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The Almighty Buck Science

A Mighty Wind 670

DoraLives writes "Fascinating New York Times piece regarding a proposed wind farm for Nantucket Sound. Suddenly, all the environmentally friendly locals are going ballistic over the prospects of seeing an 'industrial energy complex' in their backyard. Walter Cronkite decries it, as do many other local checkbook environmentalists. Greenpeace says 'Jim Gordon (the developer) is the real thing, there aren't many entrepreneurs out there willing to take risks to clean up the environment.' Who's right?"
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A Mighty Wind

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  • NIMBY (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 15, 2003 @02:52PM (#6205507)
    It's the "Not In My Back Yard" syndrome. Everyone thinks these ideas are great... as long as it's not where they live. If you want the benefits though, someone has to live with the negatives.
  • by TWX ( 665546 ) on Sunday June 15, 2003 @02:57PM (#6205534)
    Windmills are funky looking, sure. That section along I-10 in California is proof enough of that.

    The thing is, they are quiet, clean, and often installed in places that there wouldn't be much other human habitation/recreation anyway. They're not good targets for terrorist attacks, since there's not really much to blow up, and jamming them isn't going to work either.

    N.I.M.B.Y. syndrome needs to be reckoned with anyay. And yes, I do live near a power generating station. There is a Natural Gas facility that also does experimental development on the grounds, like solar, less than two miles from where I live. It's in the middle of the city, and not really close to a major industrial section. If you don't want to see it, there are three other cardinal directions to look toward. I'll take the cheap electricity, myself.
  • Re:NIMBY (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tomstdenis ( 446163 ) <> on Sunday June 15, 2003 @02:57PM (#6205535) Homepage
    A/k/a hypocrisy :-)

    People demand hybrid cars, but don't drive them because they don't have enough power to excessively speed in city.

    People demand low power [re: less heat] computers than buy Athlon 3200+ ...

    People are worried of dying at age 20 from coronary diesease then eat a 25pc bucket to themselves...


    Whatever, more power! I wouldn't mind one in my backyard only if I was able to fling birds at it...

  • Re:NIMBY (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 15, 2003 @02:58PM (#6205540)
    Negatives? Windfarms are, in my experience, very beautiful, quiet, aesthetically pleasing things.

    I can't imagine why these people are upset.
  • Ummm.... Hello? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by deacon ( 40533 ) on Sunday June 15, 2003 @03:02PM (#6205568) Journal
    Limousine Liberals have ALWAYS wanted the poor and the brown to take the brunt of enlightened evironmental policy.

    These Elites exist to tell the rest of us how to live, not to actually follow any sort of conservation or limited consumption themselves.

    The banning of DDT, for example, caused thousands of deaths for poor and brown people worldwide due to Malaria.. But Hey! Birds are more important than people!

    Why is this a surprise to anyone who has been paying attention for the last 30 years??

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 15, 2003 @03:02PM (#6205570)
    If you build them on land, they're usually in the way (not just visually, because wind farms are noisy and require a lot of surface terrain), and if you build them on water they need a foundation, and just about every kind of foundation is bad for the environment.
  • Re:NIMBY (Score:3, Insightful)

    by BWJones ( 18351 ) on Sunday June 15, 2003 @03:05PM (#6205592) Homepage Journal
    I should also have added that this approach could lessen our reliance on oil from the middle east that has us in Iraq right now and make both an electrical based and hydrogen based economy more feasible.

  • Hypocrisy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by vandelais ( 164490 ) on Sunday June 15, 2003 @03:10PM (#6205631)
    Hypocrisy of this nature is not just emotional.

    Somewhere, sometime, highly populated states are going to realize that they are not entitled to simply purchase energy production from other states without suffering the drawbacks of that production.

    This is a major public policy and national security issue. There will be much more of this to come.
    Regardless of the fact that there may have been energy market manipulation, states like California fail to build a power plant for decades and complain that they have to pay an 'unfair' price. Their populace is not entitled to purchase at cost that which other states take the initiative to produce to fill their own demand, tolerate risk, deal with pollution, and expend capital.

    There is no obligation for other states to acquiesce to large population states' lack of discipline, foresight, and planning.

