Saturday, May 12, 2007

Blowing in the wind

Anne Harris (this one, I believe) writes:
So what is the beef with wind farms? I'd really like to know, since my novel includes a community that is implementing them as a source of electrical power.
Just as the same question was forming in my mind, the other Anne, who began this conversation, wrote:
Yes, homeowners were displaced by the Meyersdale project. There is a CD available with residents from Meyersdale ... It is really difficult to sum up all of the issues about wind turbines in a blog entry. They are putting these within 500 feet of people's property. The manufacturer of many (GE) wrote a report that they are 10 percent efficient at best. It is hardly worth destroying people's quality of life. There are health effects, bird and bat kills, destruction of land (a non-renewable resource). They do not run without coal plants; they do not save any CO2 in their lifespan. So much is emitted in the construction of the towers, the concrete to erect the towers, and the transportation from overseas to their destination. When they say they provide power for a given number of homes, they base it on 1,000 kilowatts ... this means that you can use 10 light bulbs. Most of us enjoy using our electric appliances and the like. The developer in Meyersdale refused to pay the property taxes levied on the wind farm. The town sued and the developer countersued. What are the economics involved? There are so many federal and state subsidies, it is incredible. They can all be found at You can follow the links to each incentive on the given government site.

Here are more real-life experiences living by wind farms:

No. 1
No. 2
No. 3

As far as jobs go, the projected project for my town, eighty 363-foot turbines, would provide four jobs. Is that worth it? Last year at the Tug Hill Plateau project, they picked up 6,000 dead bats and 2,000 dead birds (mostly raptors). This report is available online, done by an ornithologist that is paid by wind developers, so we suspect that the number is low. We also know a person who was employed collecting the dead, and they had buried some. They also only checked two transects at each of 120 turbines (Why did they omit 75 turbines?) and only once a week. Many must have been caried off by foxes and other wildlife. Feel free to email me, and we can discuss this further. There are so many negative facets that far outweigh any benefits of the wind projects. Hope this information gives you some understanding of my stand on "wind farms."

Most Passionately, Anne
Thanks, Anne, for writing. I'll check out those links. I'm still curious to know, however, what form of electrical-power generation you prefer to wind. Coal? Nuclear? Hydroelectric dams? Solar? Many argue that we're likely to need a combination of all of the above, that what society needs to talk about is the percentage to be obtained from each.

As for my earlier suggestion that a wind farm makes a better neighbor than a coal-burning plant, a nuclear plant or a hydroelectric dam -- assuming the artificial lake created by the dam inundates your land, as many once-thriving communities in the United States have been inundated -- I pass along this this post by Tobias Buckell:
I love wind turbines, I always try to stop and take a picture when I pass them. They’re just amazing, like lighthouses to me. Massive, and functional, and graceful. Screw it, built a house underneath a really big one and I’d live under it.

And I’m not a huge ‘wind power’ alternate power person. I don’t see most tech I’ve checked out as being workable. In a lower power usage, like on a boat, they’re barely marginal. For a power hungry US? I’m more liable to place my money on nuclear power, like France.

Yeah, I’m a nuclear power loving environmentalist.
New Scientist has well covered the wind-farm issue in recent years. Here are two examples: First, a stirring pro-wind farm editorial, by scientist David Suzuki.
The real risk to birds comes not from windmills but from a changing climate, which threatens the very existence of bird species and their habitats. This is not to say that wind farms should be allowed to spring up anywhere. They should always be subject to environmental impact assessments. But a blanket "not in my backyard" approach is hypocritical and counterproductive.
Second, a good article by Ed Douglas, from 2006, about the largely unknown environmental effects:
In the meantime, though, there is an alternative to building huge wind farms in vulnerable habitats. We could all install our own personal turbines on the roofs of our houses. ...

No comments: