03 September 2008

The Answer is Blowin' in the Wind

Spanish Fork Windmills by Dan McLean

The State of Utah has its first commercial wind farm and it is located at the mouth of Spanish Fork Canyon, one of the windiest areas in Utah. While an undergraduate student, I framed homes for a summer and one of those homes was in Spanish Fork. We started at 7am each day and, as I recall, it took all my strength to maneuver a single 4’x8’ sheet of plywood through the wind and into place on the framing. Apparently the strongest wind usually blows through the canyon from about 11pm to 10am. I drove through the canyon this past July and was blown away by the size of the nine windmills which will be up and running by September. Each windmill contains a 2.1-megawatt turbine that is expected to produce enough electricity to power 600 homes. There are nine windmills in the canyon for a total of 18.9 megawatts. (source)

The children at nearby Spanish Oaks Elementary School report that each windmill blade is 147 feet long, with the total diameter at 350 feet. Additionally, the tips will travel at 170 mph. The children conclude, “We should all be thankful for these windmills, they produce more energy and less pollution, we need more and more electricity each day, these windmills are a great thing, and they are also beautiful.” (source)

Windmills at night by Robert's Random Adventure Tours

According to Suzlon Energy, the manufacturer of the windmills, “The world of wind power is growing at a phenomenal pace. Projections put the average growth of the industry at 24% for the next five years.” The National Renewable Energy Laboratory states, “Wind is a clean, inexhaustible, indigenous energy resource that can generate enough electricity to power millions of homes and businesses. Wind energy is one of the fastest-growing forms of electricity generation in the world. The United States can currently generate more than 10,000 megawatts (MW) of electricity from the wind, which is enough to power 2.5 million average American homes. Industry experts predict that, with proper development, wind energy could provide 20% of this nation's energy needs.”

A diverse energy portfolio includes wind and sun power to create electricity - Image by swilsonmc

Rocky Mountain Power is purchasing the energy output from these windmills. According to their website, Rocky Mountain Power is committed to diversifying its renewable resources, which is especially important in Utah. Sarah Wright, executive director of Utah Clean Energy, compares diversification of energy to diversifying an investment portfolio. She said that Utah's energy isn't currently diverse because 95 percent comes from coal.

Unrelated to the wind power, another good point about the windmills is the specific site location chosen. The site was previously mined as a gravel pit. This reuse of the site helps lessen the development of new untouched land.

Image by Josh at 'What's Hip Hapnin?'

To kick off the start of the windmills, Spanish Fork is hosting a wind power celebration this weekend entitled Sky Spectacular. Included is a ribbon-cutting of the new wind farm turbines, the first Spanish Fork Kite Festival, and a “Go Green” Expo highlighting green businesses and products. It begins this Friday and continues Saturday.

Windmill panorama at dusk by swilsonmc


Mr. Fob said...

The horrible thing is how many Spanish Fork residents protested the windmills because they didn't want these big ugly things in their backyards. I also saw them this summer and I think they're beautiful.

Mellifera said...

We recently took a field trip up to Iowa to check out Corn Belt-style agriculture. It was interesting that while the rest of the country's in a depression, Iowa was feelin' pretty good. (We'll see how the ethanol programs go on from here....)

One of the things that really highlighted the "boomtime" feel up there was the sheer number of wind turbines going up. They're already pretty common, and you'd see semis drive by every so often on their way to install a new one. You think their size is impressive when you look at one standing, but seeing an entire 18-wheeler carrying *one* turbine blade really brings it home.