Big Friendly Giants and seas of solar panels

My wife and I flew up to visit our youngest son and drive back the car he had been driving as he got a new one. On the fifteen-hour journey back, it was wonderful to see all the sights of the coast and mountains once we moved inland. Along the journey, we also took delight in seeing a number of windmill and solar farms.

We have always found the windmills to be elegant giants that are usually staggered in hilly terrain in large single digit of double-digit numbers. It is fun to count them as they go off into the distance. I feel like I am watching a higher tech version of “The BFG,” short for “Big Friendly Giant.”

Yet, clearly what we see more of is the solar farms. These photovoltaic panels number in the hundreds and thousands as they cover a field like a sea of solar panels. Solar energy jobs have been growing annually at double digit rates for years as the prices have come down. And, what is good for customers, but scary for utilities and fossil fuel companies, the solar farms need not be large enterprises to power some communities and neighborhoods.

What I have always liked about renewable energy, is these two approaches need not require any of our dear water to operate. With a global water crisis rivaling and made worse by climate change, not using water is a very good thing.

With the law signed last year, we will get to see more offshore and onshore wind energy. That is terrific. For those folks in our plains states, the sight of windmills is more customary with that windy part of the country. Texas still produces the most wind energy in the country and states like Iowa, Nebraska, and Oklahoma are seeing more than 1/3 of their electricity produced by wind.

And, yet the supporters of the fossil fuel industry have tried to pretend like it is not happening. What I find interesting is in oil rich Texas, a reason wind energy is so prolific is very quietly, the state legislature permitted the wiring to these rural locations to harness the electricity from wind energy. For those who still raise issues, please note that on a “60 Minutes” episode about ten years ago, oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens, said that natural gas will buy us time, but the future of electricity in the US is wind energy. I would add solar as well.

The future is now.


8 thoughts on “Big Friendly Giants and seas of solar panels

  1. I’m well pleased to hear that there are so many solar and wind facilities in operation these days! We simply have no choice, though as you say, the fossil fuel industry is in panic mode and will tell any lies they can to convince people otherwise. I read the other day where someone, who shall remain nameless, said wind turbines are causing planes to crash. If the plane was flying that low, he was already in trouble! And one thing made me laugh here … that “Texas produces the most wind energy” … I have to wonder if it’s not all that hot air coming from certain Texas politicos? Good post, Keith … encouraging! Thanks!

    • Jill, that particular source on wind energy just does not like windmills. He has lost several court cases on injunctions he has raised against their developments near his golf courses. So, he is well known to espouse untruthful rhetoric on the subject.

      The Texas proliferation is exemplary, but is kept low key so as not to raise a fuss. In fact, some wind developers pay $5,000 per annum to rent space for one windmill. Keith

      • Ah yes … I remember the big brouhaha at his course in Scotland over wind turbines! And it should surprise nobody that he will make up stories to fit his own narrative.

        I’m rather surprised, with Texas being oil-rich, that they are leading the way with wind energy … pleased, but surprised.

      • Jill, they are up to 20% of their electricity through renewables (almost entirely wind energy) and are on the rise still. Natural gas is at 40% plus, but the trend is there. One rancher has eleven windmills, so he takes home $55,000 per annum which is a nice supplement to his income. And, contrary to Donald Trump, the cows are OK with windmills. Keith

        PS – By the way, I read today Trump was a huge Brexit proponent, but is now blaming Brexit for his Scottish golf courses losing money. He should have realized this as the EU facilitated easy travel to play his courses. But, that would have required more rational thinking as a business person. Someone should have explained it to him.

    • Janis, so true. Tidal energy is getting better footing off the shores of Scotland and is promising where the seas are rockier or river currents run fast (anything that can cause a turbine to turn an electromagnet) and geothermal and hydro still offer a lot. Keith

  2. I’ve never seen a working windmill, Keith, but photos of them make me feel good. I wish they had a few here to harness some of the wind that blows off the Ohio River, but we have too many refineries for that to happen. There are some new solar energy companies opening in the area, but with all the clouds lately I wonder how they can cut through to the sun.
    Having said that, I have seen windmills that operate water wells, helping irrigation methods on larger fields in the area. One thing we have enough of here is water. And yet, in spite of all the rain some of the aquifers are drying up. Pollution is part of the reason, The river is so polluted they routinely issue orders to not eat any fish caught there. We seem to be mass producing idiots but not saving any of our once abundant natural resources.
    Hope this makes some sense. I am recovering from a severe sinus infection and my brain is fried!

    • Angie, aquifers are in jeopardy in more than a few places. Every fossil fuel energy source and nuclear power needs water, some of which is lost daily due to dissipation and evaporation. So the renewable options that do not need water have another reason to be used in addition to their other environmental rationales.

      The wind mills are elegant. Near Corning, New York there are about two dozen in the rolling hills. When we traveled Ireland, they are quite a few of them. Keith

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