The Limitations of Wind-Generated Power

The editorial "The Windmills Are Coming - Still," March 29, concludes by saying, " ... wind power promises to rid much of our planet of what some call the tyranny of the atom." What tyranny? Those who would say such a thing might also say that a nuclear power plant is indistinguishable from a nuclear bomb.

We should examine the excellent safety record of America's nuclear-electric industry. Look past the hype about Chernobyl (a Soviet disaster proportional to all the other environmental disasters east of the Iron Curtain) and Three Mile Island (no deaths or serious injuries despite being the major American nuclear accident). Many wind-power advocates try to sell it as an alternative to energy sources they don't like, while ignoring unattractive costs like industrial accidents, environmental clutter, and bi rd kills. Wind power is not without appeal, but neither is it a free lunch. John Dendahl, Santa Fe, N.M.

There are two locations in California where wind and solar power are notably adaptable. One of them, the Altamont Pass, mentioned in the editorial, contributes significantly to local requirements. The increase in wind velocity off the Pacific Coast is so predictable that you can almost set your watch by it, and it comes just when the regions served by the windmills need the output.

Few other areas are so favored by such a match of availability and demand, however. In the Northwest, peak demand occurs in the coldest winter months when, typically, winds die down or are erratic and the sun is farthest from the earth. The best sites for both wind and solar generation in the Northwest are hundreds of miles from the population centers that need the output.

But the biggest strike against "renewables" is unreliability. Neither wind nor solar power can be relied on under the least favorable conditions. Renewable-generated capacity must be backed up by something that can produce firm power such as oil, gas, coal, or nuclear.

I am waiting for dependable wind-generated power to bloom, but I will not consider it to be in full bloom as long as I have to continue to pay for California's electricity through my taxes, and as long as every megawatt of wind-generating capacity has to have something else in reserve to take over when the wind doesn't blow. Earl E. Eigabroadt, Port Orchard, Wash.

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