Why further percentage increases in renewable energy is neither economical, environmentally/conservation-wise, or grid stability, to the nation’s advantage, nor conducive to our national strategic interest
Dear Pres. Obama,
I’ve taken the liberty of jotting down some notes from various experts on energy and related topics, to try and show you why any further increases in renewable energy percentage is neither cost-effective nor good for our national interest.
Regarding the cost for renewable energy:
“The authors find that ratepayers are paying an extra $8.5 billion to $10 billion per year for using wind energy, which generates 3.5 percent of our electricity, rather than other cost effective forms of generation. This is in addition to the tax credits, which the Obama Administration insisted be extended as part of the tax agreement. “
Why renewable energies are a bad investment for jobs
“Unlike in 2008, when Barack Obama pledged to create 5 million jobs over 10 years by directing taxpayer funds toward renewable energy projects, there were no press conferences or stump speeches. But the data are nonetheless revealing: for the over $26 billion committed since 2009, DOE Section 1703 and 1705 loan guarantees have created only 2,298 permanent jobs –that’s $11.45 million per job.”
“…AWEA claims that the wind industry supports 73,000 jobs. But how much do those jobs cost taxpayers?
Earlier this year, Susan Combs, the Texas comptroller of public accounts, came up with an estimate. She reported that each wind-related job in the Lone Star State (which has more wind-energy capacity than any other state) costs the state’s taxpayers about $1.7 million.”
Why wind energy is destined to leave abandoned hulks across the country
“On February 17, 2012, the wind industry itself warned of more abandoned projects: “The wind power industry is predicting massive layoffs and stalled or abandoned projects after a deal to renew a taxcredit failed Thursday in Washington.”
Why renewable energies are NOT a good replacement for fossil fuels
“But biofuels have never broken through because they are continually hampered by their low power density which means that producing meaningful quantities of liquid fuel requires huge quantities of plant material. For example, replacing just 10 percent of U.S. oil needs with ethanol derived from switchgrass would require the annual production of about 425 million tons of biomass. Growing that much switchgrass would require some 36.9 million acres of land, or about 57,700 square miles. For comparison, that 36.9 million acres is equal to about 8 percent of all the cropland now under cultivation in the U.S. “
“That means subsidies: $7 billion in 2010 alone, once tax credits, tariffs and other incentives are added together. In fact, between 1980 and 2000 the U.S. government has devoted some $19 billion in tax breaks alone to the ethanol-from-corn effort, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, and ethanol subsidies per liter of the biofuel have often been larger than the total cost of a liter of gas the biofuel replaced. A significant portion of the profits made by agribusiness giants like Poet or Archer Daniels Midland—which, along with oil company Valero, are responsible for the bulk of ethanol produced in the U.S.—can be attributed to this government largesse with taxpayer dollars.“
“On a large scale, a coal mine or oil field, for instance, yields five to 50 times more power per square meter than a solar facility, 10 to 100 times more than a wind farm, and 100 to 1,000 times more than a biomass plant like corn. …
The utmost defeating point for the ethanol argument is that oil yields 50 times more energy than ethanol from corn and 10 times more than ethanol from sugar cane, according to ecological economist Cutler Cleveland. “
This power density of fossil fuels cannot be manipulated to one’s advantage when arguing for renewable energies, they are simply too great. I have heard one commentator say that if we hadn’t discovered oil and gasoline, we would’ve had to invent it, like the Germans were trying to do in World War II to keep their war machine moving.
“Let me explain the issues as I see them.
1. Not a good enough energy return.
2. Ethanol production uses resources that could be used for food production, and tends to raise food prices.
3. Concern about damage to the environment.
4. Requires subsidies or mandates to be salable in reasonable quantities.
5. The amount of ethanol produced may decrease, rather than increase, over time.
“Those who demonize fossil-fuel usage do not understand or appreciate the great economic technical and human advances which fossil-fuels have brought to society. Our modern society with its higher living standards and increased lifespan would not have been possible without the large amounts of cheap energy which fossil-fuels have provided over the last century-and-a-half. “
Mr. Pres., although you and Ms.Gina McCarthy, EPA , would like to blame fossil fuels for every unfortunate situation that man has encountered, this research shows that poverty is the primary reason for asthma in inner-city youth “In fully adjusted models black race, Puerto Rican ethnicity, and lower household income but not residence in poor or urban areas were independent risk factors for current asthma. “, This study of more than 23,000 youth proves otherwise, so why do you promote policies which force poor people to spend more money on ridiculously high-priced renewable energy, when it neither helps their economic situation nor their health?
