You may be right to feel that our romance with alternative energy has gone berserk.
Solar power may be fine, but not in my backyard – the NIMBY consumers have now had their way.
There were massive protests in the streets of Cape Town when local government sources leaked plans to cover the top of Table Mountain with a wind farm.
In the picturesque English county of Dorset thousands of protesters trashed two hundred solar windmills in a weekend of consumer activism.
Portugal’s once beautifully serene west coast now resonates with the constant hum of swirling windmills. “Wherever you go, you can’t escape the visual pollution of these windmills – and the sound keeps me awake at night,” said one irate tourist.
Don’t fret. A solution is just around the corner. Advances during the past decade have been fast and furious.
GE’s Ecomagination business has signed a contract with a local energy consortium to build 1,000 wind turbines that will be sited ten kilometers above South Africa’s arid Karoo and provide energy at 3 US cents per kilowatt hour – close to the cheapest rate currently available from traditional sources.
And…you can’t see or hear the damn things!
ANALYSIS >> SYNTHESIS: How this scenario came to be
Objections are growing to wind farms cluttering up open countryside. No one wants them in their backyard. Wind farms take up a huge amount of space, are noisy, and destroy the scenic beauty of the landscape. Many large birds who migrate along wind routes also risk getting hacked up by the whirling blades.
Yet, the benefits of wind power are obvious. Countries like Germany are extending their use of wind power, despite unreliability during peak demand periods.
Also, if you think it’s windy where you are, then you should try it a few kilometres up! The jet stream winds up there are stronger and more consistent than any on the ground. Recently new thinking is getting us closer to finding ways of harnessing this energy.
The links below provide a summary of the current state-of-the-science!