Editors Blog

Turbine Troubles

August 3, 2010
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Readers of this blog know that from time to time I have been writing about wind turbines as an alternative source of energy – particularly about the pros and cons of such technology. I’ve been particularly aware of the topic because of a proposal to build a large number of such turbines in the Southwest corner of the county where I live. I live in the Northeast corner, pretty far from the site, but not far at all from the hues and cries as published in local media.

The project is called Whispering Prairie, by the way.

I’ve kind of come to a conclusion that I can take no position pro or con when it comes to these alternative energy projects, simply because there are pluses and minuses in any such endeavor. Wind turbines can indeed produce energy off the electrical grid and that is a good thing, but they can do so with clacking/clicking noises, issues with migratory birds, and aesthetic question from those who think the towers disrupt natural beauty.

And turbines are mechanical pieces of constructed equipment. That means that they are susceptible to mechanical problems and failures. A few weeks ago, someone e-mailed about a dozen photos under the heading “wind turbine failures, including some pretty dramatic photos involving smoke and fire. He insisted these are real images – not photo-shopped. I thought about having some published, then decided against it. The point here is not to focus on the kinds of failure that are possible, but to the fact that such problems can happen.

The point I am making is whenever considering ways to create energy efficiency, ways to do something different, or ways to create comfort, look at the pros and cons of each approach. Don’t rely solely on the sales pitch of the seller of the technology. Ask questions, understand how it works, what it costs upfront and down the road, and take all safety precautions possible.
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