This really is a pretty cool story in the Globe magazine on small-time wind power, now growing in Massachusetts one turbine at a time. The state is indeed subsidizing the heck out of the industry, but at least it seems to be making the investment in turbines a bit more attractive, and is getting some results.
But it's this passage that struck me:
[E]xperts like Nick D'Arbeloff, executive director of the New England Clean Energy Council, say there's no doubt where the market is headed. Forget about Cape Wind for a moment. Shelve the debate about that 130-turbine wind farm somewhere in Nantucket Sound. The future of wind power may be a lot smaller than you think, and the nearest windmill may be right around the corner. The landscape, many believe, is going to be dotted with them.
Before electricity and gasoline, nuclear power or coal, the peoples of Egypt, Phoenicia, and Persia set their minds on harnessing the wind. Powered by sails made of animal skins or woven reeds, and later flax and cotton, explorers traveled the world. And before the dawn of the second century, people realized that using sails on land — in the form of a windmill — could help move water or grind grain. The windmill became indispensable. From Crete to China to Europe and finally to the New World, farmers came to rely on these rudimentary turbines. They proliferated — in particular across the American West, where the land was flat and the winds strong — until, in 1888, a mustachioed Ohio inventor named Charles Brush set out to build a large windmill capable of generating electricity.
Back before we were so clever and had high technology to find energy buried in highly inconvenient places — like, under the land, or worse yet, someone else's land — we used to find power where it was: In the air, or in the sky, or shallow soil. It's returning to the ingeniously simple ideas that were around for thousands of years — and just doing them better — that represents the future of energy.
Point is, the task of “going green” may be a lot easier than we think it is. The Romans used geothermal energy very cleverly. And now solar thermal power seems to be on the agenda again. Now that is a low-tech idea, even if its execution for big power may be high-tech. Gee whiz, people in China use solar mirror-cookers for their freaking rice.
Amazing how politically difficult it can be to do the simple, dumb thing that you could do everywhere.