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[at-l] BLM Encourages Wind Power Development

"...The  sites  cover  about  5,000  acres  and  generate about 500 megawatts of
electrical  power  per year," claims the Bureau of Land Management press release
supplied to us by TJ.

I'd  be more impressed if the report reflected a basic knowledge of electricity.
If  I  remember  my  45-year-old  physics, watts (kilowatts and megawatts) are a
measure of capacity. You build capacity. You don't generate it. You use capacity
to  generate  MEGAWATT  HOURS each year. 500 megawatts of capacity is equal to a
typical  small  generating  plant. If they are really talking about 500 megawatt
hours, that is truly a very tiny amount -- enough to power a few hundred homes.

Megawatts  are a measure of the ability of the turbines to generate electricity.
When  the  wind  is  blowing just right and nothing else hampers the effort, 500
megawatts of capacity will generate 500 megawatt HOURS of electricity each hour.
Of  course  nature  changes  minute  by minute. Sometimes the full capacity of a
turbine  can  be  used.  More  often  only  part  of the capacity or none of the
capacity will be generating.

The  only  useful  measure  of  electricity  is megawatt hours, not megawatts. A
natural  gas  base  power  turbine  will generate in megawatt hours its capacity
times 24 hours a day time the number of days per year it operates. (all are shut
down for maintenance so they don't operate 365 days a year.)

A  hydroelectric  dam  or  a  wind  turbine  system  with the same capacity will
generate  far  less energy (kilowatt hours of electricity) each year. Check your
electric bills. You are buying KWHrs, not kilowatts.

In  the  long  squabble  over  dams on the wild St. John River in Maine, the two
terms  were totally garbled. The dams had about the same capacity (megawatts) as
the  state's only nuclear plant. Politicians (and newspaper editorials) used the
figures  to  assume that electricity supplies would double with the construction
of the dams.

The  problem  was that the river only has significant amount of water during the
spring  snow  melt.  The  dams  would have created a giant lake that allowed the
storage  of  this  six  weeks of flow so that it could be parcelled out over the
year. Rather than doubling the low cost electricity available to Maine, the dams
would  have  increased  the  supply  by  about  10  percent -- and the resulting
electricity  would have been the most expensive, so expensive that it would only
be used during peak demand hours.

Sorry  for  the  lengthy  explanation,  but since TJ brought it up I thought the
explanation  worthwhile,  considering  the  wind  power  project  proposed to be
located  about  three-quarters  of  a mile from the AT in the Saddleback-Bigelow
section in Maine.