01 August 2008

Turbine Farms

Apropos of My last post related to vertical farming, let's combine some ideas floating around and point the way to a solution for some local woes.

In a nutshell, combine vertical farming structures with vertical windmills--essentially turbines--to provide additional benefits in the form of electrical energy. Given Puerto Rico's climate and wind patterns, a Turbine Farm would have a substantially-positive impact on Our economy.

For example, the Municipality of Lajas, due east of My hometown of Cabo Rojo, is virtually bereft of industry. It is the center of a pro-farming movement that lacks money, leadership and a compelling hook, so the movement is eerily similar to inertia. But that farming "movement" sits on over 2,400 acres of excellent grassland, land that has the unique quality (for Puerto Rico) of being isolated from any residential areas. 

Though it wouldn't exactly capture the spirit of urban farming, building Turbine Farms in Lajas has four major advantages:

1) It immediately and directly addresses three ongoing problem areas: weak agriculture, overburdened power grid and Lajas unemployment, estimated at 31-36%.

2) It puts government lands to public use, overcoming the current malaise of stillborn projects ranging from a sports complex to organic aquaculture.

3) It decentralizes the San Juan-centric myopia of Fools of all stripes, warts and canker sores.

4) It allows for cutting-edge development that showcases Our inventiveness and capacity to the world, especially since the Lajas area contains and borders world-renowned ecological sites.

And for those who know the area well and point out that water might be a problem, please note that windmills can also drive water pumps for deep (150-250 feet) wells. The water and technology are there to make this a reality.

Another angle: Given Lajas' small population and relatively low demands for electricity, the Turbine Farms could be used to create an "energy independent" town, as has been done in the wee hamlet of Rock Port, Missouri.  Granted, Lajas is about 11 times larger, but the energy needs could be offset by several "stcaked" turbines taking advantage of an average wind speed of 12 miles per hour year-round. 

Time? Cost? Champions? Political will? Economic muscle? Hell, if I could answer those questions off the top of My head, We wouldn't be in this mess, now would We?

The Jenius Has Spoken.


Unknown said...

As a Laje~o horrified by the destruction of the area where we used to have the Festival de Chiringas to build a road of questionable value I appreciate the post. Lajas has the talent and the terrain to make the project a reality and maybe even some of the entrepreneurs needed to kickstart it.Unfortunately, the professional protesters have soured a lot of innovative investment in the island. As long as we leave idiot kayak to complain and commit crimes WITHOUT PUTTING FORWARD A SINGLE SOLUTION we are fucked. A related idea that can be put into use quickly on a personal level is the trend to gardening on the roofs of our homes. Properly done, helps cool the house, avoids leaks and maximizes the value of space.There are plenty of herbs and plants that can be grown on such an environment. Besides getting a relatively cheap source of vegetables and herbs you get a sense of pride and accomplishment each time you eat the produce.

GCSchmidt said...

I like your rooftop garden idea, though in My case, the second floor has another house, made of wood, so I can't do it for now.

Don't you find it funny that Our so-called environmentalists have consistently screwed up project after project, and yet their numbers are tinytinytiny and their influence outside of project-centered protests is nil? They're so underground that the Sierra Club should be called the Sewer Club.

The Insider said...

Great post Gil. When I drive by those grass plains you talk about, I take back the nice scenery with a rare break from the trash that litters pretty much everywhere else in Puerto Rico.


While I love the concept, I would be afraid it just become a field of really large plastic bag holders.

By the way amigo, does writing or lobbying for change in Puerto Rico really work? When are you running for office, or are you afraid if you do, they'll drop you off in "La Perla" with a "F**k Y**" t shirt on? ;)


As a member of the *Northern Gringo Extension species*, I can't vote for you, but I can still cheer lead on your political blog. ;)

Re: http://www.kongaloid.org/archives/1998/02/entry_0.html

Here's an excerpt that seems like it might be relevant to the perspective many Puerto Ricans take to environmental issues:

Not so long ago I had a group of these very same independence advocates visit my farm. They were very impressed with how I had kept the pristine beauty of the place while making it accessible and useful for human habitation and enjoyment. They spouted a constant verbal stream of adoration and reverence for the beauty of Puerto Rico, all the time tossing their empty plastic wine cups and beer cans all over my property. A week later I was still picking up the garbage left behind by these so-called Defenders of Borinquen.

And, with all due respect to the idea of "rooftop gardens", aren't we ignoring the whole concept of the industrial revolution/specialization of labor?

I mean, do we really have to all become gardeners in order to reduce our air conditioning bill? Let's stick with more technologically advanced ideas when we look at things from the scope of an entire region. Rooftop gardens are a great solution, possibly, for those who want to develop and maintain rooftop gardens, on an individual basis. Perhaps solar power with its estimated 7 years till ROI for the average family home might be a better idea. You don't have to water and weed solar panels.

