East Bay News

Berkeley researcher pinpoints good wind turbine spots

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Almost half the carbon dioxide we pump into the atmosphere comes from generating electricity. A cleaner option is wind power, but where would we put the turbines? A UC Berkeley researcher has the answers and one of them may surprise you.

If it's windy, it must be afternoon on and around San Francisco Bay. It whips the grass, it generates waves, and for a guy like Michael Dvorak, Ph.D., it opens all kinds of possibilities.

"I'm an opportunist, and if there can be wind in your sales for free, why not use it?" said Dvorak.

By that, he means more than recreation. Dvorak not only sails this boat, he lives in its limited space that's only 100 square feet.

All quite predictable from a guy who thinks green and who teaches civil and environmental energy at UC Berkeley. If you visit him, he'll elaborate about how he earned his Ph.D. by plotting the best places for wind turbines off America's coasts.

"We can get most of our energy, especially on the East Coast, during the time that we use all of our energy from wind energy," said Dvorak.

And, he looked everywhere. So imagine 19 wind turbines just off the coast of Berkeley. Dvorak calculated that is how many it would take to power the entire city.

"From the northern tip of Treasure Island all the way over past the Berkeley pier here," said Dvorak.

But wait a minute -- wind turbines, just off the so-called "People's Republic of Berkeley?" That will never happen, right?

Some people have concerns about their enormous size and others say, "If they can make it attractive looking, why not?"

"If Berkeley is a nuclear free zone, then they should propose an alternative to nuclear energy," said Dvorak.

Dvorak's turbines would be more than 400 feet across, like the ones at the Altamont Pass, but anchored in shallow water. And yes, they would obscure some views. But the wind picks up, just about the same time as electrical demands peak.

"On a strong summer day, when the winds are blowing at 20-25 knots, they winds would be putting out almost 100 percent all their possible power," said Dvorak.

"Seagulls, seagulls, if birds fly into it, I hope they don't get killed. There's a lot of them I suppose," said one Berkeley resident.

Right now, it is just a thought from a forward-looking environmental Ph.D., who knows a good, free resource, when it hits him in the face.

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wind, berkeley, east bay news, wayne freedman
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