    Lastly, this type of conflict is a perfect example of why we have a bicameral legislature and the benefits of the elcectoral college system.
  • Re:Liberals (Score:1, Insightful)

    by drdale ( 677421 ) on Sunday June 15, 2003 @03:11PM (#6205637)
    But this game can be played both ways, can't it? For examnple, conservatives are all for getting government off of your back, unless: 1. You wish to use marijauna in the privacy of your own home (I don't, by the way). 2. You wish to engage in any kind of sexual activity other than hetrosexual sex between two partners in the missionary position with the lights off, in the privacy of your own home. 3. You want to control what happens inside your own body. 4. You want to send e-mail that no one except its intended recipient can read. And so on ad nauseum.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 15, 2003 @03:13PM (#6205656)
    Trouble is, wind farms don't generate much electricity. More efficient omnidirectional prototypes were tested in the 1980's but they were banned because they tended to attract and kill birds. Since the cost of electricity in the USA is rather inexpensive, the only way windmills can compete is if costs are cut in manufacturing. When manufacturing costs are skimped, quality suffers. That is why windmills don't last very long and fall apart easily. The situation is such that when the wind actually picks up and really gets the blades going, a safety mechanism locks the blades.

    There's also the liability problem of broken windmill parts falling on cattle (many windmills are on farms and ranches) or even people. The huge monetary settlements further drive up the costs of windmills and force the manufacturers to skimp even more.

    I know the above sounds a bit depressing but I hope this encourages some young engineers to come up with some new ideas to bring this industry back to life.
  • Re:NIMBY (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Qzukk ( 229616 ) on Sunday June 15, 2003 @03:13PM (#6205657) Journal
    Long distance power transmission still sucks. Of course, something like this would be great for processing other materials.. like, say, generating Hydrogen to run our so-called hydrogen economy of the future.
  • Are you dense? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 15, 2003 @03:23PM (#6205721)
    The whole reason you earn enough money to live in Nantucket is to live life the way you want.

    And when you're that rich, you're subject to "noblesse oblige", which means, you'll help the poor sods to make sure they stay the hell away from your house in Nantucket.

    I *get* why they feel that way; if I had their money, I've feel the same way.

  • Re:Ridiculous (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ApharmdB ( 572578 ) on Sunday June 15, 2003 @03:24PM (#6205725)
    Please don't lump all environmentalists together in such a way. These people are not environmentalists, they are rich schmucks who just want everything their way.

    There are critical thinking environmentalists too. I like to think that I am one, but I know that that would be a stupid assumption to make.
  • Re:Liberals (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Omestes ( 471991 ) <omestes@g[ ] ['mai' in gap]> on Sunday June 15, 2003 @03:25PM (#6205744) Homepage Journal
    Taking the bait, probably shouldn't, but...

    Yes, and the conservatives are at least pure in principle. Support the rich, screw the poor. Screw the enviroment, and sustainability, If you or one of your rich freinds get more money from it. Screw the world, if it is in our interests we'll bomb anyone. Against even the precept of choice, unless it deals with consumer products, and on that their even kinda confused being that they also admit to likeing monopolies.

    All conservatives are against sexual trists, because then we might NEED the abortion that is an abomination before THEIR PRIVATE GOD. And their only against trists of presidents that do better than any of theirs. the clinton thing is OVER, and had nothing to do with Womens rights. They just bring it up, lest we remember that with CLinton we had a SURPLUS, and got into 2 wars (with UN approval) in EIGHT Years, as apposed to two illegal (as in against the UN charter)wars in THREE years.

    Back on topic, herr troll. The conservative wouldn't even ENDORSE this idea, so at least someone has a miniscule idea of what to do. NIMBY isn't a liberal disease, it is a HUMAN disease, how many of your conservative fatcats would want their large pollution spewing oil thingies in their HUGE TEXAS MANOR's backyard?

    Also, why not build said windfarm in an unpopulated area, and string wires to the grid? Bulding on expensive real estate isn't the greatest of ideas.

    (note: scathing comments aside, I'm not a liberal, I swear your distaste of them, except only in the social sense (DEATH TO PC!), but I find it hbard to take someone saying one group is hypocrites, and the other isn't. Both Dems and Reps are excatly the same now anyways, and only an ill informed dimwit would think otherwise. Partisan politics should die...)
  • Re:Hypocrisy (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Bodrius ( 191265 ) on Sunday June 15, 2003 @03:29PM (#6205781) Homepage
    Why don't they deal with it the capitalist way? It's probably the only to let them negotiate the issue without getting lost in rethoric and hypocresy: Factor it all in the numbers.

    You don't want power plants in your backyard? Pay a higher price, or a MUCH higher price the less "in your backyard" they are.

    Use that profit to pay the neighborhoods that are willing to put up with the power plant through subsidized electricity.

    As power demands of other regions, including the ones that produce the electricity, increase, it only makes sense that the only way to preserve priority and get power is to pay even more for the privilege (which would pay for more facilities). Until either side decides it's not worth it.

