Guest Columnist John Boothroyd: Turbines are not an eyesore


Published: 7/6/2021 8:05:47 AM

U.S. is an industrialized nation. Industry uses fossil fuel to do the work — freeing us to do all the things that we do. One uses electrical power directly, 25 or so kilowatt hours per day at home. Careful use of power reduces that number. However, if we look at the U.S. as end-users of the world’s consumption of power, we get megawatt-hours per day per person. The U.S. military, which defends all of us, uses 300,000 barrels of oil per day. The world uses 800 million barrels of oil per day and equal amounts of gas and coal. The U.S. GDP is one quarter of the world’s GDP, thus we are responsible for one quarter of the world’s use. This amounts to around 100 terawatt-hours per day that the average U.S. consumer is responsible for. On a per-person basis this is megawatt-hours or 1,000 times more than renewable energy people consider when talking solutions.

(Note: After World War II, we rebuilt Europe and charged them for it; in the 1950s we exported 30% more than we imported; significantly increasing GNP. Currently we import more than we export and are lowering the GNP. Ample fossil fuel energy easily accessed was and is being used.)

Despite all the effort in renewable energy, we continue to consume more and more fossil fuel. Those in the renewable energy solution business are optimistic and only look at the direct use of fuel. When we look at total use, the issue is many orders of magnitude worse than the renewable energy proponents would have us believe. For various reasons we need a way to store energy from renewables and use it as needed. Hydrogen at thousands of watts per kilogram vs. ion lithium batteries at hundreds of watts per kilogram is one way to do it. We need to be able to continuously rebuild the entire infrastructure using excess energy.

We need to dedicate 5% of the land in the U.S for solar-powered hydrogen generation. We need to commit to a million wind turbines also making hydrogen. Infrastructure would distribute hydrogen in lieu of fossil fuels. Some would be converted at a great loss back into electricity; these are on demand and run all the time. We need to stockpile a few years worth of hydrogen for times when the sun is obscured by cataclysmic natural events we cannot control or predict. Hydrogen production and renewable energy infrastructure needs to be much more reliable, durable and maintainable than what is currently being built. It should be all manufactured in the U.S. and be government-owned. It’s an expensive proposition and we can’t afford all the free market expense. Nuclear power could be used to reduce the requirements; however, it is currently also a limited resource.

Turbines are not a eyesore. Ideally, most of this effort should be taking place in the desert, mountaintops and salt flats. Where icing is a concern, turbines and solar are not compatible for shared land use. Forested land and farmland could have turbines installed with minimal impact. Solar uses so much land that it is detrimental to the land’s ability to collect and store carbon and therefore shouldn’t be used in lieu of farmland or forests. Eighty percent of the U.S. population lives on 2% of the land. Five percent of the land is no small number; however the U.S. has a lot of uninhabitable, inhospitable land that solar could improve and use. Flood the market with hydrogen and start converting everything over. It doesn’t get any cleaner than hydrogen fuel. Burn it and you get water. What are we waiting for? Around here we should be seeing turbines and hydrogen production plants on the mountaintops.

Are we ready to make a commitment to our children’s future and wealth? Let’s legislate that turbines are not a eyesore rather than legislate use of precious forests and swampland.

John Boothroyd lives in Amherst.

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