Environmental Issue Energy Research Proposal

Pages: 7 (2195 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 5  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Energy

Wind Energy

Proposal for research project

First Segment

I first became interested in the energy of the wind as a young girl flying kites. At that time I didn't think about wind as an practical source in the sense of turning turbines to generate electricity. I was just fascinated with the flight of the kite, the way a nice heavy tail helped steady the kite in a really strong, gusty wind. I also became interested in wind because I enjoyed going out in sailboat and being pushed by the wind across the water. Listening to the sound of the wind through the sails was intriguing. Being transported strictly by the wind and not having to hear an outboard motor, I remember, was very pleasant. When our family took weekend drives in the countryside, we often passed farms that had working windmills. Several times we stopped close by a spinning windmill and I could hear the pump bringing water up from the well into the reservoir. I can't say that I was obsessed by wind as a young girl but I was certainly interested in more than a passing way.

By the time I was in high school it became obvious to any objective, informed person paying close attention to the national and international news that the U.S. was hooked on foreign oil, that global climate change was a reality, and that renewable sources of energy needed to be developed to reduce the greenhouse gases being released into our atmosphere. What do I know about wind energy? I am in the process of learning more and more about wind energy in the U.S., about wind farms, and about the wind energy potential in Michigan.Download full Download Microsoft Word File
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Research Proposal on Environmental Issue Energy Assignment

For example I am now aware that in Michigan, the legislature has passed a "Renewable Portfolio Standard" which means that 10% of Michigan's electricity supply must come from renewable sources by 2015, just five years from now. And by 2025, Michigan is by law obligated to produce 25% of its electrical energy from renewable sources (MichiganAdvantage.org). In order to achieve these goals, mandated by law, the wind industry must build approximately 1,250 new wind turbines over the next seven years, according to MichiganAdvantage.org. The MichiganAdvantage.org data reflects the fact that Michigan is one of only four states in the U.S. with sufficient industrial capacity to manufacture, innovate, and deploy wind turbines. Also, MichiganAdvantage.org uses empirical data to assert that Michigan is ranked 14th in terms of available wind sources to turn those turbines and help consumers save money, get off the foreign oil addiction, and reduce the carbon footprint that inevitably leads to more warming of the earth's atmosphere.

Second Segment

a) Is wind energy in a position to become one of the main sources of energy production in the U.S. -- renewable sources that will help this country shake the addition to foreign oil? b) What percentage of all energy production in the U.S. today is from wind energy and what are the projections for the future? c) What are the legal and practical obstacles that stand in the way of building wind farms or of building back-yard windmills that help homeowners reduce their fossil-fuel-based energy usage? d) What are the political and regulatory issues that must be resolved before the wind energy -- including offshore wind power -- becomes a major player?

Third Segment

The answer to question "a" is yes, with a great deal of qualification.

Stevens, Laura. "U.S. Wind Energy Industry Breaks All Records, Installs Nearly 10,000 MW

In 2009." American Wind Energy Association. Retrieved February 14, 2010, from http://www.awea.org. (2010).

The ethos of this material is outstanding, reliable, and trustworthy. The AWEA has a solid reputation for honest advocacy and dependable statistical verification. Although this is not a scholarly document, it is presented with straightforward logic (logos). There is a limited amount of pathos in the document and albeit there are emotional arguments to be made in promoting wind energy, the document relies on data and business-themed projections.

There indeed are adequate natural wind resources in the United States to make wind energy a major player in electrical needs. Wind energy is no longer a pie-in-the-sky futuristic concept that science fiction authors use to embellish their stories. Wind energy is becoming an important source of electrical power according to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), and yet it has a long way to go in terms of manufacturing investment and available jobs in fields related to wind energy. In fact the wind industry actually lost jobs in 2009 -- due in large part to the economic downturn -- in the manufacturing sector; and the industry would have seen a drop in wind power development if it hadn't been for President Obama's stimulus-based Recovery Act (AWEA). But the good news is that in 2009, the U.S. wind industry shattered all the records for previous years in terms of installation of new windmills (AWEA).

The AWEA reports that in 2009 the wind industry added 9,922 megawatts (MW) of power to the existing wind energy supply. Those 9,922 MW resulted in a 39% growth rate for wind energy in the U.S. -- and that brings the total to date of 35,000 MW of electrical energy produced by wind energy. One megawatt of energy serves about 300 homes. Hence, approximately 10.5 million homes are presently provided with electricity from wind energy farms and individual windmills. The potential for many millions more homes to be supplied with clean, green wind energy is promising, but it will take political will, a public that is informed and willing to pressure their elected representatives, and an economy strong enough to support major investments on the manufacturing side.

And so the answer to "a" is yes, with qualifications. The answer to "b" is that the U.S. now gets about 2% of its electricity from wind energy but those numbers are on the rise.

Mouawad, Jad. "Wind Power Grows 39% for the Year." The New York Times (2010).

Retrieved February 12, 2010, from http://nytimes.com.

This article published in the Times is totally credible and uses reliable sources (ethos). This is a hard news article and presented logically, reasonably (logos). Some emotion (pathos) is involved in this article simply because the future of American communities depends on the growth of clean energy sources in the future but otherwise the article is objective and uses several believable sources.

The journalist for the Times points out that wind turbine installation has jumped "almost sevenfold" since 2002, which is encouraging. However, the U.S. lags well behind Europe, which gets about 5% of its electricity from wind. Denmark receives over 20% of its electricity from wind power and China has presented a plan to invest $14.6 billion in wind energy production by the end of 2010. Another challenge in front of the wind energy industry is a lack of long-distance transmission lines, according to Tim Stephure with Emerging energy Research, who blames "a huge lack of federal oversight for electricity" (Mouawad). However, Stephure insists that by 2020, wind energy in the U.S. could be "five times higher than what it is today, reaching about 180,000 megawatts" (Mouawad).

The answers to "c" is that there are "nuisance suits" against wind energy that are holding back investments and developments in some areas of the country.

Butler, Stephen Harland. "Headwinds to a Clean Energy Future: Nuisance Suits Against Wind

Energy Projects in the United States." California Law Review, 97.5 (2009), 1337-1375.

The article by Butler, an attorney, is assured to be ethical by the very nature and reputation of the publication, the California Law Review. The article is not based on emotion (pathos) but rather on reason and logic (logos). Legal issues with reference to an industry as pivotal to the nation's health as renewable, clean energy, are pragmatic and objective, and this article follows that theme.

Butler points out that wind energy has "major shortcomings" -- including the unreliability of wind speed -- but wind turbines are "relatively cheap to construct" in comparison with the cost of building nuclear, coal or gas plants (Butler, 2009, 1339). Still, there are legal objections to wind farms, including: objections from wildlife groups because of the estimated ten thousand to forty thousand birds killed annually that fly into the blades of the turbines; citizen objections of having wind turbines close to communities (turbines create "buzzing, whooshing, pulsing, and even sizzling"); and aesthetic objections to seeing giant turbines against the skyline. Butler (p. 1341) addresses current "nuisance law" and how it applies to wind energy plants.

In the matter of Mississippi Power Co. v. Ballard, the plaintiff in the litigation complained of "constant vibrating noise or humming" from wind turbines. The court determined that there was "not of sufficient intensity" to meet the standards of "unreasonable interference" (p. 1349). In Kentucky & West Virginia Power v. Anderson the court upheld a verdict against a wind power substation -- which was 15 feet from the plaintiff's house -- because the turbine caused "a constant vibrating… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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