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Energy: Powering the world with wind

Given political and social will, windpower could easily meet half the world’s energy needs by 2030

Downstream turbulence is visible in this aerial shot of the Horns Rev turbines off the coast of Denmark. Photo courtesy Vattenfall.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY —By now it should be clear that the main obstacles to making a wholesale switch to clean, renewable energy are social and political — if the will is there to commit to that path, the resources are abundant.

In a hypothetical exercise meant to provide a frame of reference for those renewable energy discussions, scientists from Stanford University and the University of Delaware showed that all of the world’s power demands could be met by wind energy.

The researchers developed a sophisticated model to show enough wind power could be generated to exceed total demand by several times if need be, even after accounting for reductions in wind speed caused by turbines. Continue reading

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BP building a new Colorado wind farm

A map from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory shows areas with the potential for windpower and the associated transmission grid.

Company is a major player on the Colorado energy scene; feds levied $5 million fine against BP for under-reporting production on SW Colorado tribal lands

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Along with its huge oil-spill mess in the Gulf of Mexico, BP has become a significant player in Colorado wind power. In May, the company’s Houston-based wind energy subsidiary announced that it reached a long-term power purchase agreement with Public Service Company of Colorado, an Xcel Energy company.

The Cedar Creek II wind farm will be located on 30,000 acres about 20 miles north of New Raymer, in Weld County and east of the existing 300.5 MW Cedar Creek I wind farm. BP expects that 250 workers will be employed during construction of the wind farm and an estimated 12-14 jobs will be created to monitor and maintain the facility once it is in full commercial operation. Continue reading

Opinion: Forget oil, the answer is blowin’ in the wind

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New research aimed at answering engineering questions for significant offshore windpower generation; many coastal states could meet most of their demand

The world’s first full-scale floating wind turbine, assembled in the Åmøy Fjord near Stavanger, Norway, capable of producing 2.3 megawatts. The turbine is about 200 feet tall and is designed to be set up in water up to 2,500 feet deep. PHOTO FROM THE WIKIMEDIA COMMONS.

By Bob Berwyn
SUMMIT COUNTY — The Gulf of Mexico oil spill is just the latest in a long list of signs that the age of oil is nearing an end. The simple fact is we can’t afford to continue poisoning the planet with gases that heat the atmosphere and toxic liquids that pollute rivers and oceans. As tragic as it is, the environmental disaster will help make even more people aware that our current energy path is not sustainable.

Earliest estimates for the cost of cleaning up the spill are in the range of $8 billion. What if that money had been invested in renewable energy before the spill?

Advocates of nuclear power also need to take heed, because they will one day face the same questions BP is facing now. As much as backers of nuclear energy would like us to believe — as they’ve convinced themselves — that they’ve resolved the engineering and technical challenges, they haven’t. It’s a lie. One day there will be a disaster involving a nuclear power plant, potentially with far worse consequences than the deadly oil slick spreading toward the Gulf Coast.

In the 52-page exploration plan and environmental impact study, BP repeatedly said  it was unlikely, or virtually impossible, for an accident to occur that would lead to a giant crude oil spill and serious damage to beaches, fish, mammals and fisheries.

How many times have we heard the same story from the energy kings?

How often have they been wrong?

It’s easy enough to point a finger and criticize our country’s energy policy, or the oil companies, but that doesn’t really get us anywhere. Much better to use this teachable moment to try and achieve a fundamental shift in public attitudes about energy by presenting realistic alternatives. Yes, we will need to continue using oil for the foreseeable future, but we can set very realistic goals of replacing energy generated by fossil fuels with wind power. Overall, the U.S. already has a goal of generating 20 percent if its electricity needs with wind power by 2030.

It’s time to get specific and break it down. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, many of the 30 U.S. states with coastline could meet most or all of their electricity needs with a mix of land-based and offshore wind turbines. And the coastal states use nearly 80 percent of the nation’s electricity, so there’s potential to take a big bite out of oil, coal and gas consumption. In fact, the states with the greatest need for more electricity are those that would benefit the most from increased offshore wind power generation. Continue reading

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