Picture the liberal couple from Eugene on their way east through the Columbia Scenic Gorge. They are driving a Volvo, but it is for sale because Ford bought the company. They will be getting a Saab to replace it. They stop to admire a wind turbine that they actually helped to purchase through their green initiative choice on their monthly power bill. They are full of pride and standing tall — they actually have made a difference. A big difference.
They are amazed at the size of the massive rotor — 50 meters in diameter. The towering hulk silently spins high above their heads generating clean, renewable electricity for the surrounding farms and homes. Then they notice a high-pitched hum that begins to give them a headache. They get dizzy, but maybe that is from looking up for so long. It couldn’t be the wind turbine, could it? They have a slight feeling of nausea and some ringing in the ears. Maybe it is time to leave.
Just then, a red-tailed hawk swoops down from the sky looking for a meal and THWANK, it is slammed to the ground by the massive blade it never saw coming. Feathers litter the sky — blood soaks the ground. The hawk is no more.
The couple decides it is time to leave. They have seen the majesty of wind power close up and it is making them sick. But, hey, who lives out here anyway? And what does it matter if a few raptors are killed each and every day? We have plenty — and the field mice are at a disadvantage. Maybe the wind turbine will even things out for mother nature. And how could “free” power be bad??
Then, something totally unexpected happens. The wind stops blowing. Imagine that! The blades slowly spin to a stop. The hum is gone. The nausea is gone. Birds fly freely from harm. The field mouse scrambles for safety. But the lights go dark. The couple wonders why?
Storage seems to be the answer. And there is none. No storage system for the “free power” generated by the wonderful windmill. None, whatsoever. This could be a problem. The couple wonders, without storage won’t power companies need 100% traditional power sources as back up? Can those systems come on line instantly when the wind dies down? No, they can’t. So we have to keep them humming, burning fossil fuels and ruining the environment despite the hundreds and hundreds of wind turbines dotting the landscape. They have to be running and ready all day, all night, to supplant the loss of power when the wind dies down. The couple wonders, what have we gained? What have we done? We were so proud. So happy to know that we MADE A DIFFERENCE. Our higher power bills helped pave the way for the wind power that kills wildlife, causes sickness and misery for residents nearby, and that requires 100% full-on traditional power sources in reserve ALL THE TIME.
The drive back to Eugene is not quite so bold and strong and full of pride as the ride out was. The couple is disillusioned, dismayed, and out some serious coin. What did they do? Where did they go wrong? How could this happen? Anybody want to buy a Volvo?