Updating Wikipedia

Yesterday I did a bunch of reading about wind power on Wikipedia. After initially finding out that the largest wind farm in the world was one in Texas that I’d never heard of, I found out that a new one in California that is still under construction is producing more power. So clearly the Wind Farms article I had read was out of date, while the article about California’s Alta Wind Energy Center had the latest number. Because I had been misled, I felt like the Wind Farms article should be updated, so I went in and edited it. But it’s Wikipedia so they like you to add sources to back up any facts you add, so I had to get the source from the other article and add it to this one. Then it turned out they mentioned that same factoid about the world’s largest where they talked about Wind Farms in the United States. Since I was using the same source, I learned about naming a source so it is easier to recall, which is fine because I like learning new things.

Well, the section on Wind Farms in the United States, had a link to an article Wind power in the United States. Of course that article also had the same thing about the Texas wind farm being the biggest. Worse still, it also linked to two more articles: Wind power in Texas and Wind power in California and I also found out that even though California now has the biggest wind farm, Texas produces more wind power than any other state, and Iowa of all places is second, ahead of third-place California. (The Iowa article does not seem to mention the largest wind farm in the world).

At some point I noticed that the article about Alta Wind Energy Center had an info box and in the summary, they still had the old number of megawatts, so I updated that, too.

Plus the article about the Roscoe Wind Farm in Texas still said it was the biggest, so I had to change that too.

However, the original Wind Farms article pointed out that China has an enormous wind farm under construction, called the Gansu Wind Farm that would eventually produce 20,000 MW of power (compared to Alta’s record of 1,020 MW). But as of November 2010, they were already up to 5,160 MW, still far in excess of Alta. So even Alta isn’t really the biggest wind farm in the world, just the biggest in the United States.

Ugh, so now I guess I need to go in and change the articles to say that Alta is the biggest in the US and Gansu is the biggest in the world, but I don’t really feel like plugging China’s efforts, especially when it is almost impossible to verify. One source I found said that China had run into a bunch of snags in their windmill building program and that less than 80% of the windmills were even on the electrical grid. One major problem with wind energy is that the wind isn’t always blowing, so you need to also build conventionally fueled power plants to match up with the windmills in order to ensure steady output, and China hasn’t done this. So I don’t know if they deserve full credit or not. Plus the Gansu wind farm article said that Gansu is a group of large wind farms. So can it be considered one wind farm? Or is it a group? Maybe even Alta is a group since it is being brought online in phases. But certainly Roscoe was phased in as well.

This is the problem with trying to update one fact in the world’s largest encyclopedia.

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