Bill Leslie's Carolina Conversations


Posted January 25, 2006

My daughter Lauren e-mailed me from Boone this morning to say: "the wind is insane today. My bed is shaking." Blustery days are common in Boone. I started thinking about my old radio days and remembered doing stories on a federal project in 1978 at Howard's Knob near Appalachian State University. It was the world's largest wind-powered electric generator constructed standing 131 feet high, sporting two 97 foot blades that rotated counterclockwise at 35 miles an hour. The NASA-managed windmill was part of a renewal energy movement begun under President Jimmy Carter. The plan was for the windmill to generate enough electricity for 300 to 500 average size homes. But the woosh of the steel blades was too loud for the locals and the windmill became the object of scorn and was eventually shut down. The North Carolina Wind Energy program based at ASU isn't giving up on the idea. This group insists "wind turbine technology is far more efficient, quiet, and sophisticated than similar technology just 10 years ago and largely due to technological advancements, the cost of energy produced from wind turbines has fallen nearly 80% in the past two decades, making this renewable resource competitive with conventional sources of energy like coal and natural gas." I applaud them for their efforts. On a windy day like today it is sad that we cannot harness some of the power and use it to supplement our energy supplies. The mountains and the coast are the best places for wind power. If you have ever been to Jockey's Ridge on the Outer Banks you know how it is so easy to fly a kite there because there is an almost constant source of wind power. The Wright Brothers knew that a century earlier. On this blustery day let us celebrate and explore this sustainable and non-polluting source of energy.

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Bill Leslie