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It's Not a Breeze...To Power Virginia with Wind

By: Bianca Spinosa Email
By: Bianca Spinosa Email

July 10, 2008

A house on Rio Road tries to generate power with a wind turbine and a solar panel, but there's not a lot of wind to work with in Charlottesville.

A professor of electrical engineering at the University of Virginia says wind sources in Central Virginia are not consistent.

Fossil fuels such as coal and oil are costly for consumers and the environment. Efforts are being made in Virginia to look into alternative sources of power, but it's not a breeze.

Dr. Paxton Marshall, a professor of electrical engineering at UVA says wind may not be the most practical option in Virginia.

"We don't have a continuous, strong, steady wind in most of Virginia. The exceptions are offshore or on the shore line in the Chesepeake Area."

Marshall says the best option for offshore wind power in Virginia is in the Virginia Beach area. A wind farm was planned for the Nantucket Sound in Massachussetts, but it has yet to receive zoning because of it's appearance.

"There's a not in my backyard syndrome where no one wants to have these things close to them," said Marshall. "It's mostly visual, but they do make some sound too, and so if you're really close to them you might be irritated."

Wind power, like solar power, is an intermittent source of energy, which means it needs another source of energy to keep it going. Wind turbines rely on fossil fues to store the energy generated when the wind stops blowing.

"There's very little storage in it, which means that the utilities have to generate the energy almost instantaenously as the customers demand it," said Paxton Marshall.

But for some people in Albemarle County, wind generators are worth the trouble for the cost it would save consumers in the future.

"Some people regard it as an eyesore," said Marshall, "personally I regard wind generators as beautiful."

In May, the Albemarle County Planning Commission passed an ordinance that would allow people to have their own small wind turbines on their property in Albemarle County. However, the turbines must be under 35 feet.

But judging by the lack of reliable wind in Charlottesville, you may want to stick with solar panels if you're interested in powering your property with alternative energy.

For more information on offshore wind projects in Nantucket and world wide, check out this site: www.capewind.org


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