can eliminate fossil fuels and use only those sources…unless we want to revert back to the standard of living of a couple hundred years ago.
Many of the problems in the third world are caused by a lack of affordable, reliable, consistently steady, store-able energy. Most people in the world find it to be a normal daily event to lose power with frequent brown outs and/or black outs. This harms their ability to grow their economies and their standard of living.
I’m not against alternative energy sources, but I am against forcing the conversion before the technology is available to ensure affordable, reliable, consistently steady, store-able energy…the benefits of which are immeasurable.
For a good book on these issues, I’d highly recommend “The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels”, by Alex Epstein. It provides a very valuable perspective on why we all should love and have great gratitude for fossil fuels.