“First, Bryce is an energy realist who writes to effect more informed energy discourse in the hope of achieving better energy policy. In a recent televised forum at the Manhattan Institute in which he introduced his recent book, Power Hungry, Bryce maintained he is not a political or economic ideologue, is bored with political labeling, and that his ideas result from the way he was “mugged” by the laws of physics. …
Second, contrary to the carefully cultivated perception that wind is David to coal’s Goliath, the record shows that people and corporations heavily involved with coal, natural gas, and oil are also involved with wind. In the 1990s, Enron’s Ken Lay, helped by then–Texas governor George W. Bush (today a leading wind booster), resurrected wind technology from the tomb to which steam power had consigned it. Giant energy corporations swaddled in coal and oil production, such as Florida Power & Light, General Electric, BP, AES, and Siemens, are all intensely invested in wind. They claim to be “diversifying their energy portfolios.” But do they also expect wind to reduce their fossil fuel market share?
Third, the National Academy of Sciences, in a report published in early 2007, concluded that, in the words of one of the researchers, “Wind power will thus not reduce carbon emissions; it will only slow the increase by a small amount.” Engineers and environmentalists in Britain, the Netherlands, Denmark, Canada, and Australia followed suit, publishing papers that are not only skeptical of wind’s CO2 offsetting abilities but also offer methodological accounting systems for scientifically calculating wind’s carbon impact on the electricity grid. None are beholden to the fossil fuel industry and none are paid lobbyists like Goggin. All, including the NAS, have been rebuffed in their efforts to examine data on wind integration behavior at meaningful time intervals and amounts; instead, they’ve been told that such data is “proprietarily confidential,” and can’t be released without the consent of the affected wind companies. So much for the transparency and accountability that were once the pillars of public policy, not to mention the scientific precept of refutability. …But it is insufficient, for reasons explained later, to account for the way that “peculiar nature” affects the thermal performance of conventional generators throughout the grid system. And it is this phenomenon that intrigued the researchers from Colorado. …It is also true that Bentek was the first to get real time performance data at sufficiently fine-grained time intervals, using an ingenious methodological approach that examined the heat rate penalties of (particularly) coal plants intimately involved with wind integration. (More on this later.) …
Bentek demonstrated that, in the regions it studied, the peculiar nature of wind performance caused coal plants to perform more inefficiently, “often resulting in greater SO2, NOx, and CO2 emissions than would have occurred if less wind energy were generated and coal generation was not cycled.” The report concluded by recommending that Colorado and Texas begin replacing their older coal units with flexible fossil-fired natural gas units that produce half the emissions.
Ironically, this is precisely the recommendation that the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) made in the EWITS study Goggin cited. It is also the basis of AWEA’s own prescription for making wind variability work. On the one hand, Goggin rejects the Bentek study as a creature of the evil fossil fuel empire. But, without a hitch in his giddy-up, he then embraces language in that study that places fossil fuels in service to the white knights of wind. Whether this flop was noticed is unclear. …Because any wind “power” is a function of the cube of the wind speed along a narrow wind speed range (typically 9 to 33 mph), small changes in wind speed translate into large changes in the amount of wind energy convertible to electricity. …Over the course of a year, a wind project, if sited in good wind territory, produces an average yield of about 25-30% of its rated capacity. About 60% of the time, it produces less. ...Wind’s performance history also shows that wind plants generally produce most at the times of least demand—and least at the times of peak demand. Here’s an example of routine wind flux, culled at random from a BPA posting for a brief period on January 1, 2009. BPA had 1,600 MW of installed wind. At this time, the actual wind generation was 443 MW in the first minute. Five minutes later it was 454; then it was 476; then 489; then 505, etc. Three hours later it had fallen below 200 MW–and continued downward. …Because of its uncontrollable, largely unpredictable fidgety nature, it destabilizes the grid even more than demand fluctuations do. Moreover, as AWEA’s spokeswoman, Christine Real de Azua, stated a few years ago: “You really don’t count on wind energy as capacity. It is different from other technologies because it can’t be dispatched.” The National Renewable Energy Lab last year said much the same: “Wind power cannot replace the need for many ‘capacity resources’” and that any capacity value for wind is “a bonus, but not a necessity.”  This has serious implications for efficient grid performance. …
In truth, energy produced from wind is so erratic that it can’t be converted to modern power requirements–unless that energy is “fortified” with external energy to make it dense enough for modern power needs, as we will see. This “external energy” must also be accounted for.
