Wind Power Talk

Resource site for links discussing issues around wind mill turbines - and particular focused on the Allegheny, West Virginia, projects and protest campaigns

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Coal v Wind - Virginia learning that wind energy is just "feel good" power, not real solution

University of Virginia Alumni magazine has an article by Rick Webb - a VA alumni with a long history of researching the impacts of the coal industry on the environment and health. Webb points out that, much as he would love to believe it, wind energy turbines are not the solution to reducing coal consumption and that indeed wind turbines pose their own threats too.

You can read the UVA article here. The pro-wind advocate Alden Hathaway is also cited in the article as saying - "that the electricity generation of a single wind turbine can obviate the need to mine 40 to 50 acres via the Mountain-Top Removal (MTR) method in WV".

A simple study of the arithmetic involved shows that Hathaway's numbers are wishful thinking.

Given that the 1.5-MW wind turbines which are currently operating in WV have a rated lifespan of only 20 years, it would take only 4 acres of a MTR operation to supply the quantity of coal needed by a powerplant to generate the equivalent number of kilowatt-hours of electricity as produced by one of these wind turbines over its entire rated lifetime. For perspective, the amount of forest habitat that was leveled to build the Mountaineer windplant in WV - which is comprised of 44 large wind turbines - cumulatively totaled about 5 acres per turbine.

So at best a single turbine may offset 4 acres of clearing, but the turbine itself needs 5 acres in cleared mountain top space, fencing and access roads!

But stopping MTR is not going to come from erecting turbines that is obvious too. With 2% annual increase in electricity demand nationally the need to prevent growing demand in the first place is paramount.

Once again we see that helping people conserve energy in their daily lives is vastly more effective than erecting expensive turbines on far off mountains. Such projects are little more than "feel-good" posturing that enriches a few specific companies that hold prime stakes in the turbine industry and good connections to the decision makers in Congress funding them.

Meanwhile the Audubon support for wind energy is also mentioned - but is not qualified. When you look at the actual Audobon position it comes with strong caveates. From Audubon President Flicker for example - "Flicker emphasized the importance of prudent siting and the need for his organization and its chapters to work with the wind energy industry. "Modern wind turbines are much safer for birds than their predecessors, but if they are located in the wrong places, they can still be hazardous and can fragment critical habitat," said Flicker. This view is further expanded on by the American Bird Conservancy in their recent testimony to the House.

Unfortunately in its rush to the money, the wind industry is not listening and does not conduct rigorous impact analysis in its siting requests, instead seeks to sidestep them, as the Audubon position also mentions. Giving the wind industry more funding opportunities will certainly not change that aspect of their behaviour unfortunately either.


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