McGill, Ohio

energy

I spent a few hours in McGill, Ohio yesterday talking to people about windmills. Regular people. Who just happen to live under windmills.

You know, not one of them could tell me how much electricity one of the towers they lived under produced? None of them had any idea. They knew that each blade was the size of a school bus.

They cause traffic, they kill birds, you can feel the hum of them–even indoors the air shimmers and flattens a little with it. Everyone was mostly happy with the money. They’re all owned by big foreign corporations, and that’s frustrating of course, big foreign corporations being nothing to tilt at.

BUT aren’t they beautiful! Like prayer wheels to aliens, who probably wonder what in the world besides religion they could possibly be for, spinning so ponderously as they do. With their brakes on, in the high wind.

Stand underneath of one and look up and watch it swing down towards you, they said. That is something, they said. They weren’t wrong.

I am not the last in the pack, but I’m definitely somewhere close to the back of the pack of people who would discourage an effort* to procur energy cleanly. On the other hand, I do like to be one of the first in the pack to point out dogs that don’t bark.

Two such dogs were clearly not in evidence [lol] under those windmills.

Dog1: If this is the technology that is going to save future generations, why isn’t anyone saying so? If I knew how to make a giant piece of steel was going to save the world from drowning, just by spinning there so gracefully with no help but my occasioning mowing around it, like I already do my crepe myrtle, I would never shut up about it. I would build an earthbound windmill out of 15,000 Rockettes and sweep the nation with it. Children would be born already knowing how much electricity my windmills produced.

But instead, no one knew. People who had signed papers with the electricity producers and host them in their backyards had no idea what the actual environmental impact was. I guess it just never came up?

Or, could it be . . . that . . . especially for the money . . . they don’t work that well?

(Ok, most people don’t host them in their actual backyards, but their discontiguous spare land, which was actually someone else’s backyard. Isn’t that a neat solution to a classic problem?)

Dog2: You’ve seen how people who are making money act, right? You know, that special intensity that appears in human behavior when there is serious money to be made? A sort of scrabbling greed, a lot of furious activity behind closed doors, kind of thing? They tore up the northeast with it, sucking gas out of the ground as fast as they could. Trucks in and out all day, combovers with blazing pens from here to the horizon. Because electricity is expensive and massively profitable, and you have to get it before someone else does, whether it’s bubbling slurry or land rights.

As far as I could tell, wind has none of this. I mean, a lot of those spinners are often OFF? Just as a quick comparison, do you know what happens when oil wells stop pumping? Haha, yes, we depose governments, very clever of you to say so, but I meant oil wells here in the States.

We drop men in frog suits out of helicopters into the freaking ocean to start those babies up again, that’s what we do! Because that oil well is making us money . . . not just by HAVING BEEN DRILLED THERE, but by making oil.

I mean, releasing it.

So I’m calling Monorail. On the whole giant windmill operation.

If it turns out that no one minds whether windmills are functioning or not because the people investing in wind energy are just . . . better people than anyone else who has ever tried to make money off of energy, with a disdain for worldly concerns and an extra-extra-long view, I will personally lead a solar-powered four-wheeler parade for them, right through McGill and around each and every stunningly elegant prayer wheel, off or on.

Wait, or maybe not–because in that case, aren’t their moral altitude and lack-of-concern-for-profit keeping clean power off the grid? In which case I guess the appropriate response would be a … I don’t know what. But I don’t much care for people with that much power whose disdain of worldly concerns extends so far as to include actually saving my planet.

A field of two hundred or so 328-foot towers is not an experiment fostering the growth of an industry. It’s a huge setback for clean energy, unless it works. If your technology isn’t good enough to even make you money, get the heck out of here with it. Make room for someone whose technology is, and leave me the birds and the bees.

OR, if the technology is that good, it had better hurry up, shed its inferiority complex, and start making that serious money. My Reese’s Peanut cups melted in the car yesterday, and I was in Ohio in February. (It sucked; I really wanted one.)

Meanwhile, the wind was tearing parts off of skyscrapers in nearby Chicago. Gusts in McGill were up to 50 mph. One almost knocked me down when I tried to get out of my car, to talk to these people.

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Note: The Global Wind Energy Council says that an onshore wind turbine with a capacity of 2.5 MW can produce more than 6 million kWh in a year – enough to supply 1,500 average EU households with electricity. I was told that the windmills I saw had 1GW generators.

I think they have to be on though. Yes, the Council (I have no idea who these people are, so read carefully and enjoy: the page title was “Wind turbines are less efficient than other energy sources”) goes on to say that a modern wind turbine typically generates 15-30% (or more) of its theoretical maximum output over the course of a year.

Each of the windmills I saw, I read in the local paper, costs about $2 million and can supply enough energy to power 500 typical Ohio homes. Which means each maybe supplies maybe enough energy to maybe power 15% of maybe 500 “typical” Ohio homes. Is that good?

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This little guy, by the way, besides being adorable, and Chinese, claims 87% efficiency. This is compared with 42%-60% efficiency numbers I saw for the giant turbines installed in McGill. He probably costs less than $2 million. I would put him in a cage though, so he can be closer to people without worrying about his blades coming of. This did happen, once, with a McGill turbine, but no one was injured.

He is very cute. I am going to name him Momo. Spin, Momo, spin! Make me money!

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I hope you enjoyed this exercise in some different kinds of evidential reasoning as much as I enjoyed writing it. Now please go save the planet with your brains before we all die.

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*Negation triple Salchow! Good for your mind.

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