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Are wind and solar power feasible locally?

February 23, 2012
Times Leader
By KAYLA VAN DYNE, Times Leader Staff Writer

With advancing technology, not just the gadgets that is glued to everyone’s hand, but with advancements in medical and scientific technology, the world is evolving. Electricity and coal have been constants in the Ohio Valley for many, many years. But what about the other methods that could replace or even lessen the use of these staples. This is where the idea of using solar and wind energy instead of fossil fuels, like coal, are being considered. Coal has become a staple in the Ohio Valley. Companies like Murray has not only provided more then 3,000 jobs but has brought low-costing coal to the area. Could solar/wind energy be possible new sources in the area? “I believe that solar, and to a lesser extent wind, energy could be beneficial in the Ohio Valley. It seems unlikely, given our climate and our geographical situation, that either of these, or even both together, could completely supply our energy needs,” said Patty Kniesner, a resident of Bellaire. The idea of living off the grid is becoming a choice for many as they change over from electricity to the use of solar energy and wind energy. Living off the grid involves the idea of getting away from the consumer lifestyle, as well as being greener and not harming the environment. Solar energy is the idea of harnessing the energy from the sun by using solar panels that capture the rays and transform them into energy to replace the electricity that is currently in millions of homes around the world. There are many pros to having solar panels replace electricity that appeals to many people. Since the energy provided is natural, there is no pollution. The cells, as these panels are often called, can provide energy in remote locations. The panels can be very efficient as long as there is sun and will help lower energy bills in the long run. Overall, using solar energy is a free source of electricity that would make someone less dependent on fossil fuels. “They could, however, decrease our need for coal, gas, and oil, improving our air and water quality and, in the long run, saving us money. I would like to see solar panels on our public buildings, and wonder if there are grants that could be used for that purpose,” said Kniesner. But with every pro, there is a con. This source of energy is free, but the panels are not. This one of the biggest cost of using solar panels is the cost. Panels can cost anywhere $5,000 to $10,000, which is a number not many can stomach or afford. The cells only work for half of the day when the sun is out. Weather and pollution play a huge role in how well and much energy the panels absorb. There is also the production of the cells and panels, delivery, and insulation and the pollution that comes from this process. Wind energy doesn’t use panels, but a turbine looks more like a windmill then a source of power. The way the turbine works is that the wind blows, causing the blades to move. As the blades turns, a shaft inside the top of the turbine increases the speed of the blade. A generator that uses magnetic fields converts the energy from the blades into electricity, which then goes to the transformer. “In the long haul, a source of energy for home and reduce overall energy cost,” said Susan West were her reasons for considering using wind energy. The pros of investing in a turbine are almost the same as investing in solar panels. In the long - run, they can be very efficient, and eventually would cause the investor to be off the grid. But the cons are far greater. The wind can be unpredictable, and fluctuating. “I had looked into a wind turbine at one time and was told I would never recoup my costs,” said West. “[They] would never produce enough...need consistent winds.” The turbines are not as cost effective, noisy, and not very appealing to the eye, often times not blending into the environment. The turbines have been known to kill birds, who fly into the blades, and the repair cost are great as well. “I think it is highly unlikely at present, given the current econominc situation and the surge in shale oil and gas exploration, that any major wind or solar program will be undertaken in the Ohio Valley. Understandably, we want to take advantage of the resources we have,” said Kniesner. “Nevertheless, I would love to see some sort of renewable energy effort begun, both for environmental reasons, and because it seems wise to explore a variety of options. Fossil fuels cannot last forever, and it seems likely that, long before our reserves are exhausted, the environmental costs of retrieving them will become too high.” Van Dyne can be reached at kvandyne@timesleaderonline.com.

 
 

 

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