For a very long time people have been stuck using fuels that have some serious drawbacks.
Coal is dreadful; mining it is dangerous, burning it is toxic and the leftovers are radioactive. The other options aren’t much better.
Our best contender for a decent fossil fuel source is natural gas, but moving it around isn’t very healthy for the people who are near the pipelines. For now nat gas is ok, but the future of electricity generation is something far simpler.
Over the last three years the cost of wind power generation has dropped by more than 20%. Today wind power is as cheap as coal, and doesn’t need any sort of subsidy to be competitive.
The outlandish side to all of this is that wind power is much cheaper than any fossil fuel on an overall basis, given it doesn’t create any pollution when it captures power.
No fly ash, no miners hacking up a lung, no toxic cloud near the pipeline. You get it, right?
Who Wouldn’t Want Wind?
At present it is estimated that wind power comprises around 5% of world power generation capacity, but the amount of wind power being produced on a gross basis has been rising by double digits for the last few years.
In the US Amazon has taken it upon itself to introduce the idea of 100% renewable power for a major corporation, and it would appear that this initiative has caused some issues with entrenched economic interests.
The reason given?
They need time to figure out if the wind farm will interfere with military training in combat aircraft.
Thankfully the proposed moratorium has been slashed to 18 months, which is still quite a long time by military standards. It also opens up the question of how well wind farms would work as defensive measures, given their potential risk for military aeronautics.
It is unknown if their defensive value has been taken into account when calculating the cost of power generated, but if not, it would be something to look into.
Pushing a military campaign back by a year and a half is no small feat, and it would appear that wind farms have some untapped abilities.
Public utilities in the northeastern United States are all putting new wind energy projects into motion, apparently undeterred by their potential to inhibit military training.
Massachusetts has passed legislation that requires power utilities to purchase 1,600 Mw of power over the next ten years, and there are no wind farms there at the moment. This new industry is expected to create billions of dollars in revenue over the next few years, and Massachusetts isn’t alone.
New York is also moving forward with its first offshore wind project, and many other Atlantic states are going in that direction.
One of the biggest hurdles for the new industry is the lack of infrastructure, but people like Jeff Grybowski are doing what it takes to make it happen. He is the CEO of Deepwater Wind, and his company is working on the first offshore wind power project in the US.
He sees significant overlap between deep water oil infrastructure and wind farm construction, and with RDShell bidding on offshore wind projects in Holland, he would appear to be correct.
A New Way Forward
The green community likes to bash the major oil companies, but this is a very short sighted view of the world. If you want to know why companies like ExxonMobil are going gangbusters into fracking the Permian Basin, just look at the closest freeway around five in the afternoon.
People like to have convenience, but they don’t want to deal with the consequences of the modern lifestyle. Today there are more than a billion people in Asia that are climbing up the spending ladder, and they are all chasing dreams of consumerism.
There is no way to get people to stop being people, so we have to find ways to satiate our desires without destroying the earth that sustains us.
No one cares if Bambi dies from being exposed to toxic water from a fracking operation, but if there is no gasoline at the station you better believe there will be revolution.
Wind generation technology bridges the gap between consumerism and green action, and it does it in a way that creates both jobs and long-lasting infrastructure. The only real downside there is to wind power is the entrenched interests it is supplanting, and this poses a real risk to its rapid development.
In time archaic power sources like coal will fall into disuse, as they will become increasingly uncompetitive. There are no subsidies needed to make wind power economic, in fact it is quickly becoming the cheapest source of electricity we have ever seen.
It is no longer a question of if, but one of when and how wind and solar remove fossil fuels from our daily lives. There is no stopping it now.