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Wind Power in Campania


"Sancho, I may need an extra lance."
"Yeah, right."


Except for some blowhards I know, absolutely no wind power is generated in the city of Naples or, indeed, even in the entire provinces of Naples and Caserta. The Campania region of Italy, however, has three other provinces and there the story is a bit different. There are six "wind farms" in Campania of the kind seen in the above photo: one in Durazzo in the province of Benevento; three in the province of Avellino near the towns of Andretta, Bisaccia, and Frigento, respectively; and two in the province of Salerno at Ricigliano and Albanella (photo, above). The installation in the photo is located atop the San Chirico hill just west of Albanella. There are ten turbines, each 50 meters tall and each producing 850 KW, that is, a total capacity of 8.5 megawatts (MW) of power. They have been operating since 2004 and were designed and built by IWT (Italian Wind Technology), a subsidiary of the multinational Danish company, "Vestas."

As of this writing, there are 40 such generating stations in Italy. As a whole, in 2009 Italy had an installed windpower capacity of 4850 MW, triple the capacity of five years earlier. Worldwide, 200 gigawatts (GW) are installed. The US, Germany, China, and Spain currently rank as the first four on the list of installed power, but Denmark is at the top of the list in terms of how much of its energy needs are actually met by wind power (20%). The US is somewhere around two or three percent (although that will increase). Germany is about 7 seven or eight percent and growing. Italy is around three percent and growing.


Watt's up?

Most wind power in the world comes from the type of turbines seen in the above photo. It is not the only possible device, nor even the most efficient and is likely to be replaced sooner or later by different and more efficient ones. It is still, however, the one most commonly used in the world.

A typical household incandescent light bulb has a power rating of 25 to 100 watts; fluorescent lamps consume 5 to 30 watts to produce a similar amount of light, while comparable LED lamps use about 0.5 to 6 watts. The watt is named for James Watt [1736-1819]; it is a unit of energy per unit of time and, in non-technical terms, was the amount of energy needed to keep Watt's neighbors awake for one hour at night while he fiddled with electricity. One kilowatt (KW) is 1000 watts. If you still have an incandescent 100-watt lightbulb in your house—you wastrel!—and you let it burn for 10 hours—you are truly despicable!—you will have consumed one kilowatt-hour (10x100=1000) (and are hereby sentenced to go hug a tree for one hour or ten hours, whichever comes first). The average electrical consumption of an energy-hungry household in North America and much of Europe can be as high as 10,000 kilowatt hours in a year.

The megawatt (MW) is equal to one million watts. One MW could power 1000 typical households of the kind noted above. A large residential or commercial building may consume several MWs. Beyond the MW comes the gigawatt, equal to one billion watts. That unit is used to describe the generating capacity of large power plants or power grids. Above that, there are terawatts (TW) and even petawatts (PW). You don't want to know. There is actually enough potential energy blowing around in the upper atmosphere to power all the needs of our planet, so I say, leave those wasteful light-bulbs burning, friends!

Mythologically

In Italian, "wind energy" is termed energia eolica from Aeolus, in Greek mythology, a descendant of Deucalion and the godling of the winds. It is little known (and even less cared about!) that the winds were originally the purview of Hera, the proto-Hellenic Great Goddess. Men gods weren't allowed anywhere near the wind! She had a change of heart and handed control of the wind over to Aeolus. He went to live in the islands north of Sicily, now called the Aeolians, and work his bluster. As far as women and the wind go, Robert Graves (The Greek Myths, 43.5) reminds us that "Control of the winds, regarded as the spirits of the dead, is one of the privileges that the Death-Goddess's representatives have been most loath to surrender; witches in England, Scotland, and Brittany still claimed to control and sell winds to sailors as late as the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries."

(For more on Aeolus' relatives, see Magna Grecia.)

It is even less known (but now really important) that recent mythological research has revealed another of Deucalion's heirs, an evil step-god named Exxonus, whose estate is now laying claim to the winds again. Their patent attorneys are at work even as we speak. This is bad news.

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