Thoughts on a Windy Sunday

It is a beautifully clear windy day today in Cambridge.  It’s going to make the Patriots game interesting as the ball may make some unexpected moves.

My wife and I were returning home from a trip to Barnes and Noble.  As we reached the top of the hill on route 2 you can clearly see Boston.  There, in the direction of the old Boston Edison smoke stacks, was a large wind turbine that I had  not noticed before.  I remarked to my wife how such things are going to be an integral part of our future.

New England is hard pressed for renewable energy sources outside of the wind.  Our rivers are not conducive to building hydro-electric dams on them and we have zero capability for any geo-thermal generation.

In the 1930s the U.S. did a great job of harnessing our rivers for the production of electricity.  I’m certain we still have the ability to expand in that category.  But we also have the ability to expand in the geo-thermal category to a far greater extent that we do now.   In the states of Alaska, Hawaii, Washington, Oregon, California, and Wyoming there are huge pools of untapped geo-thermal energy.  Creating energy from such a source requires the existence of magma close to the surface of the earth and a large water source.  Only in Hawaii is the water source most problematic.  Conversely, Wyoming may have the greatest potential of any state.  Yellowstone National Park is the site of the largest caldera in the world.  Some scientists refer to it as a super volcano.

The challenge in Wyoming comes down to two basic things, its remoteness and the building of a generating plant in a protected wilderness along with the necessary transmission lines.  Each of these can be overcome with a combination of inventiveness and the public’s willingness to accept that we need such solutions now.

The best example of the use  of geo-thermal energy is in Iceland.  Iceland is a natural with its many volcanoes and large glaciers.  But it must be remembered that initially Iceland had to make a large commitment to  building such facilities.  Today, 100% of Iceland’s electricity is generated by geothermal sources.  The next three largest, in order, are the Philippines, Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Mexico.

It is time the government and people of the U.S. accept the fact that using oil, gas, and coal for the generation of electricity needs to be on the decline.  From a purely pragmatic point of view, it only makes sense that our future demands for electricity come from water, wind, heat, and solar radiation.  All are things that require no transportation and very little, if any, transformation into usable sources.


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