“The section concludes with an examination of what the EIA data really show for those states for 2007 versus 2008—and what the official Energy Information Administration (EIA) reports say about causal factors for any CO2 reductions.
The Bentek study showed that wind volatility in the sampled regions of Colorado and Texas caused more CO2 emissions than would have been the case with less wind and more efficient coal plants. Using mostly sub-hourly performance data, Bentek was able to “examine in detail how coal, gas and wind interact and the resulting emissions implications.”
As noted in Part I of this series, Bentek then recommended that better results for carbon emissions offsets could be produced by introducing more responsive natural gas units on the system, in part replacing the coal plants with machines that burned 50% cleaner …
If anything, accounting for imports confirms the Bentek findings, reinforcing the view that increasing wind volatility imposes thermal inefficiencies throughout the system, ultimately saving no conventional fuels and, in the case Bentek studied, increasing CO2 emissions. AWEA, in short, has confused correlation with causation. Simply because there was a decrease in in-state fossil fuel use does not mean increased wind generation was responsible. …
AWEA’s contention that there exists “overwhelming evidence,” “indisputable data,” and “uncontestable benefits” to support its belief that wind is a potent offsetter of emissions is, at best, disingenuous and probably spurious. It is definitely not derived from scientifically vetted evidence. Whatever claims are made for wind should not ignore a grid’s requirement for capacity, in most cases in the form fossil-fuel plant operation inefficiently used to balance unreliable and erratic wind production.
“Just as the grid must reduce supply in precise increments to keep pace with specific reductions in demand—or increase supply in just the right increments to keep pace with increasing demand, the grid must respond to increased wind penetration, which, to a grid operator, looks much like a reduction in demand. Since wind plants are continuously generating between zero and 100% of their rated capacity in flux, providing who-knows-what for any future time, conventional generation must infill any reduction in wind energy at the precise increment of that reduction and, conversely, it must be withdrawn in increments that match any wind increases. …
However, in areas like Texas, where there is no day-ahead spot market, wind is responsible for eroding natural gas prices, as the Wall Street Journal reported last March. Suffice it to say, as Lisa Linowes once did:
“Since the price paid for 90% of the generation is established twenty-four hours in advance of the power day, any low-cost participation from wind will have only a marginal impact on prices limited to those resources operating within the real-time market.”
Government projections, particularly those from the National Renewable Energy Lab, that show wind can provide a substantial percentage of electricity in the United States while substantially reducing CO2 emissions are uncontaminated by reality; they have no more credibility than college football polls. Simulations based upon even hourly dispatch models without considering the gustiness of the wind and the corresponding heat rate penalties yield incomplete, if not duplicitous, information about a complex process—while assumptions about wind’s ability to replace generation one-to-one are cartoonish misrepresentations of reality.
The NREL projections do not even try to account for the impact of thermal cycling events in response to wind volatility. …
Measurement of greenhouse gas emissions is imprecise and statistical. …
WHAT THE USEIA DATA REALLY SHOW
Here’s what Robert Bryce had reported in his Wall Street Journal article: “The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) has estimated the potential savings from a nationwide 25% renewable electricity standard…. Best-case scenario: about 306 million tons less CO2 by 2030. Given that the agency expects annual U.S. carbon emissions to be about 6.2 billion tons in 2030, that expected reduction will only equal about 4.9% of emissions nationwide.” There is a worst-case scenario: all that wind will produce virtually no reductions, a conclusion of the National Academy of Science.
Bryce also reported that the NREL believes that if 20% of the electricity in the eastern U.S. came from wind, “the likely reduction in carbon emissions would be less than 200 million tons per year,” not even a drop in the bucket, as we will see.
In discussing 2009 CO2 reductions, the EIA does state wind was responsible for avoiding 39 mmt. This was 19% of the total claimed CO2 emissions drop for the year—205 mmt— which also factored reduced demand and improved nuclear (26 mmt) and natural gas (82mmt) efficiency. However, since the total CO2 emissions tied to electricity production for the year was 2295 mmt, the 39 mmt from wind contributed only 1.6% of the total—a thimbleful, despite the presence of over 35000MW of installed wind capacity. And even this may have substantially overstated the case for wind, given the margin for error inherent in the EIA’s emission savings projection from wind, which also did not account for wind-induced emissions from inefficient cycling.
