Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind

Rhode Island recently made the news, but not for reasons that you might suspect.

Other than the fact that Rhode Island was the first of the original 13 colonies to declare its independence from England (on May 4, 1776), was the location (in Newport) of some pretty fancy summer cottages at the dawn of the 20th Century, and was third state in the country to allow the use of medical marijuana (in 2011) , Rhode Island doesn’t often come to mind for any other reason.

(The Breakers, pictured above, was the summer home of the family of Cornelius Vanderbilt II. It was constructed between 1893 and 1895. When completed, it covered slightly over 125,000 square feet on five floors, and was situated on 13 acres of land overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. It currently is the most visited sites in the entire state.)

So why did the smallest state in the country become front page news in the New York Times recently?

The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind

Although Rhode Island currently produces a negligible amount of electricity from wind farms, a project currently in process would make Rhode Island the very first state in the nation to generate electricity from offshore wind farms.

The United States, believe it or not, is the world leader when it comes to generating electricitym wind, but it lags behind both China and Europe when it comes to offshore wind production.

The United States also lags far behind Germany in generating electricity from solar energy, even though we receive significantly more sunshine than Germany does.

Texas is the current leader of onshore wind production, and is followed by Iowa, California, Oklahoma, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Oregon, Colorado, Washington, North Dakota, and Wyoming.

Three of those states (Kansas, North Dakota, and Iowa are among the top 5 of the windiest states), so there IS a correlation between wind speeds and electricity generated from wind, but it’s far from a perfect match.

The farms that both my paternal and maternal grandparents lived on in Minnesota in the early part of the 20th century had windmills, which were used to pump water and to generate electricity. We may not actually be living in “the good old days”, but there ARE times we seem to be living in the past , and the new wind farm just off the coast of Rhode Island is simply the latest example of that.

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