Try Some Fresh, Clean and Green Electrons

NIMBY’s bigger brother BANANA (Build Absolutely Nothing, Anywhere Near Anyone) is even more adamant and exclusive, seeking to forever banish power generation to the unseen and unconsidered realm of Somewhere Else.

A bit north of the Cape, however, a welcome mat has been thrown out for locally generated renewable power.

Citizens in communities like Hull have said loud and clear – Yes, we have no bananas!

Taking the lead and pride in doing for themselves, Hull and likeminded towns and cities have brought clean power literally into their backyards.  Ironic and fitting that those communities and individuals who make such so-called sacrifices, who do the hard work now, will very likely reap the fruits of their labor in the very near future.

Hull is a little peninsula of a town on Massachusetts’ south shore and driving over its connection to the mainland takes one past the town’s larger wind turbine, visible from Nantasket Beach. Made by Vestas, the 1.8 megawatt turbine stands at about 250 feet above ground at its nacelle.

Old has given way to new, the roller coaster and bumper cars ridden during summers of yesteryear exist now only in memory and photographs. That amusement park has been replaced with high-rise dwellings which of course consume considerable energy.

A few miles further north leads to Hull’s tip, the spot the community chose for its first and smaller wind turbine site. It’s over 160 feet tall and rated at 660 kilowatts. The turbine’s tower, interesting to note, is literally with a stone’s throw of Hull’s high school. Standing directly below its three spinning blades, a soft and intermittent swoosh is all that filters down below.

Hull resident Helen Waldorf owns a home near the peninsula’s northern tip, sandwiched between the turbines at peninsula’s ends. An advocate of the present and planned wind turbines in Hull, Waldorf has refitted her home to make use of the existing and anticipated renewable energy from wind.

Hull Wind I at the Town's High SchoolYet Waldorf is not just waiting for the day when clean electrons arrive, she and others in Hull are working for and living that future now. The town’s two turbines currently provide up to 20 percent of Hull’s electrical needs, and the four additional and larger ones planned will bring that capacity to over 100 percent.

Waldorf and her partner Jude Hutchinson are anticipating that clean energy, thoroughly researched the available technology, and opted for electrically-powered hot water and home heating systems. An on-demand system now provides for the couple’s hot water.

The new unit is bolted to the wall in Waldorf’s cellar and is about the size of a briefcase. Using electricity to heat the water only as needed, the system uses no energy absent the demand for hot water. Compare this to conventional hot water heaters, most of which burn fossil fuels 24/7 to keep a supply of hot water within a tank.

“We really didn’t want to do fossil fuels,” said Waldorf.

Their home is heated via electricity also, using an advanced system which warms bricks within an insulated closure. The bricks act as a heat sink, holding the high temperatures until a smart thermostat tells the system to begin transferring heat from bricks to the house.

An attachment that Waldorf plans to add will up the intelligence of the heating system, drawing electrical power from the grid during off-peak times to spread the demand on the grid more evenly.

The clean and reliable heat is quite welcome, as the region had just been blanketed and chilled with yet another layer of snow from a series of recent storms. About a foot of the stuff covered Waldorf’s driveway, waiting to be shoveled.

Because the new system stores energy within the heat sink, the smart system can choose to pull the electricity powering it during off-peak hours, say at 3 o’clock in the morning. Because demand is so low at such times, it’s probable that 100 percent of that electricity has been harvested locally via Hull’s turbines, fresh produce from local farms.

Recall that the distance the electricity must travel from generation site to the user is a handicap; much of that energy is lost through inefficiency. For every unit of electrical power sent from power plants, as much as two-thirds can be lost in transmission.

Yet because Hull’s turbines are literally right next door, far less energy is lost delivering that power to the community. This is the renewable and far more efficient energy source that Waldorf is tapping into with the couple’s new heating systems.

“Believe me, this is the best game in town,” she said with a smug grin.  “I never have to worry about the price of oil going up. I never have to worry about a gas shortage.”
Hull Peninsula http://flickr.com/search/?l=commderiv&w=all&q=hull+windmills&m=text
Turbne at Sunset http://flickr.com/photos/nantaskart/72995747/
Asparagus http://flickr.com/photos/bensonkua/2552865406/
White Turbines http://flickr.com/photos/mdpettitt/2982347674/

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