“Any explanation about causation must honestly and transparently account for all variables at play. It should not consist of cherry picked items favorable to a particular agenda while ignoring other, less favorable factors. …
With over 100,000 massive wind turbines around the world—35,000 plus in North America—not one coal plant has closed due to the installation of any wind projects. Nor is there empirical evidence that there is less coal burned per unit of electricity produced as a specific consequence of wind. Ontario has long promised to retire (but has never been able to do so) all its coal plants. Officials tout that they will be replaced by wind. To hedge its renewable energy bet, the Ontario government is building natural-gas facilities as insurance against new wind projects.
In other words, the province expects to replace coal with natural gas, not wind. The latter could not exist without either hydro, which presently provides the province about 25% of total generation (wind is about one percent) or flexible natural gas generators.
LET’S GET REAL
Wind technology is NOT universally recognized for its ability to reduce CO2 emissions, for many have contested that presumption. And, in the wake of Bryce’s article, many more will soon join the fray. …
The Bentek study is supported by the work of engineers like Kent Hawkins in Canada (here and here), Peter Lang in Australia (here and here), Bryan Leyland in New Zealand, Jim Oswald in Britain, C. le Pair and Kees de Groot in The Netherlands, and several studies in Germany, Spain and Denmark, some of which are summarized in Bryce’s latest book. …
Lang, Le Pair/De Groot, Oswald, and Hawkins have independently developed differing methodologies for assessing wind’s potential to engage greenhouse gas emissions, and they are in remarkable agreement about their conclusion: that the higher wind penetration on virtually any grid system, the greater potential for more CO2 emissions than would be the case without any wind at all. …
Consider just a few of the questions that must be answered and the issues that must be properly accounted for, at minimum:
The amount of conventional generation necessary when wind is producing nothing?
The amount of conventional generation necessary to infill the gap between when a 100MW wind project is producing, say, 50MW in one minute and, minutes later, only 40MW?
The amount and pace of conventional generation that must be withdrawn when that wind project increases its yield quickly, moving, say, from producing 10MW in one minute and, 15 minutes later, 80MW? This may not be consequential for any grid in terms of security, particularly large grids like the PJM with over 140,000MW of peak demand generation. But even this relatively trifling flux has cost and emissions consequences, which should be properly assessed. …
Logic also dictates, in answer to these questions, that any grid must be able to support the entire range of wind flux–from zero to the highest installed wind capacity. Therefore, a grid must have a 1:1 compensatory generation for wind available at all times. …
Looking at the evidence provided on behalf of wind technology, which is at best equivocal, and critical analyses like Bentek’s that expose the technology’s limitations, perhaps it’s fair to conclude by extending AWEA’s distasteful analogy. Those who claim that wind technology can abate meaningful levels of CO2 emissions would admire the three-pack a day guy who decides to improve his health by smoking four packs of filtered cigarettes instead.
Thermodynamics of the Corn-Ethanol Biofuel Cycle
“In 2004, ethanol production from corn will generate 8 million tons of incremental CO2, over and above the amount of CO2 generated by burning gasoline with 115% of the calorific value of this ethanol. It next calculates the cumulative energy (available free energy) consumed in corn farming and ethanol production, and estimates the minimum amount of work necessary to restore the key non-renewable resources consumed by the industrial corn-ethanol cycle. This amount of work is compared with the maximum useful work obtained from the industrial corn-ethanol cycle. It appears that if the corn-ethanol energy is used to power a car engine, the minimum restoration work is about 6 times the maximum useful work from the cycle. This ratio drops down to 2 if an ideal fuel cell is used to process the ethanol. The article estimates the U.S. taxpayer subsidies of the industrial corn-ethanol cycle at $3.8 billion in 2004. The parallel subsidies by the environment are estimated at $1.8 billion in 2004. “
“David Pimental from Cornell claimed that making a gallon of ethanol used 29 percent more energy than it provided. Moreover, it was alleged that ethanol increased evaporation of volatile organic compounds in the summer thus increasing, not reducing smog. Finally, life cycle analysis revealed that overall, allowing for how ethanol is produced from corn, e.g. diesel fuel used to drive tractors and harvesters, and fossil fuels burned to produce fertilizers and as feedstocks, and as feedstocks and energy to produce pesticides, ethanol actually increased air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Indeed, a Duke University study found that “to avoid creating greenhouse gases, it is better to leave land unfarmed in conservation reserves than to plow it up for corn to make biofuel.” …
A recent study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences looking at the total climate change and health costs from fuels found that corn-based ethanol equaled or exceeded the costs of gasoline; the combined climate-change and health costs were $469 million for gasoline, $472 million to $952 million for corn ethanol, and $123 million to $208 million for cellulosic ethanol. Cellulosic ethanol is less costly because its production emits fewer greenhouse gases than corn production and has minimal impacts on carbon sinks, air pollution and food prices.”
