Texas and New York: At the Forefront of Wind Energy
When it comes to fossil fuels, there are only two certainties: they're powerful sources of energy and there's a finite amount in the ground. That's why many of America's best and brightest have focused their energies on helping the country transition to using renewable forms of energy to generate electricity. Thanks to the sun, there is a constant supply of energy around us at all times. The trick is figuring out ways to take advantage of the First Law of Thermodynamics. Indeed, energy cannot be created or destroyed, but can only be transferred to another kind. That's why we can generate electricity from solar cells, underground heat and the tides. Although the two regions are pretty far apart geographically, both Texas and New York are taking the lead in generating electricity from wind farms. The promise of wind, in addition to solar, is such that scientists believe that these energies could, if implemented properly, keep the lights (and the air conditioning) on across the world.
How does wind power work? Remember: it's all because of the sun. The radiant heat and light from the sun boosts the temperature of the water, soil and air. When there are temperature differences, heat naturally flows into cooler places. Cool water sinks to the bottom of the ocean, hot air rises higher in the atmosphere…now project that into a system as large as the Earth. (If you want to be a physicist yourself, project that to the Universe!) Those differences are the reason we have weather, including those strong, helpful gusts of wind.
Wind becomes electricity when it spins the blades of wind turbines installed in the ground. The turning of the blades (mechanical energy) causes revolutions in the magnets inside the turbines (electrical energy). The beautiful part? Wind farms are safe, environmentally friendly and even aesthetically pleasing. Even the most devout oil or coal person must admit that a field filled with wind turbines is far more attractive than the traditional alternative.
While wind power is not currently common enough to provide the full supply needed by Americans, capacity is growing all the time. In the year 1999, according to the United States Department of Energy, Texas had 184 megawatts of installed wind power capacity, and New York had zero. In ten short years, those figures skyrocketed. Texas remains the nationwide leader by far with 9403 megawatts. New York reached 1274 megawatts of wind power capacity.
This prodigious growth is the reason scientists such as Dr. Walter Kohn, winner of a share of the 1998 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, expects wind and solar power to replace fossil fuel consumption levels. Science Daily notes that, in a presentation at the American Chemical Society's 240th National Meeting, Dr. Kohn is heartened by the efforts of students to reclaim green energy wherever possible.
The Lake Ontario wind that batters the port town of Oswego is legendary for its fierceness, particularly in the winter. Faculty and students at the State University at Oswego are benefiting from the installation of a10-kilowatt vertical wind turbine atop one of the school's buildings. The Syracuse Post-Standard claims that the 400-pound turbine can generate power when the winds are as low as 3 miles per hour. The company that manufactured the turbine, PowAIR Sail, installed three more units atop a vast mall in the region and is developing residential turbines that could one day stud the roofs of New York homes and provide them with green New York electricity.
The statistics confirm that Texas is at the forefront of wind farm construction in the United States. This is not going to end anytime soon. In fact, a $1.5 billion wind farm is going to be built in West Texas to produce even more Texas Energy. Even better, a deal was reached with the group of Chinese and American firms to ensure that the steel used in the turbines would be made in America.
This, perhaps, is the best part of alternative energy at the beginning of the twenty-first century. New York and particularly Texas receive the benefits of thousands of high-paying jobs, many of which simply can't be outsourced. American money is going into the pockets of Americans, allowing them to feed their families and pay their own electric bills. All the while, the electricity generated by the facilities these workers design, build and maintain will keep our appliances humming for decades to come with little adverse affect to the environment. And if Dr. Kohn is right, using fossil fuels will be as uncommon as travelling by horse and buggy would be today.