Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Severe Side Winds

Wind is considered a resource in this alternative energy era.  Wind resources are measured and mapped.  You can learn about the geographical distribution, the certainty credited to the wind resource estimates and the areal distribution throughout the United States.  Places where the wind blows a predictable 15 mph or greater are considered good potential for wind energy turbines.  Exposed coastal areas, high ridges, vast open plains are all places where high class wind resources are found.  In basins, valleys and lowland plains wind power is generally low.  Except.  Where air flow is channeled by surrounding topography the wind comes howling through.   "Wind corridors" can offer superb wind resources with regular wind speeds reaching 20 mph.  If you look at a wind resources map you will see small patches of excellent wind in lower Columbia County of Washington State.  This is the Palouse, one of the beautiful places on earth.  The wind is constricted, its force multiplied by the hills rising above the valleys that drain into the Columbia River.   It is wheat growing country.  The small towns connected by State Route 12 were settled in the middle of the 19th century.  The early settlers planted trees upwind of their houses to give themselves some respite from the gale.  Those houses, and their wind breaks are still there, dotting the landscape of rolling wheat fields.  Route 12 is marked frequently with warning signs of severe side winds.  Our big heavy truck shuddered at the crossings. We were there for a sheep dog trial.  We came away with respect for the wind, and for the people who have stayed on the farms settled by their ancestors to harvest the wheat. 

Driving home I kept thinking about the wind as a song ran through my mind.  Different time and place, but same majesty. 

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