“Moreover Gabriel was once the country’s environment minister and a devout believer in global warming and in Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth. …
This announcement is a DEATH-BLOW to the advocates of renewable energy such as Wind & Solar. One of the major problems with wind and solar is that the projects aren’t commercially viable without huge Govt subsidies including long-term contracts by energy utilities to pay 2-4 times the going wholesale electric rate for solar and wind generated power.
The mood at SMA Solar, which has been a huge benefactor of the renewable energy subsidies brought on by Germany’s EEG feed-in act, was somber and shock and Gabriel delivered the reality. Many in attendance seemed unable to fathom what Gabriel was unloading: the heady days at the green energy feeding trough are over – live with it. “
What a huge reversal of fate for the German renewables sector, as the German government was forced to bring in massive Coal Diggers (or as this story labels for picture “BRING ON THE DIRTY COAL MINING MONSTERS”).
““The truth is that the Energy U-Turn (“Energiewende”, the German scheme aimed at pushing the “renewable” share of electricity production to 80 % by 2050) is about to fail”
“The truth is that under all aspects, we have underestimated the complexity of the “Energiewende”
“The noble aspiration of a decentralized energy supply, of self-sufficiency! This is of course utter madness”in
“Anyway, most other countries in Europe think we are crazy”…
German customers now pay the second-highest electricity prices in Europe. At the same time, the task of stabilizing the grid against the massive erratic influx from solar and wind power plants that produce without regard for actual need has pushed the operators to their limits. Now already, with a combined share of just some 13 % of total electricity production, their unreliable input is massively imperiling the stability of the grid. “
This grid instability problem only occurs when the percentage of renewables one is attempting to employ in the grid climbs higher and higher.
“But even if ethanol costs a lot, doesn’t it at least benefit the environment? Not necessarily. Because it’s an oxygenate, ethanol increases levels of nitrous oxides in the atmosphere and causes smog. Researchers are debating the extent to which it reduces greenhouse gases, with some estimates as low as 5%. Also, ethanol lags gasoline in fuel efficiency, and it requires fossil fuels like coal or gas to refine and transport it.”
“By using a worldwide agricultural model to estimate emissions from land-use change, we found that corn-based ethanol, instead of producing a 20% savings, nearly doubles greenhouse emissions over 30 years and increases greenhouse gases for 167 years. Biofuels from switchgrass, if grown on U.S. corn lands, increase emissions by 50%. This result raises concerns about large biofuel mandates and highlights the value of using waste products.”
Mr. Pres.,if you one of those who believe that greenhouse gases are the reason for temperature increases, that should concern you, but I think it’s irrelevant because, of these links http://bit.ly/113CqGk, http://bit.ly/15KjDTg, http://bit.ly/1Jahv99, http://bit.ly/1SiOxpm , http://bit.ly/1GIglBH , and http://bit.ly/1KByEYL. For those who think that man-made CO2 is the scourge of the earth, you should watch this video regarding seats in the Dallas Cowboys Stadium as evidenced of how little man’s Anthropogenic Global Warming (ACW) influences climate, http://bit.ly/1xNPedR.
The below link the addresses the quoted text above.
“Thus, within the critical time frame for avoiding a climate catastrophe—the next couple of decades, according to the February 2007 United Nations report Confronting Climate Change: Avoiding the Unmanageable and Managing the Unavoidable—biofuel crops will only aggravate global climate disruption.”
“The fact that building and operating renewable power generators requires more labor time than for conventional generators is a signal that the nation should not rush toward renewables in the haste that so many are urging today. If a megawatt of solar capacity requires four times the workers as a megawatt of coal-fired power, building the solar plant makes the nation poorer, other things equal The public is worse off because it sacrifices the outputs that those workers could have produced had they been employed elsewhere. “
For those of us with even a smattering of economics training, this called the“opportunity cost”, and is the fault of most simple economic analyses, that proclaim to show increased jobs, like those that your administration has bragged about far too often.
