Wind Energy is Part of the Solution

By Niall McMahon
Letter published in The Boston Globe
June, 2005

It was very interesting to read your editorial series last week, ''Carbon-free kilowatts," regarding wind energy and other power sources. As a European visitor to Cambridge, I have been impressed by the level of discussion on the subject of energy and the environment.

Here at MIT, I read about the establishment of an Energy Research Council to address the impending world energy problem. This is contrary to the general impression that many Europeans have of Americans' attitude about energy and the environment! This is very encouraging.

On the subject of wind energy and turbines, you mentioned that, as fossil fuel prices increase, wind energy is likely to become cheaper. This is undoubtedly true. Walt Patterson, an economist with the UK think-tank Chatham House, similarly argues that adding low-risk wind energy to a mix of energy sources should stabilize markets and reduce the average cost of power. Although intermittent, as you mentioned in your editorial, wind is far from unpredictable. Modern short-term wind forecasts allow the turbine operators to post accurate power output predictions up to a day in advance.

In Europe, as in the United States, the old-fashioned, centralized power grid is one of the bigger obstacles to the further development and integration of wind energy. The re-design of these grids is one of the significant challenges ahead. Wind will not solve the energy problem by itself, but it will be an important part of the solution.

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