09 Apr

Today I went on a trip to the Blue Creek Wind Farm

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pic via Blue Creek Wind Farm/Iberdrola

One of my oldest writing buddies, Charlie Finlay, works for Ohio State University, and alerted me to a media event OSU was holding to talk about its partnership with the Blue Creek Wind Farm in Van Wert County, which was installed and run by a Spanish Wind Power corporation, Iberdrola, with local headquarters in the US.

I’d seen the wind farm before on interstate 30 on my way to Indiana a few times. It’s truly an amazing mega project, because as you drive past for a few miles, you start seeing 328 foot tall wind turbines dotting the farm landscape. And there’re are more in the horizon. And the longer you drive, the longer you realize that there are just hundreds of them.

It’s quite an effect to realize that there are wind turbines as far as the eye can see.

152 of these things sit across 20,000 or so acres of farmland.

I’ve gotten close to some of the behemoths, so I didn’t hop on a bus for a close-up look at them (plus I doubt they’d show me the parts I was really interested in). But I did snag a few interesting facts from the tour.

The turbines can drive up to 304 megawatts in total in perfect conditions, today when we got there they were pumping 50 megawatts into the grid, and with wind picking up the engineers reported they expected 100 shortly.

The company spent $2 million a year on leases, that’s money that went to local farmers. At $2.7 million taxes they claim to be the largest tax payer in the county.

Anti-wind activists claimed the noise from 152 turbines would be unbearable. When I visited the first time there was a steady distant whoosh, but nothing as loud as a highway or a train. Both of which there are plenty of in the region.

A local farmer who spoke to us said that the highway had torn up more land, caused more grief, and was consistently louder than any of the turbines, though they’d been worried at first.

The OSU reps had an interesting story. They agreed to buy 50 megawatts of wind from the project in order to commit to an agreement by a number of universities to get carbon neutral by 2050. They anticipated the wind power purchase to cover 25% of their needs, but be more expensive than coal (brown) power. They decided that this would be an investment in their future, and go ahead anyway.

But when all was said and done, the power ended up costing them the same (and as a result of rebalancing their power portfolio, somehow even ended up costing them less, I wasn’t sure about the details of that), so they were very happy about it.

The lifespan of the turbines was 25 years, the towers they’re built on, 50. The next generation of turbines can provide 3 and 4 megawatts, potentially doubling the power output of the wind farm.

Ohio, with it’s predictable wind patterns and large flat landscapes, seems well suited to this, and they’re talking about building more of these in the area (Findlay is where they’re eyeing).

A couple of things I wanted to interrogate them on where, what, if any, subsidies they had and what that added to the per megawatt cost. I also was curious to see if they had any charts indicating the slope of coal-cost parity, as they seem to beating it in some cases. And I wanted to ask a bit more about night vs daytime, and how steady their output of power was.

But mostly, since there’s a massive wind farm now operational just down the road from me, one of the biggest in the US, I want to know how I can buy my home power from them. Something I’ll be investigating over the next weeks.

20 Mar

Good stuff: yesterday I saw Junot Diaz speak at OSU

Last night I went to see Junot Diaz speak at Ohio State University, and briefly hang out with C.C. Finlay and Rae Carson afterwards. A lot of resonance for me when he talked about the nature of diasporic writing. I mentioned to Charlie that although I read a lot when I was in the Caribbean, although my identity is bound up in being someone who thinks of himself as Caribbean and who now lives in another country, I didn’t read many diasporic writers growing up. Limited library access, my interest in genre and limited funds, and teachers who chose western canonical works, meant that I didn’t have access to a good library system until college.

By then I was beginning to break in and write my own stuff.

So to hear other writers thinking about identification and diaspora is thirsty man in the desert stuff for me.

I was also enjoying how familiar and practiced Junot was in front of a large audience. Since 2008 I’ve not been in front of audiences as much, because I can’t afford to front for my own travel. I enjoy Q&A, interaction, and reading. Less so prepared comments. Junot built that into this major presentation, and I’ve been trying to move toward that sort of environment for readings. Seeing someone do it well heartens me. I will be trying to weight readings/appearances in that natural direction in the future. Some very short readings with punch, a little bit of exposition about the nature of what’s being read, and lots of interaction with audience. It felt genuine, warm, and the time passed all too soon.