“Moreover, ethanol burned in an engine produces more than twice as much ozone as the equivalent amount of petrol. Ground-level ozone is a big cause of smog. And, while good at boosting a fuel’s octane rating, ethanol packs only two-thirds the energy per gallon of petrol. As a result, motorists get fewer miles per gallon using fuel blended with ethanol than with undiluted petrol. So, even if blended fuel is cheaper per gallon than petrol (thanks to ethanol’s subsidies), the overall cost of using it tends to be higher. “
So, thank you Presidents Bush and Obama for giving the American public this wonderful treat of an inefficient fuel!
“They claim that it would be almost 100 times more effective, and much less costly, to significantly reduce vehicle emissions through more stringent standards, and to increase CAFE standards on all cars and light trucks to over 40 miles per gallon as was done in Japan just a few years ago.
With more than 60 nations having biofuel mandates, the competition between ethanol and food has become a moral issue. Groups like Oxfam and the Environmental Working Group oppose biofuels because they push up food prices and disproportionately affect the poor.”
“Although, or because, wind provides only 0.2% of US electricity, the idol of wind evokes much worship. The basic fact of wind is that it provides about 1.2 watts per square metre or 12,000 watts per hectare of year-round average electric power. Consider, for example, the $212 million wind farm about 30 kilometres south of Lamar, CO, where 108 1.5 MWe wind turbines stand 80 metres tall, their blades sweeping to 115 metres.
The wind farm spreads over 4800 hectares. At 30% capacity, peak power density is the typical 1.2 watts per square metre.”…”Perhaps three to ten times more compact than biomass, a wind farm occupying about 770 square kilometres could produce as much energy as one 1000 MWe nuclear plant. To meet 2005 US electricity demand of about four million MWhr with around-the-clock-wind would have required wind farms covering over 780,000 square kilometres, about Texas plus Louisiana, or about 1.2 times the area of Alberta. Canada’s demand is about 10% of the USA and corresponds to about the area of New Brunswick.
“As farmers rushed to find new places to plant corn, they wiped out millions of acres of conservation land, destroyed habitat and polluted water supplies, an Associated Press investigation found.
Five million acres of land set aside for conservation – more than Yellowstone, Everglades and Yosemite National Parks combined – have vanished on Obama’s watch.
Landowners filled in wetlands. They plowed into pristine prairies, releasing carbon dioxide that had been locked in the soil.
Sprayers pumped out billions of pounds of fertilizer, some of which seeped into drinking water, contaminated rivers and worsened the huge dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico where marine life can’t survive.”
The dangers of having a must-take energy source in one’s portfolio.
“Second, the wind doesn’t blow all the time, so power utilities have found that in order to balance out the variable load from wind they have to invest in keeping fossil-fuel-burning plants on standby. When those plants are not running at full capacity they are not as efficient. Most calculations of the cost of wind power do not take into account the costs per kWh of keeping fossil plants on standby or running at reduced loads. But they should, because it is a real cost of adding clean, green, wind power to the grid “
But wind power is allowed to ignore this cost.
“…State renewable portfolio standards (RPS) mandate that wind energy be considered a “must take” resource. As such, when wind blows, generation from coal and natural gas must be adjusted to accommodate wind generation. This adjustment, called cycling, is defined as the sudden increase or decrease in generation.
Most coal plants are not designed to be cycled, and doing so makes their operations inefficient, increasing SO2, NOx and CO2 emissions.
Contrary to their stated goals, implementation of RPS in Colorado and Texas appear to be adding to the air pollution problem, especially in areas where older plants are cycled more frequently. This is particularly problematic when cycled coal facilities are located near major urban centers. …
This report, which examines four years of Public Service Company of Colorado (PSCO) hourly operational history, illustrates how coal cycling, which in part results from wind generation, negates the emission benefits of wind energy. Integrating an intermittent, must take resource, such as wind energy, requires PSCO to cycle its coal and natural gas-fired plants. The incidents of coal cycling have risen markedly with the introduction of 775 MW of wind capacity since 2007. …
The results of this study help explain why PSCO’s coal-fired plants located in the Denver non-attainment area have experienced an increase in SO2, NOX and CO2 over the past few years. Four of the five most frequently cycled coal plants are located in proximity to Denver. The results also suggest that this problem will worsen over time unless more gas generation is utilized to absorb wind generation variability. …
Effective wind energy requires sufficient flexible natural gas generation in order to avoid cycling coal facilities. Enacting RPS’s that require more than 5-10% of wind energy for electricity generation will significantly add to emissions unless more flexible natural gas generation is utilized. The report recommends:
1. Short term. (1-2 years)
Limit the utilization of wind generation to that which can be offset by cycling existing natural gas facilities.
