"I agree. These kids do have a wealth of opportunities ahead."
Walker Zeiser, Teacher, Millbrook School, New York
"Congratulations on your solar project. One small step for solar; one large step for Mankind!"
Jerry McAllister, Murrieta, California
Household Wind Systems
There are about 2,000 residential wind turbines in America. Backyard windmills are already an $18 million-a-year industry in the U.S. Like privately-owned solar systems, they are part of what utilities consider the movement toward "distributed generation." With alternative energy sources growing in popularity, small-scale wind turbine systems are on the rise. There are different types, including mounted and free-standing systems.
The smallest systems are mounted systems. Offered by companies like Southwest Windpower, they use low wind speeds to create electricity for residential homes. The Air-X model from Southwest Windpower can be mounted to a roof and weighs about 13 pounds. Users can expect a rated power of 400 watts at 28 mph winds. The turbine's diameter is 27". The average cost of a system is $595 depending on difficulty of installation; systems are not available for self-installation. Southwest Windpower also offers a larger model called "Whisper 100". Its diameter is 51 inches, it has a rated power output of 900 watts, and costs $2,000. See http:// www.windenergy.com
for more information.
For homes on lots larger than half an acre, free-standing mini wind turbines are another option. Ranging in height from 34 to 70 feet (see photo above), they cost from $6,000 to $22,000. One model, offered by Skystream, costs $15,500 and has a rated capacity of 1.8 kW, which can provide 40-100% of a household's total energy requirements. Battery charging for home energy back-up systems is also available. Visit http://www.skystreamenergy.co
for more information.
While interest in household wind systems is high, city and county regulations, or--in some cases, a lack thereof--are holding back the distributed wind movement. According to Roy Butler of Four Winds Renewable Energy in western New York, "Planning and zoning is the single biggest obstacle to wind energy in the United States." In Texas, some communities have outlawed residential turbines due to concerns about their unsightliness, blades breaking off and being propelled into neighborhoods, hurricanes hurtling turbines, and noise (despite the fact that most small-scale wind turbines are barely audible).
Many communities are just not prepared for wind. For instance, the Bear Valley Springs community in Southern California - despite average lots sizes of 9,000 ft2 -- forbids windmills. To rectify the problem, and meet the will of the people there, the community's environmental board recently began drafting rules to enable privately owned and operated wind systems. Does wind make sense in your community? Is your City ready for new wind technologies that could be very sound energy investments?
Zoning regulations may limit height and placement of the wind turbine and special permits are often required by cities in order to place a turbine on the roof. Other communities reportedly "entangle applicants in so much red tape" that they simply give up. According to wind advocates, stand-offs between cities and green-minded homeowners are becoming more common as interest grows in residential turbines.
The mayor of Melissa, Texas presents his city as a case study: While Wal-Mart is installing a 120-foot wind turbine at its demonstration green store in neighboring McKinney, Melissa's city code does not provide for residential turbines. Rather than grant variances to individual homeowners for windmills, he would like to see eco-minded neighborhoods designed from the ground up.
Thanks to Nitelle Lau - University of California, Irvine Student & EcoMotion Intern
Ethanol's Faustian Bargain?
A warning has been sounded on the surge toward increased ethanol production and use. A researcher at Stanford University has modeled the impacts of increased use of ethanol in varying geographic locations. In some instances, the adoption of ethanol as a substitute for gasoline would increase ozone. Is this the Faustian Bargain of increased domestic fuel production? (In the legend, Faust traded his soul to the devil in exchange for knowledge.)
Ozone is a key ingredient in smog, and when inhaled even at low levels it can harm lungs, aggravate asthma and impair immune systems. Already, 5,000 Americans die prematurely each year due to ground-level ozone pollution.
The study determined that a 9% increase in ozone-related deaths would occur in Los Angeles, and a 4% increase nationally if a form of ethanol called E85 (15% gasoline) were used instead of gasoline. In the Southeast, by contrast, mortality rates would decrease slightly.
