Tuesday, May 10, 2005

The Wind that Blows

BoingBoing points to a story about the Spanish Wind boom:
Over the past decade, 500 wind machines have sprouted around the little hamlet, which lies 15 miles (25km) from Zaragoza. Once a forgotten village in one of Spain's poorest regions, La Muela has become a capital of wind-assisted energy production. And the windmills have not only transformed the landscape. From the moment the first blades began to whir, the good times for La Muela's 3,000 inhabitants began to roll.

Each year, the giant electricity companies that run the windmills pay about L1m (E600,000) to La Muela's local council in royalties and land rents, and another E500,000 to private landowners, who receive E2,000 or E3,000 annually per windmill, according to their power. Most turbines generate between 600 and 800kw per hour but some as tall as 24-storey skyscrapers produce 2,000kw/h.

After knowing only hardship for generations, La Muela's residents have stumbled on a windfall that has changed their lives. The fierce north wind that gives La Muela its Siberian winters has also made its fortune.

Anyone who knows Kansas feels a certain sympathy with a rural region plagued by constant wind. The Kansa indians were "the People of the South Wind." I'm optimistic about wind power in Kansas. The goal should be electrical independence in 20 years, and entirely achievable goal. If 5% of the state had windfarms on it, we'd generate 30 times the power we consume.

That would be genuine innovation. That would attract business, especially manufacturing. Cheap electricity is key to all sorts of industry, and cheap, green energy is good for some positive buzz. It would also revitalize the rural areas by creating a new revenue stream to landowners, and making it cheaper for farmers to work the land.

Instead, Kansas spends its time and money on a carnival sideshow.