Howard C. Hayden, Professor Emeritus of Physics, University of Connecticut
In Cervantes’ comical Don Quijote de la Mancha, the most famous escapade of our hero was his attack on a windmill that he mistook for a sword-wielding giant. Modern armchair engineers with equal wisdom mistake windmills for giant free-energy machines.
Even without detailed knowledge of wind turbine design, the intelligent reader should be slightly suspicious about the current pro-windmill exuberance in newspaper articles such as that by Michael Booth, 1/07/01 (“Energy Solution: Blowin’ in the Wind? Xcel seems reluctant to invest in cost-competitive power”). After all, since wind energy schemes have a thousand-year head start, there must be some reason or reasons why wind makes so little contribution to our energy picture.
Similarly, it does not take a Ph.D. in economics to know that utilities have been spending enormous amounts of money for coal or natural gas to produce electricity. Any red-blooded capitalist would jump at the chance to produce “free” electricity, thereby to increase profits. But utilities haven’t fallen in love with wind turbines, so there must be some reasons.
In recent years, the little country Denmark has gained a certain amount of fame with its wind turbines. No, they don’t get much electricity from them. They sell them to suckers.
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