Wind power isn't anything new, certainly - plenty of windmills were made to mill bread before electricity and industry came along, for example. But they've become popular again because they're zero-emission - which is all well and good for us.

Practically, wind power comes from the sun - just in a roundabout way. Solar heating messes with the atmosphere, which interacts with geography. The air is lighter in some areas than others, even though what the atmosphere really wants is to be an equal density, so the air tries to move around and equalize. That, or the trees start sneezing - either way, wind exists.

And adding wind power will reduce carbon emissions, for sure - a stabilization wedge would be adding about 1.9 million megawatts by 2050, or anywhere between 2.5 million to 380,000 new wind towers (depending on size and capacity). That'd be one wedge of the roughly sixteen we need.

But is it a good idea?

Well, yes. Definitely. But there are some issues to think about along the way.

There are three things about wind power that keep it from being miraculous. First, it isn't working all the time - which is fine. It just means you need diverse locations and other forms of power to compensate - which is always true. (It's never been seriously/intelligently suggested that we get all our power from one source, fusion reactors in SimCity notwithstanding.)

Second, wind farms need to be located in places with wind, to get the most out of them. The practical result of this is that we need long-distance transmission lines to get all the power to (primarily) the cities that need it - and power gets lost along the way (turned to a bit of heat as it flows through the wires). Not a huge problem - but definitely something to think about; and it means that some countries/areas are always going to be more successful with wind power than others.

Third, some people really hate living next to wind turbines. Worse, some people have very real medical problems that result from living next to wind farms - including migraines, loss of sleep, and a ringing of the ears. Because wind power works best when it's high (and reduces the chance of a cow wandering into the blades), towers are a hundred meters or higher. That can be be high enough to put a flicker shadow (shadow from the blades - very annoying) on houses kilometers away, and in some cases, broadcast the rhythmic thumping sound of rotating blades.

What does all of this mean for wind power?

Really, it just means we have to be considerate of how it affects people. One of the interesting things about wind towers is that they don't take up much ground space - there are a lot of possibilities regarding herding and farming on space used by wind turbines (if the herders or farmers want to live near them). And, of course, wind power is one of the few truly carbon-neutral forms of electricity generation - and that alone makes it important.

So, wind power? In our opinion, yes - just make sure that it's being thought through completely.

Over the next week, we'll have plenty more to say about wind power - like what about small turbines on top of homes, off-shore wind farms, and how wind works with other power generation technologies? What can be done to reach our stabilization wedge - increasing the amount of wind power in the world 50 times over? Just you wait.

And for the record, some of us think the turbines look cool.

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