Monday, July 9, 2012

Everybody Blow! We Need the Electricity

On my way to the US Women's Open in Kohler on Friday, I drove past that wind farm south of Fond du Lac along the 151 bypass.  On a day when electricity demand was at its highest due to extreme heat and humidity, not a single one of those turbines was turning.  When hospitals, cooling centers, nursing homes and nearly every home needed power to keep the air conditioning on that wind farm was not generating a single watt. 

Fortnately for those of us in Northeast Wisconsin, the coal fired power plants in Green Bay, Weston and Oak Creek were generating more power on Friday.  The natural gas fired plant north of Kaukauna was also working hard.  So were the hydro-electric dams in Menasha and Kaukauna.  And the nuclear power plants in Two Rivers and Kewaunee were also generating plenty of electricity.

Why those wind turbines weren't turning Friday, I'm not sure.  It's possible that they could all be down for repair.  According to someone in the know with a local utility, twenty percent of those windmills are out of service at one time because of maintenance issues or malfunctions.  But most likely, it just wasn't windy enough.  A bit of wind would have been welcome relief out there at Blackwolf Run that afternoon--I know that.

Friday was a perfect example of why the idea of relying on renewable energy to meet our demands is a fallacy.  On the one day of the year when reliable electricity generation was a major priority, those windfarms were completely useless.  I guess that was the day we would have to turn to solar energy to meet our demands.  But how do you increase the amount of sunlight to make up for the loss of wind power?  Should we be developing a way to form a second Sun to use on windless days?  And what if it had been a cloudy day--reducing the amount of sunlight?  Or a sweltering, still night?

Someday, our great-great-great-great grandchildren living in the post-Fossil Fuel Age will be cursing our names wondering why we didn't build more nuclear power plants and hydro-electric dams during our lifetimes to provide long-term energy solutions for ensuing generations.  That is if they can take a break from blowing on the wind turbines to get them turning on a 99-degree day.

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