The Wind in the Park

I see that wind turbines are featuring again in the Business Section of the Chronicle Herald. Apparently Seaforth, located in Dartmouth, will build you a turbine for $250,000. They say that the turbine can produce 125,000 kilowatt hours annually. So is this a great deal or what?

Well, first note that they say can produce --- not will produce. Obviously, can only becomes will when the wind blows fair and steady. There is no need to quibble over such minutiae if you live in Wolfville because we all know that we live in the best of all possible places on the best of all possible worlds. And we have the property taxes to prove it!

So what the heck does it mean to say 125,000 kilowatt hours annually? Well, it means two things:

  1. First, a kilowatt hour is one of those weird units for energy. Converting to SI units, these turbines can produce 450,000 MJ of energy in one year. MJ just means a million Joules --- which is probably about as meaningful as the name of my cat. Hold tight and come along for the ride. All will be revealed.

    Let us put 450,000 MJ in units of gasoline equivalents. One litre of gasoline has about 33 MJ of energy. So 13,600 litres of gasoline has about 450,000 MJ. At $1 per litre, that turbine saves us from blowing $13,600 each year on gasoline.

    OK, a petrol engine might only be 25% efficient so perhaps we'd need 54,500 litres of gasoline to produce 450,000 MJ of electric energy. On the other hand, the wind might not be so steady, so the turbine will only produce a fraction of the energy that it can produce. Still, we live in a perfect town where wind turbines are idealized and petrol engines are reviled.

  2. Hang on a minute mate. There is another way of thinking about 125,000 kilowatt hours annually. This is like running a 15 kW (kilo-Watt) generator continuously for a year. Now we can buy a 15 kW gasoline generator for less that $3000. Heck, that's a lot less expensive than a $250,000 wind turbine. Let's not forget that installing that wind turbine is probably also going to be a rather expensive business and heaven forbid that it ever needs fixing! Blow me down, I figure I could put $250,000 into a secure investment and use the interest to buy a new gasoline generator each year and still have plenty of loot left over to take a trip down to Cancun in the winter. Still, we live in a perfect town where wind turbines are idealized and petrol engines are reviled.

Indeed, our town is so perfect that we don't even have a petrol station. I'm told we used to have 5 of them way back in the old days, before we became perfectly politically correct. Of course, I wouldn't know because I wasn't round these parts back in those less enlightened times. Nevertheless, I know that there must have been at least 2 petrol stations. One of them remains, a derelict shell. Another has been gifted to The Town by a great oil man and general Maritime benefactor. Mr Irving pulled up his petrol station, planted a tree, installed a fancy clock, and gave us Clock Park.

Town Council has hired an expert to come up with an all frills design for Clock Park. These aren't just any sort of frills, you know. Heck, they're talking about $225,000 dollars worth of gardening. Add to that the cost of hiring the "designer" and you're probably up to the cost of one of those wind turbines!

You know what I'm thinking, right! Yep, if we can have a clock in the park, why not a wind-turbine to boot. Think on it. Yes, a turbine is an elegant structure and would be the perfect symbolic replacement for the petrol stations of our demonic past.

Close your eyes and picture all the motorists pulling into "Clock Park" and plugging their Zenn Cars into the turbine. Now there we have it, a park and a transportation plan --- all in one nice neat little package. Surely town luminaries will love it?

Of course, those grumps at Wolfville Watch are going to tell you that the wind doesn't blow in Wolfville. Never mind, I say, "We have plenty of pumped up potentates to blow up a fair breeze."