Windmills along the German Autobahn

German Power

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You’ve never had the pleasure of traveling with me. (OK. I’m probably choosing the wrong verb.  But, I am the author and have sweeping leverage in choosing the verbs. )

For decades, my traveling routine means that I catch up on my reading. Originally, the habit was developed because I was never home more than a day or two before I traveled again.  (I flew across the US about 3 or 4 times a week, and went overseas twice a month.) So, it was easy to scoop up the magazines and journals that arrived when I was gone and then devour them on the next plane trip. Nowadays, it’s more related to the fact that I have other things to do when at home.

So, while on my trip to Germany (and Poland and the Czech Republic), I happened to read an interesting article about alternative energy in Germany. How the German government adopted a program of Energiewende.  It’s government has made the decision to cut carbon emissions and favor alternative fuels.

While this program is extremely expensive ($25 billion in 2016, so much so that ministers are considering program  termination), it means that about 1/3 of all of Germany’s energy production is from alternative means. Oh, and their electric grid is among the most stable in the world. Even though they don’t receive much valuable sunshine.

All of that is interesting. (And, of course, leaves one wondering why the United States,  among many other nations, has not decided to adopt similar programs.) But, the reality of Energiewende hits you with a start when you drive across the country.

Windmills along the German Autobahn

Within an hour of leaving Frankfurt, our view was confronted with manifold wind turbines. Towering over the countryside. Most of which were turning, which meant they were generating energy. None of these turbines were erected at sites were really where one would expect the structures.  They weren’t atop mountains or along sweeping plains, where significant wind energy would be expected.

Solar Panels Along the A3

And, that wasn’t all. We saw homes, barns, and factories whose roofs were replete with solar panels. We saw tunnels with solar panel roofs. Even more interesting was the sight of solar panel farms. That’s right- instead of seeing hectares of land growing corn or wheat (or green grass), there were rows and rows of solar panels, all in lines of 200 meters or more. Moreover, you realized that all of them were generating electricity, because it was sunny (and hot as heck).

The frequency diminished when we traversed the Czech Republic and were virtually non-existent when we were in Poland.

And, of course, except in very few regions (where ambient solar and wind energy abound),  you would see none of these energy “factories”  in the United States.

One can only hope for change.  Sigh.

Roy A. Ackerman, Ph.D., E.A.

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