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To me, the wind farm between Tehachapi and Mojave, California, is nothing short of awe-inspiring. Though the route is slightly out of my way, I often take it when visiting family if I’m in the mood for beautiful drive through hundreds of towering windmills. If it weren’t for all the wind, I wouldn’t mind living under them.

With mounting needs for clean, renewable energy, ocean wind power offers a viable solution. Uninterrupted by the curve of the land and powerful enough to create waves, wind travels over the ocean with greater speed than it does over land, making off-shore wind farms an ideal place to harness the planet’s natural energy. Barriers to their development are often financial and aesthetic arguments. It is more expensive to build windmills in water than it is on land, and easier still to burn fossil fuels. Residents argue that windmills will disrupt the landscape’s natural beauty, despite rising CO2 levels from factories looming more inland.

The New England Wind Fund, based in Massachusetts, raises money to offset the building costs of new windmills, with a particular interest in off-shore wind power. Membership benefits include news updates, tax-deductible donations, business partnerships, a gift of fair-trade coffee, cleaner air, and an annual clean energy cruise past clean energy projects in the Boston Harbor, ending with a visit to the Hull windmill.

To get involved, visit www.newenglandwind.org

A major drawback of wind power is the annual death toll of thousands of birds, especially top predators like golden eagles, due to collision with wind turbines. The Portland Audubon chapter has written a good article on the impact of wind turbines on avian populations. Solutions include careful planning and site location to reduce overlapping farms with migration paths, and close monitoring of wildlife populations. Power lines have already been successfully altered to prevent bird electrocution.

Other issues to be considered are impacts on the local marine habitat and ecology, how turbine noise affects marine mammals, and what wind farms would mean for local fisheries – although to be honest I wouldn’t mind if they formed an obstacle to overfishing more endangered fishes.

windmill_38488.jpgThere was a national workshop on wind power in 2003, but I’m not sure when there will be another. Europe seems to be taking the lead with their semi-annual wind conference, their next event upcoming in Germany later this year. Learn more @ http://www.eow2007.info/

Carolyn Elefant has a blog dedicated to wind and wave energy laws and regulations here: Offhshore Renewable Energy Law Blog

And just for fun, here’s a global winds animation by NASA: http://visibleearth.nasa.gov/