October 30, 2009

Younger and younger Couch Potatoes

Please say it ain't so.

The latest info from the Nielson Company is that the average child is in front of a TV for 28 hours every week; pre-schoolers aged 2-5 for more than 32 hours. Many of those hours are spent watching DVDs or playing video games, and I’m not including the hours spent on the internet or cell phones. Media consumption has replaced outdoor play for the next generation. I was putting the health of the planet and preserving our national parks on their shoulders too.

To address this “nature deficit disorder,” the National Wildlife Federation’s Green Hour campaign is urging parents to schedule one "green hour" a day for your kids to explore outdoors.

October 1, 2009

It's not just a lot of hot air!

Is our energy future blowing in the wind?

At a VIMS After Hours Lecture last week, VIMS alumnus Charles Natale explored the environmental opportunities and regulatory challenges associated with developming offshore renewable wind energy projects. Natale is President and CEO of ESS Group, Inc., one of the Northeast's largest environmental consulting and engineering companies and the company that has jumping through regulatory hoops for 7 years to get the Cape Wind project in Nantucket Sound up and running. It would be America's first offshore wind farm. . . and it may be operational in 2015. A lot of wind will be wasted by that time.

Natale says that "Europe is 10 to 15 years ahead of us" as they head toward providing 17 percent of their energy needs by 2030. BTW, Virginia has a voluntary goal of 12 percent by 2022. Yes, voluntary. You can expect speedy progress on that front, eh?

Natale expects Cape Wind to be the "poster child" for future offshore wind projects along the east coast. Virginia has "very good potential" for off-shore wind farms. . . and lots more regulatory hoops too, I expect.

Worried about the "visual impact"? Bluewater Wind is proposing to build a similar offshore wind project 11.5 nautical miles off the coast of Delaware. They say, "At this distance, the turbines would appear as faint lines on the horizon, less than half as tall as a thumb nail. On many days, especially a typical hazy summer day, the turbines will not be visible at all."  

What about the birds? The often feared "Cuisinart effect"? Ewww. Cape Fear did millions of dollars worth of studies to satisfy the Massachusetts Audubon Society, etc. Their findings: 2 birds per turbine per year. Their project is for 130 turbines, so do the math. Cats are much more deadly.

Their website also offers this information: Studies of birds and offshore wind farms in Europe have found that there are very few bird collisions. Most birds have been observed by cameras and by radar to fly around the wind farms, and those birds flying through the wind farms have been observed flying through the open corridors between turbine rows. Several offshore wind sites in Europe have been in areas heavily used by seabirds. Improvements in wind turbine design, including a much slower rate of rotation of the blades and a smooth tower base instead of perchable lattice towers, have helped reduce bird mortality at wind farms around the world. Birds are severely impacted by fossil fuel energy; examples include birds dying from exposure to oil spills, habitat loss from acid rain and mountaintop removal coal mining, and mercury poisoning.

If you've read that the Institute for Energy Research (IER) recently debunked wind energy, consider the source before you swallow this think tank's "objective research." Their president is a former oil industry lobbyist. Their federal affairs director  was on the staff of the lobbying group Arctic Power, that works toward the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge's wild coast becoming an oilfield.

So next time you go to Virginia Beach, look out to the horizon. Offshore drilling or offshore wind farms?