Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Green Guam? Don't bet on it

Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn, who was on Guam this week to sell the buildup, said the U.S. will incorporate "green technology" to help meet the military's needs.

"Our collective investment in wind, solar, hydroelectric and wave-generated power will make Guam an environmental leader among Pacific islands," he said, according to a DOD press release.

I seriously doubt it.

Let’s start with wind power.

Guam is small and wind turbines are huge. (The photo above shows a 747 superimposed on a prototype offshore wind turbine: Source.)

Offshore wind turbines will likely be visible from the island. (And how far offshore can they built considering ocean depths?) The generators may also make enough noise to be audible from land. The tourism industry won't be happy.

Some other questions: Will offshore windfarms impact coral or ocean life? Close some areas for boating?

Onshore wind turbines seem unlikely because of their height, in the range of 200 to 260 feet. Onshore or offshore, a wind turbine will be the tallest structure Guam has ever seen.

Solar power is by far the best option, but has the DOD incorporated solar in its planning? Can DOD officials point to any buildup-related construction that has begun or will soon begin with solar planned?

Solar has so much potential. In this year’s Solar Decathlon sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy sponsors, student teams from around the globe built 20 solar power houses on the National Mall of their own design. The technology is astonishing, and the enthusiasm of the young students I spoke to gave me genuine hope for our future.

But solar panel technology is expensive. A 2-kW system “which will offset the electricity needs of an energy efficient homes, will cost about $8 to $10 per watt ($16,000 to $20,000),” according to DOE.

Wave energy is interesting but may raise some environmental issues, including conflict “with other sea space users” such as recreational boaters; the potential for toxic release or accidental spills from fluids used in these systems, among other things. (Source cited below)

And where would the wave energy systems be built? Along DOD property or in areas in civilian control?

Lynn’s remarks may sound good but these are not easy to adopt alternatives. Technical, policy and emotional issues abound, assuming the military actually seeks the opinion of Guam's residents.

Wave energy: OCS Alternative Energy and Alternate Use Programmatic EIS

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