Out of Thin Air

I am really astounded by the public's apparent ignorance about "wind energy".  We all experience sunshine and wind but few of us bother to examine the "quality" of that sunshine and wind.  Obviously wind turbines only spin and generate electricity when the wind is blowing.  Accordingly, solar panels only generate electricity when the sun is shining on them.  In order for these technologies to be economically viable you have to have a lot of wind and/or a lot of sunshine.

Wind energy works best in areas with a lot of sustained wind usually blowing from one prevailing direction.  Here in the mountains of New Mexico we certainly get wind, but it is seldom sustained wind of significant velocity and it often changes direction.  We're far better suited for solar power than wind turbines.  The truth is, there may be a number of areas around the country that experience frequent, sustained wind from one prevailing direction, but not all are suitable for large, unsightly wind turbines.

I lived in Amarillo, Texas for over 10 years.  I can't imagine anywhere better suited for large wind turbines than West Texas.  The wind is so predominately from the southwest that all the trees grow leaning to the northeast (after you live there a few years you don't even notice it).  The wind blows all the time.  I remember there being very few days without incessant wind.  Except for the majestic canyons (most of which are located on private land), the vast expanse of west Texas is unbelievably flat and is almost always windswept.  This is perfect terrain for the T. Boone Pickens plan for wind farms.  There is "high quality" wind there.  It's nearly constant and almost always from one general direction.  Further, a huge tower and wind turbine is not particularly aesthetically displeasing.  You're not blocking anyone's view of anything except more flat, featureless landscape. 

The problem is that these things cost something like a million dollars each and every spring they experience another weather anomaly in that region -- tornados.  Over the next few years I anticipate there being a number of million dollar losses of wind turbines due to weather.

I certainly would not want a huge wind turbine (many times the size of a pump jack) blocking my view of the Sandia and Jemez mountains.  Large wind farms are only effective in certain locations and if those locations happen to have nice scenery around them, you can expect tremendous resistance to them. 

The great promise of wind energy currently depends on huge government subsidy.  As soon as the subsidy dries up, these great twirling giants will suddenly look pretty stupid when they are no longer cost-effective to build and maintain.

Further, once these wind farms clutter up a skyline, more and more people will lose interest.  Solar power is even more inefficient except in a very few locations.  Even in the best locations solar arrays require a lot of real estate and unless built on top of an existing structure, they destroy or certainly change the ecosystem beneath them.

Wind energy is limited to rather specific geographic locations and certain prevailing weather patterns.  Right now it is utterly dependent upon government subsidy for economic viability. There is a wealth of information available online to show where solar and wind are potentially viable options and where they are most likely not good options.  Most of the land mass of the United States is, for any one of a number of reasons, not well suited for these technologies on a large scale.

Only a fool would believe that government subsidy will create thousands of sustainable long-term jobs and significantly supplement our future energy needs out of thin air.