Monday, August 01, 2005

John Deere Moving into Wind Power

San Gorgonio (CA) Windfarm
sustainablog reveals farm staple John Deere Moving into Wind Power:
"It's a rapidly growing area of interest for farmers to harvest wind instead of the traditional soybeans or corn," Ken Golden, Deere spokesman, said in announcing the new venture Thursday.

He said the latest trend is to put up one or two turbines a year so they eventually can sell the energy the units produce.

"It helps the rural economy. For the farmer, it can be a steady income," Golden said.

Moline, Ill.-based Deere already has invested $8 million in this year in rural wind projects. Golden said the company has created a new business unit to oversee its investment in wind harvesting and plans to be an equity partner in several projects.
In other news, In Search of a New Energy Source, China Rides the Wind - New York Times:
Blessed with vast, empty countryside and a seemingly permanent stiff breeze blowing across the steppes, the buzz of transformers is growing steadily louder in this far northern province as investors pour money into the wind farm. It is already huge, and may soon be getting much larger.

"Today we're producing 68 megawatts, but by 2008, we'll generate at least 400 megawatts," boasted Li Yilun, the director of the Huitengxile power plant. "By then, we will be the biggest wind farm in all of Asia."

China's skyrocketing energy needs have recently grabbed the world's attention through its bold efforts to take over foreign oil companies like the American oil independent Unocal. It has also made big investments in petroleum production in countries as far-flung as Sudan and Venezuela. But at home, with petroleum growing scarce, coal choking the air of major cities and coal mining killing 6,009 people last year, the Chinese government is moving just as aggressively to develop alternative energy supplies.
Long time readers know that I'm a windfarm nerd and a space nerd, which is why I love this picture of the San Gorgonio Pass windfarm in California (via NASA's EarthObservatory).

Right now there's just one large windfarm in Kansas, but that's changing. There's another one being built right now, and plans are in the works to build one in the Flint Hills, and more in western Kansas.

The problem is that wind turbines are ugly. At 50 meters above the ground, they dominate the landscape, especially in treeless Kansas prairies.

I've waxed poetic about the Flint Hills before, so I appreciate the concerns of environmental groups and local residents. When you get out into the Flint Hills, you feel like you've stepped back in time, and a big old wind turbine would spoil the mood.

But that's also the area with the best potential for wind production. What to do, what to do?

Here's my proposal. Establish a "visual preserve" around the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve. Forbid anything from interfering with the natural view within sight of the Preserve and some reasonable range around it. Outside that area, let windfarms prosper. The park already establishes an historical setting, and preserving the historical accuracy provides a convenient anchor. Other historical sites in the area could receive similar protection.

Flint Hills residents bitched and moaned when the park was being established, and even managed to spike the first site chosen for it. Would a system like this change people's minds? Probably not, but maybe.

Right now, the Chase County commission is working up zoning rules for the wind farms. When they'll finish, no one seems to know.