ACHRNEWS

Musing on the Windy State and Alternative Energy

May 4, 2011

There’s a lot of talk about energy efficiency in the HVAC industry, but not as much talk about energy sources. Perhaps that’s because this is the business of using energy to achieve comfort, and it’s easier to leave the worrying about the source of that energy to someone else.

I recently had the opportunity to make a 3,500-mile roundtrip drive to Idaho from Detroit. We drove across Michigan and a small corner of Indiana, and then all the way through Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, and Wyoming. (We also swung down to Utah and got in one good day of skiing while we were out West.)

Although I’ve made this trek many times before, it had been at least eight years since I’d gone by car. Along the way, I noticed a lot more wind turbines than I ever remembered seeing before.

In the Midwest, there aren’t any wind turbines visible along I-80. The terrain is mostly flat, and (luckily for us) the weather was calm. But as soon as we entered Wyoming, I started seeing huge sections of land covered by the tall, sleek white turbines. And I started to feel the wind’s pressure on the van, which was made a little less stable by a large car-top carrier. There were even a few flashing signs along the way, warning us to lower our speed due to the high winds.

When you’re in Wyoming being whipped around by the wind, it makes sense to try to harness and use that power. So sometimes when I hear predictions about how alternative energy will save us in the future, I think about Wyoming.

But the other thing I think about is how far away Wyoming is from most of the United States’ population. Wyoming, in fact, has the smallest population of the 50 states, and, in fact, less people than Washington, D.C. It’s hard for me to imagine how Wyoming’s wind could ever be harnessed, stored, and transported all the way to the places most in need of energy.