Editorial: Gateway to wind energy’s future
Op-Ed · September 21, 2012

Congratulations to Acciona Windpower for finishing its first 3-megawatt turbine at its West Branch plant.

The technology is not new, but Acciona is using West Branch as its gateway to bringing this larger, clean-energy product to the North American market. Acciona’s 3MW turbines are already used in Europe, which is where the second of the two Pioneer Grove turbines came from for the 6MW wind farm going up in Mechanicsville on Steve Weets’ farm.

It is important to note that the turbines are capable of producing the full 3MW of electricity. Yet they can only produce as much as the wind provides. The company figured out that their 400-foot 1.5MW models operate at 33 percent capacity, and by that can power about 430 households.

That knowledge is part of what helped develop the 550-foot 3MW model. Taller than the 1.5MW model by 150 feet, the blades can now reach into those higher winds, where there are fewer trees and buildings and hills to inhibit wind velocity. Winds that high are stronger and faster and more capable of making those blades spin faster, and longer. And because of their extra height, the 3MW models can be built in topographies unsuitable for the 1.5MW model.

But there are other winds that blow that may effect those turbines — political and economic. Washington continues to stall the production tax credit that makes wind power — and other alternative energy sources — more competitive.

A recent study concluded that wind energy could power the entire world. But a lot must be done to get to that point.

Oil, gas and coal provide energy for a majority of the planet. While some vilify oil and gas for its carbon emissions, we realize that these energy sources help most of us get to work, turn on our lights and build the cell phones we think we cannot live without. We are thankful for these three because they are buying us time.

Energy, once produced, must be used immediately. And while coal, gas and oil can be stored, wind cannot. So the more we pump wind to the grid, the more we can cut back on coal, oil and gas. However, there will come a time when oil’s and coal’s ability to create carbon emissions will end because they are utterly depleted. We won’t be worrying about our carbon footprint in an energy shortage of that kind.

Where will we get our energy then?

Hopefully, Acciona, as well as other wind energy companies, will have helped build an extensive network of wind farms for utility companies around the world.

These 3MW turbines are the next step.

And West Branch should be proud to be part of energy’s future.

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