Sunday, August 9, 2009

Day 34 Saturday 8/8/09 Minot to Rugby, ND

Day 34 Saturday 8/8/09
Minot to Rugby, ND
70 Miles
1473 total miles

I am now at the center of the universe... Or at least the geographical center of North America in Rugby, ND. Today's ride went well, starting fog and mist in the Souris (Mouse) Valley, and mostly calm and cool, if not damp, conditions and climbing up onto the prairie north of Velva, where I encountered a new wind farm, one of many I have seen popping up all over the windy west. This one has a power purchase agreement with XcelEnergy and was developed by Acciona, which is, I believe, a Spanish wind developer concern. Siting for these wind farms out here on the prairie is determined by a couple of important factors, among others these being the most important: wind, and proximity to the power grid. In this wind farm's case, the development was situated right next to an available transmission line, thereby minimizing the connection costs to the developer. Over the long run, these kinds of readily available sites will be harder to come by and the more difficult projects will involve the challenges of establishing new power transmission corridors-- every player in the wind development industry in a particular region will, of course, wish to have those lines installed the closest to their projects, in order to keep their connection costs down. And there is also the issue of obtaining the easement rights from landowners who may only indirectly benefit from wind development in their area. All a very large set of issues for local, regional and national regulators, utilities and developers to sort out, but the long term benefits are too great to be ignored. The establishment of distributed generation will be a significant component to making the overall energy portfolio of the future. No one source will meet all the demand, and it will be a combination of all these resources and new technologies coming online that will make it happen.

I was really amazed to hear, for example, the new drilling technology that is being employed in the Bakken formation around the Stanley area to reach the oil that is trapped in the rock there... The wells are sunk 2 miles deep, down to the oil containing layer, then the drill articulates somehow and bores horizontally through the layer for another 2 miles! This tends to loosen the surrounding rock and allows for oil seepage into the well. Remarkable!

At breakfast in Rugby, on Sunday morning, I was approached by a local gentleman, Archie Lindseth, a retired farmer. He was waiting for his son and daughter-in-law to arrive for breakfast and so we chatted a while and also had a chance to talk with son Chuck, when he arrived. Chuck's a farmer south of town here and not too sure about the wind development in the area. We talked about energy portfolios and the different available resources. Chuck is in the nuclear corner as being the most energy efficient, but when we began talking about the long term risks associated with the storage and disposal of the waste the conversation halted. These are difficult topics for many to discuss, and conversations can quickly deteriorate into strongly held opinions without the benefit of facts and support. They often aren't rational, but I am struck by activist Joanna Macy's comments about the deep feeling of authority one feels when faced with inter generational challenges, as we are stewards of this planet, only here for a very short while in it's keeping. We must derive our authority from the knowledge that we know it is right to preserve species, even life as we know it, and in the case of nuclear poisons with half-lives of tens of thousands of years, demand the answers to hard questions about treatment and storage.

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