“You mean not even getting into the bigger picture issues like: why change, why renewable energy, why stop polluting, why stop causing climate change and a hundred other ‘whys’?” I ask myself.
Well, let’s look at some readily checkable facts when we ask, “Why wind”?
It’s generally agreed that most industries, technologies etc come of age 25-30 years after being tried on a grand scale. That’s where wind is. We are 30 years after the late 70’s/ early 80’s “wind rush”. Current turbine technology brings wind capture conversion rates into the 40-45% range (the Betz Limit is 59%, so we’re at 70-75%+ of capacity according to the laws of physics. How does this compare? Well, natural gas is excellent, at about 40%. Gasoline is about 25%. Solar is pushing the technological limit at 15% right now. Find it all at Wikipedia – Energy Conversion Efficiency
Next, it is competitively priced RIGHT NOW with diesel and natural gas electricity generation, without even including the hidden costs of pollution. We cannot keep ignoring these hidden costs that are generated by one user and paid for by everyone else. In a recent American Wind Energy Association article, coal-fired electricity generation COSTS 3.2 ADDITIONAL cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) in direct external costs-not including global climate change and carbon dioxide emissions costs of up to another 10 cents per kWh. That’s up to another extra 10 cents per kWh that you and I will have to pay for, instead of the people profiting from the burning of that coal and those over-consuming at the trough of cheap upfront, but carbon expensive electricity, the bill for which is being presented in effects of global climate change. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration the average American household uses over 10,800 kWh a year, that’s YOUR household’s share: $108.00 per year towards global climate change you have not paid for, year after year. That doesn’t even mention industry and businesses.
Can someone please wake up those against Carbon Credits and “Cap and Trade”? “–YOU are paying for those costs instead of the person or parties using and generating the goods and the pollution byproducts that create these costs. “In effect, they are a hidden subsidy for polluting energy sources.” -AWEA
Do I really need to mention: less pollution, less dependence on foreign oil, the more we use it the lower the cost of other forms of energy will be due to a decline in demand, puts people to work in this country, the payments for this energy generation do not leave the country as personal profits for tyrannical dictatorships never to be part of our economy again, we can stop spending billions in foreign aid annually that is currently necessary to keep the oil flowing at only 50% more than it cost last year, how about national security and terrorism related to our energy policies.
The list is endless, I will add to it as I go along,
Since you are still reading, I see I’ve smooth-talked, brow-beaten, or lulled you over to renewable energy sources (go ahead, chant in your best monotone voice: love…renewable… energy…sources).
Ok, I hear you thinking about the Jetsons-like future, thinking we should wait for all these great promises to come like “smart grid”, Tidal energy etc-those are still 25+ years off, at a minimum, and they are not yet at scale, so add another year away for every year they aren’t available and happening in a widespread way.
Are we going to ignore these if the opportunity arises, of course not! We may even lead on them if we can provide solutions. We’re game.
So what’s stopping all of this???? As far as I can tell, the only real, voiced, supportable issues against further wind development are some people think they are “ugly”. Is that a legitimate issue? Let’s find out what “ugly” is, as in the case of Cape Wind, we see an undercurrent of opposition, not just from the wealthy who are very used to sending the rest of us the external costs they create for the tax benefits they receive, but who also turn out to be Fossil-fuel industry, and Utility industry types. You know, the ones with those big giant smoke stacks with all that stuff coming out the top and the ones pressure shooting benzene, acetone and other much more dangerous chemicals into the earth and then disposing of them by “evaporation field”,, many times within feet of someone’s house. Imagine the threat this is to those industries and the magnates behind them if you and I would no longer have to buy a commodity from them in order to get electricity?
We have another issue that keeps popping up, as well: Bird strikes. There is mounting evidence now after 30 years that this is far, far smaller an issue than originally thought. In fact, most REAL nature groups-like Nature Conservancy and Greenpeace have very rarely, if ever, spoken out against wind energy. The root of the problem is there WAS some truth to this. It all goes back to the early “Wind Rush” days out in California’s AltamontPass. This pass is a natural bird migratory route and millions of birds traverse it annually. This was not taken into full consideration when thousands of turbines were erected. Caring people started to see dead birds, mostly “raptor”-types like Hawks, Eagles, etc, and were appalled. Well, in those early days, many turbines were experimental, many were not maintained. It turns out, what was happening was that smaller birds, the prey of these raptors, were nesting in some of these turbines that were not well maintained and had crevices and even holes these birds could easily get into and make a nest. The raptors, drawn by the prey and focused solely on their hunt were being struck by the turbine blades as they pursued their next meal. Many did die. Someone finally figured this out and eliminated most of these nesting problems and it has cut down the bird strikes dramatically. Current figures according to AWEA: Rhetoric Vs Reality “Wind power causes far fewer losses of birds (approximately 108,000 a year) than buildings (550 million), power lines (130 million), cars (80 million), poisoning by pesticides (67 million), domestic cats (at least 10 million), and radio and cell towers (4.5 million). Wind turbines are estimated to cause less than three out of every 100,000 human-related bird deaths in theU.S., and will never cause more than a very small fraction no matter how extensively wind power is used in the future, the National Academy of Sciences found. “.
For the record, I have been doing my own local bird mortality “study” where I decided I would informally document bird deaths on 3 roads near my house: Lido Blvd, Loop Parkway and Meadowbrook Parkway(south of Merrick Rd only). I just wrote down what I saw, when and where. It’s pretty tragic. I’m sure there were many more than I saw, and I’ve seen a lot. We’re somewhere in the vicinity of 20+ birds (plus other animals) for just April and May of this year. This was the best we, as humans, could do. I would guess 10,000 or more other drivers saw these same carcasses every day I did. I must note that I have yet to hear anyone advocating closure and even abandonment of these roadways. This kind of makes me wonder then why we hear about bird strikes in relation to wind projects, it is many times just a wind energy foe trying any angle to stop the future from arriving now. In fact, it is just standard practice to notify groups like Nature Conservancy when a project is in the planning stages and especially during the Environmental Assessment process that wind turbines must go through to get a Permit.
Are these real reasons not to go ahead?
Wind energy is here, now. It is ready, ripe. Wind turbines last 20-30 years, so if we invest NOW, we can still change over at that time when other methods may be emerging. The technology is virtually guaranteed NOT to get dramatically better anytime soon. There is nothing to be gained by waiting; in fact, there is so much to be lost (further) if we do not clean up our energy generation methods. I am here. I am ready, too…..and you?