The Stamford model simulates air quality in 2020 with a focus on Los Angeles. It is the first study to combine emissions data with other variables including climate, population density, and current amounts of air pollution are affected by a variety of factors, including chemical reactions, temperatures, sunlight, clouds, wind, and precipitation.
Ethanol has been widely touted as a smart means to increase domestic fuel production that will concurrently reduce greenhouse gases. "But our results show that a high blend of ethanol poses an equal or greater risk to public health than gasoline, which already causes significant health damage," states the Stanford researcher. "The question is, if we're not getting any health benefits, then why continue to promote ethanol?"
In his January 2007 State of the Union address in January, President Bush called for annual national production of 35 billion gallons of ethanol by 2017, up from 5 billion gallons in 2006.
Green Taxis in the Big Apple
Mayor Michael Bloomberg made an exciting proclamation last week on the Today Show: The City plans to impose strict efficiency standards on the City's massive fleet of yellow cabs. All 13,000 of the City's yellow cabs will be required to be far more fuel efficient, jumping from an average of 10-15 miles per gallons to a minimum of 25 mpg in 2008 and 30 mpg in by 2009. According to the Mayor, hybrids will be used to meet these standards. A sea of yellow medallions will turn "green" in the next five years!
Fully 90% of New York City's massive cab fleet is Crown Victorias; 375 taxis are hybrids. Mayor Bloomberg announced that the City will triple its hybrid cab fleet by October 2008, then increasing the hybrid fleet by 20% per year. By 2012, New York's entire fleet will be hybrids, making it "the largest, cleanest fleet of cabs on the planet."
The new fleet will cut taxi carbon dioxide emissions by 50% -- reducing emissions by 215,000 metric tons a year while saving 22 million gallons of fuel. Each cab will save $10,000 a year in fuel costs. Greening New York's taxis is "an important and achievable step" in reaching the goals of PlaNYC, a roadmap to the Big Apple's greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2030.
The International Dark-Sky Association
Based in Tucson, Arizona, the International Dark-Sky Association has the mission to "preserve and protect the nighttime environment and our heritage of dark skies through quality outdoor lighting." The nearly 20-year old organization - made up of some 10,000 members in the United States and around the world -- reports that more than 1,000 American cities have passed some form of dark sky ordinance. More information is available on www.darksky.org
The latest city to take on the issue: Dallas, Texas. There, the Council has directed a committee to consider a proposal to darken thousands of city lights for four hours each night. The Dallas ordinance is part of a broader City effort to conserve energy and reduce power plant emissions. Dallas is also considering measures from regulating idling trucks to where it buys its cement.
The draft ordinance includes language mandating businesses citywide to switch off most of their exterior and signage lighting from 2 - 6 AM with fines up to $2,000 for not doing so. Naturally there are exemptions: security, hospital, traffic control, residential, and transportation lighting. State and federal government facilities are also exempt, as well as businesses open and operating in the early morning hours would also be exempt, according to the ordinance.
The Biggest Wind Farms in America!
1. Horse Hollow, Texas -- 736 MW 2. Cottonwood Creek, Texas -- 505 MW 3. Sweetwater, Texas -- 264 MW 4. Maple Ridge, New York -- 322 MW 5. State Line, Oregon/WA -- 300 MW 6. King Mountain, Texas -- 281 MW 7. Wild Horse, Washington -- 229 MW 8. New Mexico Wind Farm -- 204 MW 9. Big Horn, Washington -- 200 MW
For more wind energy data in the United States, see www.awea/projects/
Wind Energy Weekly presents perspective on the size of turbines now being used for the nation's largest wind farms: Cottonwood Creek has an assortment of turbines: GE Wind's 1.5-MW model; Mitsubishi's 1-MW turbine; and Siemens' 2.3-MW product. The newest turbines to come on line are 135, 1 MW Mitsubishi turbines and 46, 2.3 MW Siemens turbines.