Over at Earth Techling, writer Pete Danko explains why a map of U.S. wind turbines shows a “big empty space down South.” There are three main obstacles to bringing wind power to the southern U.S. First, there’s the wind resource itself.
The Southeastern U.S. is devoid of wind power and has been for a simple reason: It is an area with generally poor wind resource. Check out this map (below) of the predicted mean annual wind speeds at 80 meters, typical turbine height, keeping in mind that it takes average winds of around 6.5 meters per second “to have a wind resource suitable for wind development,” according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
Second, a lack of transmission lines.
….more and better transmission lines are needed, including high-voltage, direct-current lines that can move massive amounts of power with less electrical losses compared to AC lines. DC lines, for technical reasons, also make for a more flexible and stable grid.
And third, an unfriendly regulatory environment.
…just last week the Alabama state Senate passed a bill that would set up stringent regulations on any wind farms – so stringent, Pioneer Green Energytold the local Gadsen Times, that if it becomes law, the wind farms won’t be built.
For one thing, a noise limit would measure decibel levels at property lines, not at actual residences. The bill also “requires the towers to be set back from residential or commercial structures or public use areas a distance equivalent to five times the towers’ height,” the Times reported, a very restrictive standard.
Clearly, there’s not much that can be done about the first problem (although offshore wind resources are excellent along much of the East Coast). The second and third obstacles, however, are a different story entirely. Those obstacles are largely the result of (bad) policy choices made by politicians, many of whom are far too friendly to fossil fuels and far too unfriendly to clean, renewable energy. That’s an obstacle we can and should change at the ballot box.