Figures 3 and 4. Vertical Axis and Home Wind Turbine Configurations.
Sources: http://www.symscape.com/files/images/flowind_darrieus.img_assist_custom.jpg, and http://techlime.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/04/home-wind-turbines.jpg.
Current and Future Trends in Wind Power Applications.
While the foregoing wind power initiatives would indicate that wind farms are already contributing a large percentage of the nation's energy needs, the research shows that this is far from the case. In this regard, the current total respective renewable energy consumption rates based on source in the United States are shown in Table 1 and Figure 3 below.
Respective Sources of U.S. Renewable Energy Consumption, 2004.
Source: Tenenbaum at 751.
Figure 3. Respective Percentage of U.S. Renewable Energy Consumption, 2004.
Source: Based on tabular data in Tenebaum at p. 751.
Notwithstanding the relatively small contribution represented by wind power shown in Figure 3 above, this percentage amount represents a quantum increase in the use of wind power over just a few years ago, and all signs indicate these trends will continue to accelerate in the future. For example, Motavilli (2005) enthuses that, "Wind energy is zero-emissions energy, a renewable resource that is one of our last, best hopes for staving off devastating climate change. Wind energy has grown 28% annually over the last five years, and the so-called 'installed capacity' (the generating power of working wind turbines) doubles every three years: It is the fastest-growing energy source in the world. Some 6,000 megawatts of wind capacity -- enough to power 1.5 million homes -- are added annually" (26).
As a result, some states that are particularly well suited for wind farm installations are becoming veritable hotbeds of wind technology development, research and innovation today. For instance, "Titan" (previously known as Rolling Thunder)," a wind power project situated in South Dakota near the Iowa border, built in 2006, is capable of generating 3,000 megawatts, a capacity that makes it 500% larger than any previous wind farm and one of the largest global energy development projects today (Motavalli). This author adds that, "At the same time, the federal Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) says it will buy 830 megawatts of wind power from seven plants -- five to be built in Washington and two in Oregon. Already the nation's biggest supplier of hydroelectric power, BPA will be the largest wind energy supplier" (Motavilli 27).
While a number of constraints exist concerning the use of wind power, it would appear that it is reasonable to assert that current trends indicate that wind farms will continue to be installed at an increasing rate across the country and around the world during a period in history characterized by growing demand and dwindling fossil fuel sources. This assertion is supported by Motavilli's observation that, "The pieces are in place for a massive expansion of wind resources worldwide at a time when concern about oil supply and location is proving to be massively troubling. All the signs are positive, but will wind power achieve its true potential? The answer, of course, is blowing in the wind" (Motavilli 27). Finally, an empirical Google search of terms related to wind power suggests that interest in this alternative energy source is truly enormous. For example, an informal search for "wind farms" resulted in more than 1,650,000 matches, a search for "wind turbines resulted in 3,450,000 and a search for "wind power" provided a whopping 6,700,000 matches.
The research showed that it is apparent that the general public is aware of wind power technology and wants to know more about it. Policymakers and researchers alike as well as scurrying to identify the best way to use these technologies to help wean the country off of its fossil fuel diet, and wind power appears to be sufficiently well developed to provide commercially viable alternatives for fossil fuel sources. Because such initiatives represent a way to improve the nation's security by reducing its reliance on foreign supplies that can be disrupted in unexpected ways, wind power and other alternative energy sources have also received much attention from the federal government in recent years, and it would appear reasonable to conclude that wind power will continue to improve in efficiency and the costs associated with its installation and use will also continue to decline as innovations are introduced and economies of scale are realized. Nevertheless, some of the constraints with wind power in particular make it a challenging alternative energy source, and it remains unclear what long-term environmental consequences may be associated with its use. Questions also remain concerning whether the public will be willing to accept these enormous installations in their backyards, and as one of the authors above cautioned, "The wind blows as it will."
American consumers who live in regions of the country where the wind blows regularly should run not walk to their nearest home wind turbine supplier and take advantage of this technology today. There are a number of advantages to the installation of these units, including tax credits and the ability to sell any electricity generated to the power company at going rates while reducing or eliminating the homeowner's electric costs. This is a clearly a win-win operation.
Policymakers at all levels should continue to support research into wind power and how it can best supplement the energy needs of a fossil fuel-hungry country that is going to be required to compete for increasingly scarce supplies of the dwindling supplies that remain available for commercial exploitation.
Identify those aspects of wind farm installations that are most objectionable and concentrate research into how best to overcome these NIMBY concerns to make these technologies more socially acceptable in otherwise-appropriate regions of the country.
Brown, Marilyn a., Benjamin K. Sovacool and Richard F. Hirsh. (2006). "Assessing U.S. Energy Policy." Daedalus 135(3): 5.
Gray, Richard. (2008, October 26). "Wind Farms May Pose Risk to Shipping." Telegraph.co.UK. [Online]. Available: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/3258362/Wind-farms-may-pose-risk-to-shipping.html.
Hansen, Lena M. (2005). "Can Wind Be a 'Firm' Resource? A North Carolina Case Study." Duke Environmental Law & Policy Forum 15(2): 341-342.
Keley, Lisa a. (2007). "The Power of the Sea: Using Ocean Energy to Meet Florida's Need for Power." Environmental Law 37(2): 489-490.