Northern Valley Beacon

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Wednesday, July 05, 2006


Renewable energy? It's a matter of will

A Washington Post columnist says that global warming is an engineering problem, so we common folks can't do much about it. In my home state of Illinois, some engineers are trying to figure out how to turn the state's massive coal supply (it contains more energy that Saudi Arabia) into truck fuel. However, the process releases huge amounts of carbon dioxide into the air, which is the major cause of global warming.

Can we be energy independent in a short time? Yes. But the problem is that the solutions to economical, reliable, and abundant energy are tied up by people with schemes who are hoping to make a windfall.

In South Dakota, wind energy is a tremendous possibility. So, why is there no development? Because the policies governing wind energy favor corporations who want to put in mega-watt generators that tower in the air and require the leasing of private land. Then there is the transmission line matter and who would buy the energy produced.

As one engineer put it, we can build and maintain an interstate highway system, but we can't come up with a way to put up electric lines that can carry energy across the nation. The reason? Corporations. They want to control the lines.

There is a solution to wind energy that few people talk about. Instead of putting up mega-watt turbines that cost about $1 million a piece, there are smaller units that run between $50,000 to $100,000 and can run a farmstead with surplus energy sold to a distributor or they can run an electrolysis unit which produces hydrogen out of water. Here is how the National Renewable Energy Laboratory describes the possibility:

Renewable energy sources such as photovoltaics (PV), wind, biomass, hydro and geothermal can provide clean and sustainable electricity for our nation. However, some types renewable energy are limited by the fact that they have intermittent and seasonal energy production. One solution to this problem is to produce hydrogen through the electrolysis of water and use that hydrogen in a fuel cell to produce electricity during times of low power production or during peak demand or to use the hydrogen in fuel cell vehicles.

In South Dakota and in most places, the people in government who deal with energy issues are more devoted to helping corporations make profits from energy than in finding ways for small, independent producers to break their dependency on corporate-controlled energy and to become self-sufficient. Wind-hydrogen power could make farming profitable again.

This is a big issue facing South Dakota. It requires electing officials who have the will to build the state and help the people.

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