Geology And Geophysics


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The future of crude oil is pretty simple: the resource that has greased the wheels of our modern-day economy for over 100 years is finite, and is being depleted rapidly. As President Bush communicated during his April 29, 2008 press conference, we are in a transition period: that is, the end of the age of oil is giving way to the beginning of the renewable energy age. But exactly what forms of renewable energy are currently on the table?

Among the best sources of energy for the future are solar, tidal stream, and hydrogen. Biofuels are not favored because of their propensity to drive up the cost of food worldwide and cause an equal (if not greater) amount of greenhouse gas emissions; thus they are strictly a short-term solution. However, another viable energy source has blown into town, and it may very well take the top spot in today's search for clean renewable energy.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy's Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) program, the Wind Powering America (WPA) initiative was launched in 2000 as "a commitment to dramatically increase the use of wind energy in the United States. This initiative will establish new sources of income for American farmers, Native Americans, and other rural landowners, and meet the growing demand for clean sources of electricity."(1) The initiative's four main goals include regional economic development, local environmental protection, increase in energy production and national security, and using wind power as an essential element of America's energy mix.

Since its inception, WPA has seen wind energy capacity increase fivefold from 2,500 megawatts (MW) to greater than 16,000 MW by 2007. 17 states now have more than 100 MW installed. In fact, the Horse Hollow Wind Energy Center just outside the West Texas town of Abilene is the world's largest wind farm and boasts a whopping 735.5 MW capacity. This enormous enterprise covers approximately 47,000 acres and is comprised of 130 Siemens 2.3 MW and 291 General Electric 1.5 MW wind turbines.

Wind Powering America focuses on six key areas to increase the production of wind energy:

Rural Economic Development
Focuses on bolstering local economies in agricultural areas including job creation and economic stimulus through wind energy.

Wind Power for Schools
Educates and promotes wind energy to schools and universities.

Wind power for Native Americans
Promotes wind energy production on Native American reservations leading to increased revenue and energy independence.

State- and Regional-Based Activities
Educates groups on issues surrounding implementation of wind power. Three Regional Wind Energy Institutes (RWEIs) have been formed to further educate stakeholders: Great Lakes, Mid-Atlantic, and Southwest.

Public Power Partnerships
Partners with utilities and utility associations to promote the use of wind energy.

Distributed Wind
Educates and promotes small wind power systems for homeowners, rural landowners, and small businesses who desire to produce their own electricity.

Pursuant to President George W. Bush's 2006 Advanced Energy Initiative, windy areas of the country could potentially supply up to 20 percent of the nation's electricity. This is precisely why, with its 17-mile per hour constant winds, West Texas is currently experiencing a new oil boom of sorts, only this time the energy is clean, abundant, and renewable. It is also why on June 2, 2008, the Department of Energy signed a Memorandum of Understanding with major wind power turbine manufacturers to create a roadmap to 20 percent electrical generation from clean wind energy by 2030.

The future of alternative energy is bright, and wind power is no exception. Not only is wind energy clean and renewable, but its impact on the environment is minimal with no carbon dioxide emissions. Though both solar and tidal stream are equally viable, wind power will prove a very important addition to America's energy mix.

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