“The Truth About Wind Power”

The industry trade group American Wind Energy Association has created a simple web site dedicated to “the truth about wind power”. After listing each of those “inconvenient” truths, they try to refute it with the industry version of “reality”, which is to simply deny it. Here are AWEA’s truths about wind power, with brief but helpful explanations and references.

[Note:  The reference links provided are representative samples only. They are not necessarily definitive or exhaustive. Nor is this list of the sorry truths about wind exhaustive.]

POLICY

Energy Incentives
“Renewable energy is subsidized at higher rates than fossil fuels.”
—at least 80 times higher in terms of energy production [link]

Solyndra
“The fate of solar company Solyndra is a black eye for all renewables.”
—a cautionary tale of crony capitalism [link]

Green Jobs
“Energy incentives were misspent during the Great Recession.”
—only 1-2 permanent jobs created per 20 megawatts of installed wind, subsidized at the cost of a least $30 million [link]

AFFORDABILITY & RELIABILITY

How the Lights Stay On
“Wind power and solar power are the fastest growing sources of electricity in America and worldwide. We need reliable power at all times, so what happens when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine?”
—answer: Natural gas plants are actually the fastest growing in terms of actual production, and they are able to respond quickly enough to changes in wind and sun to ensure that power always matches demand. [link]

Reliability
“Because wind is intermittent it threatens the reliability of the electric grid.”
—as long as the grid still uses economical base load sources, the intermittency and high variability of wind strains its ability to match power to demand. [link]

The Cost of Wind
“Wind energy is expensive.”
—$2-3 million per installed megawatt on land, $6-12 million per megawatt of production, plus increased land use, new transmission lines and substations, and upgrades of the grid (including new gas plants) to accommodate [link]

ENVIRONMENT

Emissions
“Wind power doesn’t reduce carbon and may even contribute to climate change.”
—no evidence yet of carbon reduction, but rather increased emissions from running fossil-fuel plants less efficiently (e.g., carbon emissions from open-cycle gas plus wind often more than combined-cycle gas alone) [link]

Old Turbines
“Old turbines are left abandoned.”
—for example, South Point, Hawaii, and Altamont Pass, Palm Springs, and Coachella Valley, California [link][link]

WILDLIFE

Birds
“Wind turbines are killing birds at an alarming rate.”
— [link]

Eagles
“Wind is responsible for thousands of eagle deaths annually.”
—or rather thousands of all raptors and other large birds, not just eagles [link]

Bats
“Wind power and bats cannot coexist.”
—because bats are killed by the pressure vortices downwind of the turbine blades [link]

LAND & RESOURCE

Potential & Land Use
“Wind takes too much land to make much of the nation’s energy.”
—“My rule of thumb is 60 acres per megawatt for wind farms on land.” (Tom Gray, American Wind Energy Association [i.e., 180-300 acres per actual megawatt produced])

Property Values
“Wind farms hurt property values.”
—no surprise there [link]

HEALTH & SAFETY

Fire
“Turbines often catch fire, and when they do they often send flaming shards into fields and forests.”
—hundreds of gallons of lubricating oil atop giant lightning rods with spinning blades, all inaccessible to fire-fighting crews [link]

Sound
“The sound of operating wind turbines causes a variety of health effects, including dizziness, headaches, loss of sleep, and more.”
—that is, the grinding and throbbing penetrating noise, as reported around the world [link]

Shadow Flicker
“The shadows of rotating wind turbines cause negative health effects.”
—visual reinforcement of nauseogenic noise, or as stressor itself [link]

OFFSHORE WIND

Case for Offshore
“Offshore wind is too risky and no project will ever be built in the U.S.”
—about $5 million per installed megawatt, $12-20 million per megawatt of production, plus undersea cables, substations, maintenance in a stressful environment [link]

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