Wind power may still have an image as something of a plaything of environmentalists more concerned with clean energy than saving money. But it is quickly emerging as a serious alternative not just in affluent areas of the world but in fast-growing countries like India and China that are avidly seeking new energy sources.
While the US focusses on finding ways to make coal cleaner, the global market in wind generation is dominated by European companies (Vestas, Gamesa, Siemens) and an upstart from India. The Indian electrical grid is unreliable, so many industries prefer to install wind farms for their power generation. Those rural windfarms bring economic opportunity to the impoverished countryside, and bring the opportunities of the modern world to towns that still plow fields with oxen.
The argument that wind power is the future is not new, certainly not here at TfK. Kansas can produce as much as 30 times the electricity it consumes, and that would have a footprint of less than 5% of the land. Farmers could continue working below the turbines, while selling surplus energy to surrounding states. Cheap, locally produced electricity would also make electrical vehicles more practical for people (consider the “spark plugs” from Watchmen by Alan Moore).
And it ain’t just me saying this. Via the World’s Fair, we have Jeremy Rifkin advocating wind and similar technologies over nuclear. There are copious pragmatic reasons to prefer lots of things over nuclear. Not least that nuclear is dirty, expensive and potentially disastrous.
As some commenters observed in the other thread, a key advantage of wind production over centralized nuclear plants is that it protects against attacks. A single smart attack could destroy a nuclear plant, blacking out an urban center and potentially releasing radioactive contaminants (though the industry insists that modern designs would prevent the latter problem). Attacking a wind farm turbine by turbine would be cost prohibitive.
That isn’t to say that wind alone is the solution. I’ve seen it argued that no more than a third of the power in a grid could come from wind (on average) because of fluctuations, so other sources would be necessary to sustain a reliable power supply. I focus on wind because it’s perfect for Kansas, a state with lots of land to spare, lots of wind, and a desperate need for new industries.
Kansas ought to be selling turbines to India. The US ought to be leading the world into the bright future of sustainable energy. Instead, the nation is letting Europe and Asia set the pace for energy development in the 21st century.