The Calm Power of Wind

I had heard many negatives about wind turbines. Chief among them, the notion that they generate horrific noise levels when they operate, so much so that they negatively impact nearby villages, becoming serious points of friction with the local communities.

Of course, both in Europe and America, wind farms continue to proliferate, increasing wind's share in the overall production of energy. Often, while traveling through parts of southern France, I have looked admirably upon these giants of wind generation that stand upright, tall and solid. However, I always had my doubts, notably about the intensity of the noise they generated and their impact upon the adjacent towns and their residents.

On my recent trip to Greece, I had the opportunity to visit a wind farm in the region of Epidaurus, an area that would have much to lose, given its historic importance, if, indeed, these turbines are the sinful creatures about which many Greeks speak so dismissively, especially the numerous local pols who are always apt to provoke.

As we climbed to the top of the hill, I was prepared, waiting to hear the deafening roar of those mechanical rotors. As we got closer, I was afraid I would begin to experience something resembling the roar of an approaching airplane. To my surprise, however, the wind turbines, standing 100 meters high and literally "swallowing" the wind while transforming it into electricity, did not emit much noise at all. In contrast, they were standing majestically and peacefully on the horizon, as if they were modern works of sculpture.

The noise was almost impalpable, to the point that the sound of the wind itself was stronger than that coming from the motors that were diligently going about their routine of transforming wind into electricity and relaying it to the grid of the electric company.

The technical manager, an engineer, huddled us inside the body of one of the turbines that was in full operation. A thousand buttons and gauges were relaying signals about the course of the wind, including its strength and the amount of energy being produced. I felt like a little girl on a school trip who was being taught new things. As far back as ancient times, I thought, man has used windmills. And now, in awe, I admired how he has managed to tame the wildness of the wind and produce electricity with the implementation of these powerful new technologies.

Exiting the confines of the structure, I again listened carefully to the humming of the nine turbines. It neither disturbed my delicate hearing nor my sensitive vision and I remained impressed by this new generation of machines, standing proud and glorious, harnessing the energy of the winds.

From my perch, I gazed down the mountain, to the sea below licking the dry land, and spied the beauty of the Peloponnese and the island of Spetses, thinking how fortunate we are to be in Greece, living among the plateaus and mountains, between the plains and hills and above the deep blue sea, all within such a small geographic area. And, to boot, how we are able to make use of the cooling breezes to produce green energy that is a blessing to our environment.

As I left, I was both serene and surprised to realize that the ongoing controversy against wind farm development is the result of local interests who are against any development they can not control or from which they can not profit.

Upon my return, I went about investigating the current state of wind energy in Greece and was impressed by the potential of this abundant, renewable resource.

The total wind power installed in the country in 2014 was 113.9 megawatts, a slight reduction from 2013. However, according to the Hellenic Wind Energy Association (HWEA), by late 2014, another 246.5 MW were either under development or had been contracted for.

The figures provided by HWEA are proof of the developmental dynamic and the prospects for wind investment in Greece and indicate the potential of an industry to provide significant employment and income at a critical period for the Greek economy. In addition, the increased production coming online will go a long way towards achieving the European Union's binding targets of 20% final energy consumption from renewable sources by 2020 in its efforts to tackle climate change and protect the environment.

Regionally speaking, Central Greece has the majority of the country's wind production, mostly around the region of Euboea, with wind projects either producing, or in the trial phase, totaling 602.8 MW or 30.6 % of the national total. This is followed by the Peloponnese with 367.95 MW (18.6%) and by Eastern Macedonia/Thrace with 282.55 MW (14.3 percent).

In summary, the development of wind energy in Greece has been spectacular. However, given that it was one of the first countries in the world to install wind turbines with the first machines dating back to 1986, it should be looked into as to why the growth of this abundant, clean energy has been anything but proportional, lagging badly, at times, over the last 30 years.