May the Wind Power Your Home

July 18, 2011 § Leave a comment

On my walk to work this morning, I had the unfortunate task of lugging with me an old computer bag with an even older laptop inside it. The laptop is from who-knows-what decade and weighs more than would ever be considered acceptable. As I hauled that detestable object up the hill (with a second bag slung over my other shoulder), I realized how appreciative I was of modern technology. I watched men in business suits pass by, and I wondered how many of them had a MacBook Air (a heavenly 1.5 pounds, by the way) or an iPad gently tucked away in their briefcases. Imagine instead if we were all carrying these cinder-block computers to work every day. Thank goodness we’ve improved technology.

Now normally I’m the type of gal who says, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” I guess in the 90’s, I might have objected to Apple creating a new laptop, claiming that my honking old Dell was doing the job just fine. But I see that in the end, when considering a larger and more long-term scale, change and development is priceless. If we were still lugging those big laptops around today, we would probably all be hunch-backed and bitter. Okay—that might be an exaggeration, but the main point I’m trying to get at is that change is good. We shouldn’t be afraid of change.

Which is why we shouldn’t be afraid of change on a more environmentally-relevant topic, either: namely, ENERGY. Let’s face it; we’ve got an energy crisis on our hands. True, we’re not rationing the kWh’s of electricity we use or waiting in three-hour lines to buy a precious galleon of gas, but it’s still a fact that we need to do something about all the dirty energy that’s out there, hurting the planet and ourselves. If we embrace change, just like we have in so many other ways, then we can really move forward to a better, cleaner future.

I sound like a spokesperson for some clean-energy campaign, but in reality all I’m trying to say is that we have options. We have alternatives, and we don’t need to be stuck with dirty coal and oil forever. NSTAR energy, for example, is an energy provider for many homes and businesses in Massachusetts. They have a new service that gives customers the option to have some of their electricity generated by wind power. Customers, if they would like, can choose to have either 50% or all of their electricity come from wind farms in NH and NY. It’s clean energy, it’s renewable, and it can really make a big difference in the way we treat our planet.

So if they have this significant option out there for people, what’s holding us back from making the change? The most obvious answer is price—NSTAR openly acknowledges that switching to this kind of energy contract will cost a few more cents per kWh, and we all know that the moment one thing is more expensive than something else, it’s going to be hard to sell. But is 3 or 4 cents really a big deal? For most families, adding 3 or 4 cents to their energy rates isn’t going to be a deal-breaker.

I did a little research and discovered that the average price of electricity in US residential homes is 12 cents per kWh. So in a hypothetical situation, let’s say a family switches to NSTAR’s 50% wind-electricity contract (by the way, NSTAR is lenient—there is no minimum time of commitment or cancellation fee). As explained on the website, the price of every kWh would go up 2.534 cents. So instead of paying 12 cents, our hypothetically average family is now paying 14.534 cents per kWh. Is everyone still breathing, or have you dropped to the floor by an anxiety-induced heart attack? I’m assuming everyone’s fine. Therefore I’m assuming the price bump is not outrageous.

Another common objection to wind-generated electricity is the argument that wind energy cannot be stored in the same way and is therefore not as reliable a resource as what is currently available. However this argument is not as legitimate as it might initially seem. In fact, wind power is extremely reliable and most effective when implemented as part of a larger system. In this way, even if the wind energy output does decline, alternative energy can be pulled from other sources, such as hydroelectric, gas or coal. Additionally, since wind turbines are located far apart from one another, even if one malfunctions, the others are still presumably fine and generating electricity (this is actually immensely preferable to the complete shortages that occur when a plant loses power). Furthermore, wind energy doesn’t stop instantaneously the moment the wind stops blowing. In fact, it can take up to an hour for a wind-farm to stop generating electricity after the winds have died down. This is, again, due to the geographic diversity of the turbines. Within that period of time, power plants have plenty of time to switch to other electricity generators to compensate.

So overall I would argue that wind-energy is neither too expensive nor too risky to ignore as a plausible alternative to dirty energy. But if this is the case, why are people not embracing these changes as much as they could? Do they not know about it? Or is it that, in the end, we don’t like change unless there’s a problem with the way things are? If the latter question answers yes, as I suspect for most people it does, then here’s another question—why isn’t there a problem with the way things are now? Why is it ok that temperatures are increasing, sea levels are rising, forests are being destroyed and natural  habitats are disappearing quickly?

It’s not. Rather, it’s a problem that is worth addressing in the present moment. And the way we can address it is by embracing change. Spend those extra couple of cents and create a demand for an energy alternative that in the end will save us a lot of trouble! We need to embrace change to preserve the present. That’s the truth of the matter. Because instead, if we choose to be inactive and not alter the current state of things, our surroundings and life as we know it will disintegrate into something unrecognizable. So let’s embrace the change. See if your energy provider has anything to offer regarding more environmentally friendly energy consumption. Take a little action, bring some change and preserve the present.


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