  • Re:Hypocrisy (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Jerf ( 17166 ) on Sunday June 15, 2003 @03:32PM (#6205801) Journal
    Somewhere, sometime, highly populated states are going to realize that they are not entitled to simply purchase energy production from other states without suffering the drawbacks of that production.

    Yes, they are; the "drawbacks" that you refer to are, or should be, bundled into the price. In fact this sort of thing happens all the time, and is a perfectly normal part of capitalism. Paying for labor is nothing more and nothing less then paying somebody else for the "drawback" of having to work hard to assemble or create something.

    If the "drawbacks" aren't paid for it's the seller's fault for setting the price too low, not the buyer's fault, which you try to blame.

    Concentrate on the seller, not the buyer.
  • NL (Score:5, Insightful)

    by leomekenkamp ( 566309 ) on Sunday June 15, 2003 @03:32PM (#6205803)

    Suddenly, all the environmentally friendly locals are going ballistic over the prospects of seeing an 'industrial energy complex' in their backyard.

    I live in The Netherlands; a nice, flat, windy country in the west of Europe, sometimes wrongfully call Holland (Holland is a part of the Netherlands, sort of like England is a part of the UK).

    Anyway, 30 years ago most foreigners thought of 4 things when they heard about NL: tulips, wooden shoes, Rembrand and windmills! (today our excellent pot would also be mentioned). Those old-fashioned windmills are pretty big and bulky, and you can see them from afar.

    Funny thing is, when someone wants to build an environmentally friendly windmill for electrical energy, he or she cannot get a permit for that. We even have a special word for it: horizonvervuiling (horizon pollution)

    I cannot stop to wonder how our country would have looked like if that word had been invented in the 17th century.

  • Conservatives...? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 15, 2003 @03:33PM (#6205815)
    Liberals are all for saving nature


    stopping business


    and building big government.

    Straw man.

    And they're even for alternative, CLEAN energy like long as it's not where they have to look at it.

    I love the windfarms in my neighborhood (Altamont Pass farm, near San Francisco). They're gorgeous. Wish we had more. We're going to need them.

    They're all for women's rights...unless it's Bill Clinton on the prowl.

    Bill Clintion is a jerk of the first order. However, that does not mean that he was bad administratively. The Monica affair is a black spot on all our faces. The only blacker spot is the witch-hunt that the Republicans launched trying to play it up as something on the same order as, say, taking your country to war and killing innocent civilians on false pretenses.

    They're all for freedom of choice as long as it only applies the the choice of abortion, and not school vouchers that might actually SAVE some of the poor urban kids from the continued ghetto.

    Vouchers are deceptive. They leave even fewer resources at the bottom of the barrel for those few kids who -- for whatever reason -- are unable to take advantage of them. Thus, we will fund an additional program (vouchers) while at the same time still having to deal with poor education at the bottom. Wouldn't be a problem, except everyone knows that when that happens (when we are funding vouchers and still trying to save our schools) the conservatives will be the ones filibustering and grandstanding to stop the tax increases or funding distribution necessary to help those at the bottom.

    As always.
  • Coal (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ApharmdB ( 572578 ) on Sunday June 15, 2003 @03:39PM (#6205865)
    Yes, there are some plants which are clean. However, you are leaving out the coal extraction process which often rips the tops off of mountains in order to get at the coal. Coal mining is also dangerous and deadly when it isn't ripping the tops off and is instead staying underground.
  • Re:NIMBY (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mrogers ( 85392 ) on Sunday June 15, 2003 @03:40PM (#6205876)
    It would also reduce our reliance on oil from Texas. Still wonder why it hasn't been done?
  • Danger to yachts? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Roblimo ( 357 ) on Sunday June 15, 2003 @03:59PM (#6206004) Homepage Journal
    The danger or at least inconvenience to pleasure boaters and commercial fishermen is a big reason the locals say they're against this offshore windmill farm. That makes no sense. It looks to me like there would be plenty of space between the towers for a pretty large yacht or fishing boat to pass through the line of windmills.

    Not only that, how hard would it be to provide several wide passages between selected towers for the big-boat people, and mark them with standard channel navigation buoys?

    I have trouble understanding how any sailor could be against this project. I mean, if you take a look at my boat [], you'll see that it openly and unashamedly uses wind as its primary power source.

