The first time I saw wind turbines was in 1992. While driving from Claremont CA to Palm Springs my friend and I happened upon a Wind Farm with hundreds of turbines. The land was down below the level of the road, in a valley. We bravely drove down among the turbines and it was magical. Today I believe there are guided tours in this same area so people can see what we saw 24 years ago up close and personal.
The next time I saw wind turbines it was from the air, Sept 2015 on a flight in a small plane over West Virginia. This time I got photos. Again, it was magical.
In May of this year my husband and I drove across the United States to visit some of the western national parks. When we were in Kansas and then Colorado, and later in New Mexico and Texas, we saw wind turbines. I was excited. I took a lot of photos from the car, repetitive and full of window glare, but I wanted to capture them all. I think they look like sculptures! In the photo below you can see a crop-duster who was flying among the turbines.
Last September when I posted a photo of the West Virginia ridge full of wind turbines, I got several comments about them, some pro, some con. So today as I write this, I want to present some facts, some interesting, and some enlightening, at least to me.
My initial thoughts about wind turbines are that they are a beautiful and safe alternative to fossil fuels for energy. When we drove through Kentucky, we saw in the distance a huge energy installation which included 3 nuclear reactors and 4-5 smoke stacks billowing smoke. It was ugly and scary to me. When I saw the wind turbines, it was a pleasant and peaceful sight. So, I decided to do a little research on them.
There are 48,800 utility-scale turbines (larger than 100 kilowatts for significant power generation) in 40 states and Puerto Rico. The amount of energy generated in a year is the equivalent of energy used in 20 million homes. There are 88,000 wind-related jobs across the US.
The steel tower is over 300 feet tall,and the blades are 116 feet long. The optimum wind speed for rotating the blades is 25-35 mph, creating a rotation of 14 rpm and a speed of 105 mph at the tip of the blade. The blades rotate automatically into the face of the wind, and the pitch of the blades also changes as needed to optimize the capture of the wind energy.
The majority of wind farms are on private land, which is leased by the developer for the expected life span of the turbines of 20-30 years. The current estimate of potential energy from wind farms is 10 times the energy consumption for the United States.
Now, to the concerns. One friend mentioned that many birds get killed flying into the turbines. Yes, 214,000 – 368,000 is the estimate. That’s too bad, isn’t it? Estimates about bird deaths from other “obstacles” are: cell and radio towers – 6-8 million; windows on buildings – 1 billion; cats – 1.4 – 3.7 billion. Birds don’t have it easy.
I read online that people are worried about having wind turbines near where they live because of the electrical charges in the air. One fellow said that his cell phone charges automatically without being plugged in! Out west the wind farms are in open areas, away from towns and cities, and to me that is the ideal location. There are often animals grazing under them, or crops growing among them. The land is still useful, there is no run-off of chemicals or toxic materials. The electricity that is generated is of course “captured” and sent via power lines to where it is needed. I have a new respect for power lines after my trip out west because they are the lifeline of the people there. Many, many miles can be traveled without seeing civilization, but you will see power lines making sure the next community has power.
Finding ways to satisfy our ever-growing need for energy that is safe, clean and efficient is a worthy endeavor. I vote for wind turbines.