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Wednesday, 05 August 2009 19:59

The Naturalist's Corner

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You say to-mah-to, I say to-ma-to

At least Avram and I are talking. Want to join us? If we could generate enough kilowhats, whys, hows and wherefores maybe we could get a “wind forum” section going in Smoky Mountain News.

Avram stated in his latest op-ed, “The most relevant part of Don Hendershot’s last column was his repetition of utility industry projections of a 2 percent annual growth rate in energy consumption for the next five years and beyond. If you are willing to accept the inevitability of uninterrupted growth in energy consumption in the model of utility industry projections, there is no reason to build a single windmill. Don is right. Leave the mountains alone to fade with the rest of life on earth as we gradually and graciously succumb to the pending climate turmoil and an increasingly poisoned nest.”

First, I would like to thank Avram for deciding for everyone what’s most relevant. But I’m sure if something else in the column struck you, personally, he would understand.

Second I didn’t intimate, anywhere in the column, nor do I advocate that we, “...graciously succumb to pending climate turmoil and an increasingly poisoned nest.” But I don’t believe the only two options are build wind farms on the ridge tops of Western North Carolina or “succumb.”

Noting that sales of electricity across the southeast were down between April 2008 and April 2009, Avram states, “In other words, utility industry projections have proven to be flat-out wrong.”

Of course that never happens with wind power projections. Oops, wait a minute – TVA initially projected 6 million kilowatt hours per year for their Buffalo Mountain site in east Tennessee. However their actual production form February 2003 through February 2004 was 3.96 million kilowatt hours.

The other “2 percent ” Avram discusses is, “The current estimates of wind production potential in the mountains range from 2 percent (Don’s estimate) to 11 percent (the Wind Working Group’s estimate) of the state’s electrical needs.“

Again, I would like to thank Avram – this time for crediting me as the originator of that 2 percent estimate. Of course, if you read the column you know that, that estimate came from Western North Carolina Renewable Energy Initiative’s “NC Wind Power Facts” - http://aire-nc.org/docs/Western_NC_Wind_Facts.pdf. There are a number of estimates on that page but I chose this one: “ASU [Appalachian State University] Energy center identified 768 MW in western NC after applying all exclusion zones; 50 acre minimum and within 5 miles to transmission.” because I thought this was the one that followed the guidelines of SB 1068.

I didn’t see an 11 percent total but ASU had one for 8 percent . Now the 2 percent (of NC’s electricity) total would call for somewhere around 400-450 turbines. The 8 percent total would call for, according to ASU, 2,100 turbines. So at 11 percent , you must be looking at 2,500 or more turbines.

I wonder how much area, including ingress, egress and connection to power grid, that would require.

I heartily endorse Avram’s call to dramatically reduce our energy consumption and/or the way we obtain said energy. And changing the paradigm about what energy is, what energy does and how we acquire and use energy in harmony with our surroundings is not banning the future. It’s insuring there will be a future.

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