2007_11_ireneboland.jpgIrene Boland, the co-author of Wind the World Over, works in the sustainability office of the EPA. Her office covers Region 2 (New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands) helps people pursue green living through their built environment. You can find out more about her office at the EPA on their website. Irene resides in Brooklyn, "under the BQE."

How did you and your co-author, Vanessa Kellogg come up with the idea to write Wind the World Over?
Vanessa is a wind developer and I work for the EPA, so we both think about clean energy in our jobs. We met while in grad school, working on analyses of cap and trade bills, which gave us a snapshot of our energy future. We decided we wanted to make books for kids to learn about it. When we started writing, I was influenced by a ten year old boy who was excited about a wind development near his hometown in upstate New York. You know, wind turbines are really tall, like 30 stories high, and kids are amazed and thrilled by them. I realized that the next generation would see so much more wind power in their lifetime and that these iconic towers would represent clean energy and energy independence.

In the book, two siblings travel the world learning how different cultures use wind as a resource. What kind of research did you do before writing about their journey?
I buried myself with every book on wind power that I could find. I was amazed to find that long before the Dutch pumped out their lowlands, wind power was sustaining the livelihood of ancient civilizations. Historians believe that windmills were invented in modern day Iran and then in China. Only after cultures collided during the crusades, spreading word of the technology, were windmills reimagined in western cultures with a completely different axis design. Besides grinding grain, which secured long-term food stores, windmills helped to undermine the feudal system in western Europe since anyone who built a mill could make money grinding grain. Some scientists even say that water pumped to flood the rice paddies altered the climate to make warmer settlements for humans. I hadn't realized that windmills have been a transformative technology throughout human history.

Have you or Vanessa had the chance to witness any of the uses of wind that you write about in the book?
Vanessa sees more wind installations than me since it is her job to identify wind resources and develop them into viable clean energy sources. I have stood beneath a wind turbine on a hilltop and I recommend that you do this if you can get a chance - they are monumental and amazing.

Is wind power common in the tri-state area? If not, do you think it could ever become a popular energy source or is the northeast just too densely populated for wind farms to be practical?
Wind power represents only a small portion of our supply but did you know New York state has the second biggest wind farm in the country? Our area has some rich wind resources, on land and off-shore. Wind developments, of the utility scale, have specific site requirements and these do not belong everywhere. But the tri-state area has numerous viable sites that should and are being considered for wind power.

Con-Ed allows its customers to buy "Green Power" energy, are there any alternative energy resources that New Yorkers can choose from or is choosing to buy hydro/wind power the best that city residents can hope for right now?
That's right, Con-Ed owns the urban grid and delivers power to our homes or offices. We now have the ability to choose what type of power plant our electricity comes from, be it coal, nuclear, 100% wind, or mixes of wind, hydro or biomass. You have a range of options, for New Yorkers, you can see them all on nyserda.org or powernaturally.org.

2007_11_windtheworldover.jpgWhat are some other ways New Yorkers can use alternative/environmental means of energy? Or cut down on resource use?
Buying green power is a great way to support new renewable energy development. New Yorkers, in general, have much greener lifestyles than the average American because we tend to walk everywhere, heat smaller spaces and own less stuff. Still, the city produces astonishing amounts of trash, for example. We can all find ways to be more green in our everyday choices whether it is using cloth grocery shopping bags, unplugging small appliances or using power strips to power down when you're not home. You know some of us fly frequently but the food we eat flies even more - sometimes thousands of miles - and we eat lots of food. Buying local food at the market or even vintage clothes can be another way to go green. You have to make your own choices. I personally detest plastic utensils and let's face it, a plastic knife never accomplishes what you want anyway. If you love take-out, like most New Yorkers, why not buy a fork, knife and spoon for your office or on-the-go instead of generating a new fork for everyday of the year. Believe me, you'll never miss that wimpy plastic knife.

What do you think of the turbines that were installed in the East River? Do you think they can work in the future as they've had some problems harnessing the powerful currents in the river?
Tidal power is exciting because it is so consistent and like wind, it is clean and free. The swift currents of the East River are promising and NYC should be proud of this installation. I believe it is so important to look at fish and avian impacts when planning these projects and they do not belong everywhere. However, power plants are not simply art installations and they are not optional - we build them to meet power demand. We need to recognize that a clean energy source reduces demand for dirty energy sources which have significant negative impacts on the environment through contaminant deposition and the cumulative impacts of global climate change.

Are there some good examples of wind technology in area now?
Yes, upstate New York has a major wind farm, called Maple Ridge. A little closer, Atlantic City, NJ has a couple wind turbines you can check out on your next trip.

What do you consider a perfect day of recreation in New York?
I love biking in New York on the weekends when traffic is calm. A bike ride to Far Rockaway and a swim is a pretty great day in New York.

What’s your favorite New York restaurant at the moment?
I love Moto in Brooklyn for great food, Parisian subway grit and raucous live music.

Given the opportunity, how would you change New York?
I'd add more greenspaces, wider sidewalks and a decent playground for every school. Why don't we use our rooftops, like in Tokyo? I can't believe real estate driven New Yorkers let all that valuable rooftop property sit idle.