    But don't worry about me, Nantucket Sound people, I promise not to sully your view with my litle wind-powered boat. It's a lot cheaper to live and sail here in Florida... and we can sail year-round, too. :)

    - Robin

    PS - I'd be okay with windmills off the shore in the Gulf of Mexico. They'd be a lot better than the environmentally destructive offshore oil rigs Pres. Bush wants to put here -- but his brother Jeb, FL governor, keeps fighting against, so far successfully, although the oil people keep attacking and handing out the bribes, so sooner or later they'll probably get to do their damage unless we manage get the reflubicans out of office first.
  • by siskbc ( 598067 ) on Sunday June 15, 2003 @04:01PM (#6206010) Homepage
    The funny thing is, even though Dubya talked about hydrogen power in a State of the Union Address, he's also slashed funding for renewable energy research by 50% (according to the book "Stupid White American" by Micheal Moore) and have infamously backed away from the Kyoto Treaty. I'm not sure what to make out of his hydrogen speech.

    I'm not for dubya, and I'm pretty sure he's anti-renewable since that's bad for oil, but I don't know about that evidence. Michael Moore is famously partisan and is known to skew (or outright fabricate) evidence to fit his case/cause, as in his Columbine documentary. Second, Kyoto was simply in(un?)feasible and was overly idealistic - Europe is now admitting it can't meet the deadlines Bush said were impossible, for which they criticized him at the time.

    That said, I wouldn't doubt he's on board with H2, simply because it can be generated from oil and coal. This, as opposed to methanol fuel cells, which is more likely to be generated from non-fossil sources. I've wondered for years why they prefer h2 to methanol, since methanol has a bunch of advantages (safety, higher energy density, less complicated and heavy storage equipment. Could be big oil?

  • Re:NIMBY (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Feztaa ( 633745 ) on Sunday June 15, 2003 @04:05PM (#6206036) Homepage
    The world's real problem is overpopulation of human beings. Alternative energy projects are a band-aide hiding the ultimate challenge for humanity, which is how to reduce the population.

    Hey, why don't we start killing stupid and ugly people? That way, humanity could evolve into a race of super humans who are all incredibly good looking and intelligent! And then we could kill all the Jews, nobody likes them anyway, and after that...

    Instead of implying genocide by saying "reduce the population", I think we should focus more on educating the people everywhere about birth control. Instead of killing people, all we really have to do is make the world's birth rate become less than the world's death rate (without artificially increasing the death rate). Then the overpopulations problem would just sort itself out in a couple generations or so.
  • Re:NIMBY (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Moofie ( 22272 ) <lee.ringofsaturn@com> on Sunday June 15, 2003 @04:51PM (#6206311) Homepage
    Great! Let's reduce the world population. You first.
  • by nanoguy ( 605600 ) on Sunday June 15, 2003 @05:46PM (#6206602)

    Wind energy is actually the only alternative energy form outside of hydro that is economically feasiable at the present time.

    Wind technology is also vastly improved over the last twenty years; quieter more efficient bigger wind machines. The blades of the larger wind machines actually spin slower (50 RPM on older machines 15 on new bigger ones) which I think would be more astheticly pleasing to look at.

    According to a recent (24Feb2003) Chemical & Engineering News article

    GE recently announced it will supply its largest machines-3.6 MW-for the proposed Cape Wind project...The largest turbines have allowed the energy provider to cut the number of planned turbines from 170 to 130... and developers hope the reduction may calm some community anger over the project's location.

    The machine GE plans for Cape Cod has three blades, each 50 meters long and weighing up to 16 tons...You can walk inside the 2-meter blade root, where the blade attaches to the turbine nose.

    Lyons [James Lyons, GE chief engineer] says machines will grow to 5-MW size "We know we can do that, and other companies are going to as well. There's no reason to stop there. The big offshore machines will get to 7 to 10 MW".

    I think wind in general is a good idea, but if the machines keep getting bigger I wonder what affect this will have.

  • by Nasarius ( 593729 ) on Sunday June 15, 2003 @05:58PM (#6206712)
    Ahem. Toxic waste, anyone? You can't just keep cramming it into a mountain forever.
  • by sco08y ( 615665 ) on Sunday June 15, 2003 @08:12PM (#6207614)
    For as long as it had a choice, the US chose to stay out of the war.

    Or, as Churchill put it, "the Americans always do the right thing after they've exercised every other option."
  • better solution (Score:3, Insightful)

    by geekoid ( 135745 ) <dadinportland AT yahoo DOT com> on Monday June 16, 2003 @01:37PM (#6214184) Homepage Journal
    don't put them in migratory paths.

Think of it! With VLSI we can pack 100 ENIACs in 1 sq. cm.!