Friday, July 2, 2010

Anemometric antics for antiquated academics

The Unity College wind power roughnecks have been out and about again in the great State o' Maine, fearlessly measuring the wind against all odds.

This time we're trying to get new wind data from the foothills of our western mountains. These rolling hills go up well above 1,000 feet, and the best potential sites have a clear view to the higher mountains to the north and west. The existing wind maps tend to understate the wind resource on these hills, at least we think so, based on one site where we currently have an anemometer.

We'd like to know more.

We worked on two sites this last week. One, where we'll put an NRG system that we salvaged earlier from Harris Mountain, is privately owned and the farmers wish to explore a small- to medium scale turbine cooperative within the local community.

The other is a municipal site. This site has houses close by and for that reason is not likely to ever host a turbine, but it already has a communications tower, owned by the state. This allowed us to perform some very economical anemometry, placing a RainWise anemometer/logger unit on the existing tower, and saving the use of a purpose-built tower. We fabricated a base plate, climbed the tower under the supervision of state officials, and placed our unit at the very top.

The data we collect from these sites will be made available to the general public and authorities for wind power planning purposes. Accurate wind data can rule-in or rule-out sites for wind power planning. It can also help tell you where wind noise nuisance from turbines will appear on the ground, and how loud it will be at any given point.

I'm likely to get comments on this blog, contentious comments, or perhaps even nasty comments, from Maine's anti-wind power activist movement. These folks will try to tell me that I'm doing the wrong thing here.

But I respectfully disagree.

The private individuals, farmers, municipalities, and state agencies involved in these studies are all doing the right thing, which is trying to take proper responsibility for their energy usage and the impacts of that energy usage. Although placing small and medium scale community-owned turbines on Maine mountaintops will have impacts, they will be less than the impacts of the coal mines, oil-and-gas fields, uranium mines and other war zones, real or environmental, where energy is extracted.

It's just that Mainers will be asked to live with the impacts, instead of importing energy from the Gulf of Mexico, West Virginia, Iraq, Iran, or other trouble spots around the world. We are not used to living with the impacts of the energy we all use here in Maine. We prefer to let other states and other countries feel the impacts.

Out of sight, out of mind.

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