Chasing Windmills

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Whirling dervishes dance madly in the noon day sun as the wind whips

over the mountains of Campania.

One morning, on our way to the  Naples airport , I screeched at Jack to pull over.  He raised an eyebrow and kept on driving.  Rats, how would I really get a glimpse of the thousands of windmills that peppered the mountain ridge if he didn’t pull over?  That was the first time I spied the windmills that are part of the onshore wind farms that earned Italy its 2012 standing as the world’s sixth largest producer of wind power. I have no idea how wind power works but the science guys at http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/green-science/wind-power.htm will absolutely explain it all.

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Sentries posted on the tops of mountains

Sannino soldiers gaze down on the approaching Romans.

Tall, helmets pointed to the heavens – bodies still against the azure sky.

When I first saw them, I wasn’t thinking – “Gee, how green and save – the – planet this is.”  I was thinking, “Hear the sounds of the marching feet as the Roman army emerges over the crest of the hill.”  Seriously, from a distance they look like advancing ramrod straight soldiers with pointed hats.  Up close they are more like super giant stick figures.  Up close?  H’mm did she really drive up the mountain to get closer?  Yes, by gum we did!   Why?  Because we could!  So why not.  OK, if the truth be told, it was a chilly, dreary day and I was going to poke out my eyes with a pen if we didn’t get in the car and do something.  Anything – as long as it didn’t cost a bundle of bucks and we didn’t have to change out of comfy clothes.  Anything – never give me that option.  My brain tumbles and rumbles and soon bizarre suggestions spew forth like Vesuvius.  Anything meant – chasing windmills.  Jack, knowing divorce was eminent if he didn’t get behind the wheel of the car, started the engine and let me navigate.  Navigation was something like – “NO, NO – TURN RIGHT” – when ever I saw the top of a windmill.  We were so intent on getting close to the windmills that I didn’t even shriek at the switchbacks along the way.  What we didn’t do was record exactly how to get to the ridge.  All I remember was from Colle Sannita take SS 212 and make a right on SP 55.  I was too entranced to take notes but said into my video at least 10 times – we were on SP55!

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http://www.thewindpower.net/zones_en_7_campania.php keeps a database of wind farms and their operators.  You tech folks might find this interesting.  I don’t know how often they update it.  I swear I counted more windmills than are noted.  Some may have been the third or fourth phases of a farm and not yet included.

According to http://www.ieawind.org/countries/italy.html, Installation of new wind farms in Italy continued its pace in 2011. Total online grid-connected wind capacity reached 6,878 MW at the end of the year, with an increase of 1,080 MW from 2010. As usual, the largest development took place in the southern regions, particularly in Apulia, Calabria, Campania, Sardinia, and Sicily. In 2011, 590 new wind turbines were deployed in Italy and their average capacity was 1,831 kW. The total number of online wind turbines thus became 5,446, with an overall average capacity of 1,263 kW. All plants are based on land, mostly on hill or mountain sites. The 2011 production from wind farms could provisionally be put at about 10.1 TWh, which would be about 3% of total electricity demand of the Italian system.

Electricity is expensive here so I was hoping the wind farms were producing a lot more than 3%.  Well, this data is from 2011 and we know that Italy in 2012 was the 6th largest producer of wind power.

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Hay fields surround the windmills.

 What is interesting is that the farmers are still working the land around the windmills.  As we wended our way around we passed beautiful new combines, tractors and balers .  I am guessing that the income from the utility companies helps keep this area green and farmed.  Windmills plus farm land sure beats the housing developments plus loss of farm land that are a blight on New Jersey.

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Grey day washed away by the buzz of chasing windmills.

I learned something this grey day – chasing windmills is a guaranteed cure for boredom.  Listen to the sound of the wind whistling on the ridge!