Opinion: Sperm whale

POSTED: 02/13/12 7:38 PM

Belgium caught some free energy when a 25-ton sperm whale landed on the beach in Knokke-Heist this weekend. Don’t get the wrong ideas: the animal is called a sperm whale after the white waxy substance in its enormous head, called spermaceti. But this is not a biology lesson, so we will let that aspect of the story rest.

The dead sperm whale consists for about fifty percent of fat. The Belgium utilities company Electrawinds will turn all this fat into green energy by turning it into biomass and then burning it in its biomass power plant.

The sperm whale will give the Belgians about 50,000 kilowatt hours of green electricity – equal to the annual energy-consumption of fourteen households. The biomass central runs on fat it obtains from slaughterhouses and from companies that process animal waste.

We thought this little story interesting and not only because the Belgians affectionately dubbed the cadaver Theofiel (Theophilus – we would call him Theo for short in St. Maarten).

The discussion about alternative energy is heating up in St. Maarten, even though GEBE does not seem to be in a big hurry. The library is planning a solar energy project, and there are already quite some homes and businesses that have embraced power from the sky. Whether a biomass installation would work here depends of course on the quantity of available biomass, but we understand that sperm whales are all over the place, so for all you know they could land on our shores as well.

In Belgium, the police had its hand full keeping thousands of souvenir hunters away from the cadaver. Sperm whales have ivory teeth and they are, as the expression goes these days, priceless.

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