I must say that in a country where no one seems really bothered by the trash lining just about every street or road you travel, it might be a little hard to get support for environmental related projects.

Anticipated attitude: "Free or really cheap energy? Cool - let me know when that's ready. I have to get another Medalla. This one is empty. Clink (Sound of can hitting the ground)."

Let's start with the easier stuff:

- Pick up trash
- Fill in pot holes
- Add stop signs at intersections
- Turn off cop lights unless they are responding to a situation
- Make Choice Cable work
- Start "Time Management" PSAs
- Build new environmentally clean, energy sources that create employment


GCSchmidt said...

Holy Hannah, Joe, make Me work, willya?

Writing/lobbying for change in Puerto Rico has left Me bupkis, except for the respect of several folks I look up to, the contempt of a few I'd wouldn't take the time to scrape off My shoe and the knowledge that I can out-think any Fool on this Island. I'll take all that and grin.

IF I ran for office... Nah, I couldn't. I'd be so intent on pissing off the established Fools and their supporters that I really WOULD end up in La Perla, but the T-shirt would be My epitaph.

(Remind Me to tell you about "The Santini Incident.")

Your clip about the filthy-pig independence shammers is so spot-on I cackled. They held an event this year to "clean up" the Betances statue between Cabo Rojo and Lajas and the place looked like a mutated dump after it ended. Sure, there was a big crowd there and very few of them were there to support independence, but the "V.I.P. tent" was the biggest mess of all. Either the V.I.P.s were the filthiest of all or the people were expressing their honest opinion...

During World War II (Canada had a hand in that, you know) "Victory Gardens" were estimated to have provided as much as 30% of the food consumed by urban dwellers. Not bad. Unless We invoke the reality of a similar extreme crisis, We could do well to encourage rooftop gardens as savings in food and energy and even as a good form of exercise. Will that sell it to the masses? Hell no, but it could sell the idea to a reasonable minority.

As for Our trashy attitudes about trash, you won't be surprised to know that We produce the most trash per day per person in the world, just over 5.2 pounds. If We add political and social trash, We'd hold the lead in this arm of the Galaxy.

So I suggest We frame projects like Turbine Farms and others as "Money-Savers for the Poor." That will have plenty of Us lining up to make them happen, if only by cheering on the few of Us capable of making it happen.

The Insider said...

Here is someone we can learn from Gil. He was just featured on CNN, as of about 30 seconds ago.


He runs a vineyard. Highlights: cover crops instead of pesticides to prevent weeds, barn owls and hawks to control rodent population, and extensive solar grid to reduce energy costs that were as much as 40 to 50k per year. Now his panels often send power back to the grid, as he produces more than is required.

While I'm still not convinced that individual rooftop gardening is a viable solution, I DO think this will work from an "individual small/medium business basis".

Why do I hate on personal solutions like rooftop gardening? :)

Is is an efficient/effective solution? Maybe not even on an individual basis. If we look at it in terms of opportunity cost, does the time requirement for supplies/water/maintenance (based on the value of a personal hour, or required physical supply) really out weight the energy savings?

An effective technology should not only be effective/efficient in terms of gains in savings on energy, cost savings, quality boosts, process improvements, etc... but it also should serve to *reduce* the human requirement, especially on an individual basis.

Assembly line thinking might quickly get associated in most people's mind maps as "over consumption", "materialism", or even "green house" gases.

However, assembly line thinking in the abstract, as applied to efficient production, or specialization of labor/effort, or even replacement of effort by technology/machines CAN be applied in a green way.

A massive grid of windmills tapping into an average wind speed of 12mpg year round (as you stated), creating cheap/cheaper energy for a community, creating an economic stimulus for a community, and creating long term jobs for some is great.

Encouraging self motivated people to take on a task that requires effort for moderate returns is probably not going to work. Even with a few enlightened ones leading the charge, there might not even be that much spectator interest. And the gains probably will not follow the overused 80/20 model of gains from most effective efforts of the minority.

I think we've come a long way since the days of "Victory Gardens". I might be pessimistic, but I just don't think we share the values those people had at that time. We've become too spoiled, often by the same technologies that I/we now advocate. We're a different people, self-centered, lazy, and distanced from work ethic and old world values... sadly.

I like reminding my kids that I'm old enough to have not only experienced a world without Internet, I've also spent some time in houses without plumbing. Not that I'm advocating roughing it! I'm just wishing that people could be more appreciative of what they have. Then maybe they would be more motivated to get behind movements to save/improve it, perhaps even on an individual basis.

But, even I... criticizing those who have lost touch with old world values, am changing for the worst too, spoiled by new technology and making a living sitting at a computer, in front of a big screen tv, cooled by air conditioning, and forgetting about world problem's... unless I read CNN.com or the Jenius blog or finding 17 abandoned dogs outside my gate, 16 alive, one run over for sport. :(