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What’s New is Old in the Finger Lakes

I headed down to North Cohocton to take a look at the wind farm located on the hill tops there. These are gigantic machines which soar 450 feet into the air and each turbine blade is 90 meters long – almost as long as a football field. The sun was out and there was a nice breeze blowing – enough to keep the blades spinning on their mounts. According to the climate change panel which is meeting in Doha, Qatar at this moment, we will need a lot of renewable energy in the coming decades to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The four day meeting in Abu Dhabi of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports that renewable energy will have a significantly larger role in the future global energy system. My neighbor scoffs since for every kilowatt-hr. of energy produced by a wind turbine, there has to an equal amount of back-up energy from a coal, gas, or nuclear fired power plant in case the wind doesn’t blow! Scoff or not, the report found that all renewable energy – including solar, hydro, wind, biomass, geothermal, and ocean energy –  represents about half of the new electricity generating capacity in 2008-2009. Like it or not, the world is shifting to a low-carbon economy.

I stopped to look at a private home near Canandaigua Lake where part of the electricity comes from a wind turbine. But I sort of chuckled to myself as just down the road there was a farm where the farmer’s wife hung out all of the family’s clothes to dry in the morning sunshine. No electricity, just old fashioned sun power to dry her family’s clothes. Very low tech but very green!

Over by Penn Yan, there is another farm which uses wind power to pump the water from a well, but there is a storage tank in case the wind doesn’t blow. One can’t help but think that what is regarded as new in the Finger Lakes is really old and renewable energy like wind, solar, and water power has been in use here in the Finger Lakes for a long time.

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