Thursday, October 26, 2006

Alternative Power: Go Slow, But Do It Quickly

If your goal is to produce electric power through an alternative means like wind or tides, you have to be able to get that power to consumers. On Long Island, the only way to do that is through the Long Island Power Authority, and LIPA says it’s in no particular hurry to start selling electricity generated by the several tidal power projects in the planning stages. From Newsday:

LIPA chairman Richard Kessel said last week the utility had launched a broad analysis of tidal power and its potential for the region. The study will look at potential sites for optimal placement, economic and environmental impacts, community and business reaction and the effectiveness of various turbine technologies….

“Before people start talking about building 200 of these, we want to do a demonstration project, we want to work with the communities, the counties, the fishermen, and assess the viability of the technology for Long Island," Kessel said.

Two hundred is obviously an exaggeration but it’s also obvious that tidal power’s potential is attractive to a number of companies (here’s Newsday’s summary of current proposals). In fact one of them, Verdant Power, will begin installing turbines in the East River on November 13.

It goes without saying that if tidal power and wind power can replace the use of fossil fuels, even somewhat, we should support it. Kessel wants to go slow. Fine, but go slow quickly. If you want to know more about how quickly, read Bill McKibben’s recent New York Review of Books piece, which a blog called TomDispatch got permission to publish, here.

Referring to NASA climatologist James Hanson and to James Lovelock, the scientist who came up with the Gaia theory of the Earth, McKibben writes:

Hansen is not quite as gloomy as Lovelock. Although he recently stated that the Earth is very close to the hottest it has been in a million years, he said that we still have until 2015 to reverse the flow of carbon into the atmosphere before we cross a threshold and create a "different planet." When Hansen gave this warning last December we had ten years to change course, but soon we'll have only nine years, and since nothing has happened in the intervening time to suggest that we're gearing up for an all-out effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the divergence between Hansen and Lovelock may be academic. (Somehow it's small comfort to be rooting for the guy who says you've got a decade.)

Go slow, but hurry up about it.


Blogger Nancy Swett said...

I don't know much about these tidal projects, but I worry about their impact on marine life.

Wouldn't solar be a better solution?

2:28 PM  
Anonymous Peter Marshall said...

Wind Solar and Tidal Energy are all part of the mosaic of renewable energies that must be developed to help reduce the world's appetite for fossil fuels. All of these can be developed in a manner that is consistent with the environment. We must see to it that this is what happens.

9:34 PM  

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