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Who Has Seen the Wind?
by Phil Thompson

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 of America.

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 next step.

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 ice storm.

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 Martin.

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 elsewhere.
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.

Editor's Note: 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.

Read more about Phil Thompson's remote alternative housing and how he did it.
To book a seminar or contact Phil with comments, questions, email him at:

 Related Features
    Nova Scotia's New Energy Strategy will incorporate renewable energy into the mix. Have your say and read comments from other Nova Scotians. We all have a vested interest, so get involved.

 News Release: June 25, 2001. NS Power to purchase 50 megawatts of wind power from independent producers.

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All contents © 1995 - 2017 Highway7.com unless otherwise attributed
Highway7 E-zine, a publication of Hatch Media, is an electronic journal with a focus on commercial, historical, cultural and ecological issues concerning the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia in Canada. Topics include a growing resource of currently more than 300 articles. More articles and image galleries are added frequently as new material is brought to our attention. With Highway7.com, our primary aim is to serve, inform and reflect the rural communities on the Atlantic Coast of Nova Scotia, as well as to acquaint new residents, visitors, tourists, and investors with the special beauty and enormous potential of our region.
Last Change: 01-Feb-2017