Wind, having been the fastest growing component of power generation during much or most of the last two decades, is bigger all the time. And it's not just big in terms of generating fraction. As wind farm developers seek to tap higher-speed winds up-hill and off-coast, the size of the turbine towers and blades is getting huge.
The April issue of MIT's Technology Review magazine, available to subscribers online now, contains an outstanding photo essay describing the construction of a 367-MW wind farm in the Irish Sea. The $1.5-billion project is being managed by Denmark's Dong Energy. The turbines, the height of a 30-story building, are supplied by Siemens.
To put such projects in a human scale, IEEE Spectrum's "Reap the Wild Wind," by Robb Mandelbaum, is still worth a look. It's not available online but can be found in the print October 2002 issue. Mandelbaum gives a vivid account of what it feels like to climb one of the giant turbine towers.
A month just spent in a Vermont writers' retreat provided reminders that wind not only is not small but, in many minds, not beautiful either. In a small town east of Burlington, 18-wheelers carrying "oversized loads"--just pieces of the huge turbine blades, actually--regularly rumbled through town. An interstate highway rest area just outside Burlington (photo above) turned out to be chock full of the trucks and trailers.
Personally, I generally find wind turbines strung along a mountain ridge to be a stirring and gorgeous sight. But among the artists and writers resident at the Vermont retreat, more than one felt that the giant turbine towers are about as lovely as a power transmission line. An art photographer confessed to a longing for the old-fashioned nuclear power plant, tucked inconspicuously into a valley glen, capable of producing three times the energy they'll get from that farm in the Irish Sea.