Monday, August 26, 2013

Outside of our regular scheduled programming

From time to time we drive from the first Vancouver to Pasco and back, a little over four hours each way. At least 90% of the trip is spent alongside the Columbia River. Over the past few years we have noted the erection of hundreds of bright, white windmills on both sides of the Columbia. I like watching the blades turn. I like their graceful shapes the same way I like many bridges. I see in them a poetry of engineering. I like that the rental of the pads they stand on give another income stream to beleaguered wheat farmers and ranchers.
But despite all that poetry and help for farmers, I still hate those wind turbines. Why? They kill birds. They whack hawks and eagles and owls, the predators that allow a wheat harvest to be made. They whack the insect-eaters and songbirds. They kill bats. The turning blades produce an alternating pressure pattern that shreds the tender lungs of bats.
Another reason that I dislike the wind turbines along the Columbia is that they make absolutely no economic sense me. The windmills cannot possibly provide enough electricity to pay for the mining and refining of the minerals in them, the transportation of the minerals, the making of the parts, the transportation of the parts, the assembly of the parts to make electricity that run part-time.
And maintenance has to be nightmare. The turbines are scattered along hundreds of miles of access roads in a land of tiny cities few and far, far between. On the east coast of the US there is at least a village every ten miles on any road. Not so here. Where are the maintenance workers housed? How much driving must be done to reach any one turbine?
The Grand Coulee Dam, the John Day Dam, The Dalles Dam and all the other dams on the Columbia (that have blessed us with cheap electricity, flood control, and the water for the irrigation of the former sagebrush desert of eastern Washington and Oregon) have all their turbines clustered in easy access places. They have relatively simple designs and relatively few moving parts.
The more moving parts there are in any machine, the more parts there are to break.
These wind turbines are ALL moving parts. What isn't moving is straining against the movement to hold the windmill in place.
I look at these beautiful windmills and I see metal fatigue and toxic motor chemicals multiplied by hundreds with no reason for the turbines not to break down, catch fire, or fall down.
I do not think the making of jobs to maintain these machines is worth the steep increase in the price of electricity and the ecological cost.
We need massively oversighted nuclear power plants.

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