| Who Has Seen the Wind?
Wind is just air. But it's moving. Invisible except for the results.
|"My own little wind generator, the
Wind Baron 750 Marine, cost $1400 in 1994. Since then it has
provided more power than I could possibly use."
Put your hand out the window of a car at 50 km/hr.
Now wind feels more like the dense fluid it is. You can't see it....but
it's there. And it's heavy. Nearly 15 lbs per square inch on your
skin.. But you can't feel the pressure because the same pressure
exists inside you to balance the load.
So what happens when heavy air moves quickly? There's
so much force that huge ships built in Nova Scotia sailed the oceans
of the world with just the wind to push them. So much power that
whole forests are flattened and buildings destroyed by the strength
of this dense invisible fluid.
Where does the energy in wind come from?
The sun... differentially heating the surface of
the earth....yesterday or even today.
Where does the energy for your car come from?
The sun....100 million years ago. And this solar
powered air movement is now producing more net power than new nuclear
power plants, as wind turbines throughout the world generate clean,
renewable energy for a pollution troubled Earth.
Why wait a 100 million years? So how much power
is there in wind? The book Perfect Storm says a full hurricane contains
the energy of all the nuclear weapons on Earth being detonated at
once.A major lightning storm unleashes, in
just a few hours, the annual electrical needs of the United States
I'm a coastal sailor who has often made the 25 mile
trip from Petpeswick Inlet to Halifax Harbour in a Tanzer 22 equipped
with a Honda 8 hp motor. It's 80 miles return from my island to
the Bedford Basin Yacht Club. I'd usually have to motor part of
the way. But after leaving with 3 gallons of gas...there'd always
be a gallon left when I got back home...most local power boats can't
even carry enough gas to get to Halifax Harbour.
So the wind can be useful for reducing greenhouse
gas emissions. My own little wind generator, the Wind Baron 750
Marine, cost $1400 in 1994. Since then it has provided more power
than I could possibly use. When the batteries are full, which is
often the case between Fall and Spring, the controls dump power
to a 300W electric heater. This has reduced the number of trees
I have had to cut, drag, and split in order to heat my island home.
I'll be fifty this year. Cutting fewer trees is
a good thing. The Wind Baron has also survived two direct hits from
hurricanes by going into it's 'helicopter 'position and continuing
to generate far more power than I needed.
So I know, from personal experience, that wind energy
works to eliminate, or at least reduce, the climate change emissions
of fossil fuels. And I know the time is right for us to take the
Get it on the grid.
We have more than ten times the energy we need in
Nova Scotia in our off-shore winds. As a former fisheries observer
who experienced major storms at sea, I'm not too sure about building
off-shore wind rigs to harness this power.
But I am sure that we have the will, the available
investment capital, and the window provided by natural gas, to make
a gradual transition to a wind and solar driven economy.
We could start by shutting down Lingan....our infamous
coal fired generator that recently made the top ten worst polluter
list in Canada, and responded by dumping heavy oil on the lobster
fishery, it could be replaced with an equal amount of power provided
by Renewable Energy.
W.D. Lawrence once said, "Nova Scotia must keep
her back to Canada and her eyes on the world" We can turn our backs
to fossil fuels and keep our eyes on the wind.
But how to we make this transition to a new technology?
Our environment is challenging. Sometimes extreme.
This plays havoc with all new technologies, as does the complex
inter relationship between utilities, governments, communities,
and private businesses. Between money and people.
Such complexity can lead to communication problems,
and turf wars, which delay introduction of new technologies, and
this is certainly the case with wind power in Nova Scotia. This
delay, however, has had a benefit for us. Wind generation is now
a mature, turn-key global business and we can purchase reliable
equipment which has a track record of 10 to 20 years. And we can
manufacture and buy it here in Nova Scotia.
People increasingly prefer environmentally friendly
renewable energy alternatives. It was the main focus of the energy
strategy session held in Halifax June 5th.
Utility engineers, on the other hand, are a cautious
lot. They have a professional responsibility to provide continuous
power in a climate which depends on power generation to preserve
life, not just provide luxury. In Nova Scotia we depend mostly on
coal-fired production which has been proven, despite emission problems
and high fuel costs, to keep working through anything short of an
Some people wonder, however, if indeed our recent
ice storms have been caused by our emission problems.
Despite this, I predict we will continue to use
the Point Aconi power station, and that within five years coal prices
will be so high private interests will buy the coal mines in Cape
Breton and get them working again. As long as emission reduction
technologies are used, I don't have a problem with using local resource.
I do wonder about importing foreign coal while we're laying off
our own miners. To do a full environmental cost accounting, you
have to factor in pollution costs of shipping coal from far away
lands to power our local power stations. With apologies to Paul
So what will wind energy contribute to our grid?
1/Intermittant baseload and peak load free energy.
2/Non-polluting energy generation...except for noise. 3/Secure energy
source for fuel emergencies
4/ New technology and manufacturing opportunities.
5/ Fredom to export more natural gas for US dollars.
What do we need to get it working?
1/ A percentage of our capital invested here not
2/ Proven equipment, professionally sized and installed. 3/ A level
playing field for independent power producers.
4/ An end to subsidies for oil & gas.
5/ Full utility commitment and cooperation.
Will we make this transition? We have to.
I believe we will. I've been working on it for nearly thirty years.
And I've certainly made it myself.
But will you?
The answer, my friend, is still blowing in the wind.
The answer is blowing in the wind....
But the times, they are a changing.
Phil Thompson is an active voice for renewable energy in Nova
Scotia. He and his wife live a low-cost but comfortable lifestyle
on the Eastern Shore's Saltmarsh Island, independent of NS Power,
MTT and mortgage payments.
more about Phil Thompson's remote alternative housing
and how he did it.
To book a seminar or contact Phil with comments, questions, email