2. Long term (Beyond 2012)
Utilities operating under RPS should consider adding significantly more combined cycle and combustion turbine gas plants to their generation mix. Adding more natural gas plants will reduce the need to cycle coal facilities in all but the most extreme situations.
“38. Wind resources tend to be strongest and most predictable at night. During that time period, generation from coal comprises approximately 62% of the generation mix and gas-fired generation falls to 20% within the PSCo system, for example. Later in the night, baseload coal fired generation is often sufficient to meet the demand, and because it is the most cost effective it is used. However, it becomes the only resource available to absorb the “must-take” wind power and thus PSCo has cycled its coal facilities.26
The disaster that is biofuels
“But as we’ve looked at biofuels more closely, we’ve concluded that they’re not a practical long-term solution to our need for transport fuels. Even if all of the 300 million acres (500,000 square miles) of currently harvested U.S. cropland produced ethanol, it wouldn’t supply all of the gasoline and diesel fuel we now burn for transport, and it would supply only about half of the needs for the year 2025. And the effects on land and agriculture would be devastating.“
“Biofuels have forced global food prices up by 75% – far more than previously estimated – according to a confidential World Bank report obtained by the Guardian….
The figure emphatically contradicts the US government’s claims that plant-derived fuels contribute less than 3% to food-price rises. It will add to pressure on governments in Washington and across Europe, which have turned to plant-derived fuels to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and reduce their dependence on imported oil.”
“2) An obscure federal law – 40 CFR 600.510-08(c)(2)(iii) et seq. – enables automakers to grossly understate the fuel consumption of an E85-compatible vehicle. The measured fuel economy is divided by a fudge factor of 0.15, resulting in a vehicle which actually achieves, say, 20 miles per gallon of E85 credited with achieving 133 miles per gallon, when the automaker’s Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) is calculated. The result is that each automaker can manufacture more gas guzzlers while complying with CAFE law. “
“New Battles to Fight
So where does this leave the biofuel critic, or optimist? In no man’s land, as usual. Using 120 million acres for biofuel production is probably not sustainable and would impinge on food and environmental needs. Using 36 million acres sounds better, but if the feedstock is not grown with conservation in mind (i.e., if it degrades rather than enhances the land), then 36 million is far too much as well.
Necessity is the mother of invention, so the best way to make “sustainable biofuels” a reality is to give the inventors (the biofuel producers) precise standards they have to live up to—and to let them decide how to meet the standards. Only then, after all the standards are met, will we be able to accurately calculate the true volume of sustainably produced fuel. Creating clear frameworks to guide biomass “farmers” and biofuel producers will ultimately be more useful than attempting to make global estimates of how much land will be needed to meet our bioenergy goals.
Regulations to keep biofuels from causing more harm than good could include requirements to protect intact ecosystems and restore degraded lands, as well as limitations on chemical inputs like pesticides and inorganic fertilizers. Even just rewarding biofuel producers on the basis of their fuels’ lifecycle GHG emissions would go a long way toward reaching sustainability goals, if these measurements are done well and fairly. “
And the damage to wildlife due to the major forms of renewable energy.
“By chance (if you believe in coincidences), a timely government study claims wind farms will kill “only” 1.4 million birds yearly by 2030 (1). …
Dr. Shawn Smallwood’s 2004 study, spanning four years, estimated that California’s Altamont Pass wind “farm” killed an average of 116 Golden Eagles annually (2). This adds up to 2,900 dead “goldies” since it was built 25 years ago. …
Smallwood also estimated that Altamont killed an average of 300 red-tailed hawks, 333 American kestrels and 380 burrowing owls annually – plus even more non-raptors, including 2,526 rock doves and 2,557 western meadowlarks. …
the Spanish Ornithological Society (SEO/Birdlife) reviewed actual carcass counts from 136 monitoring studies. They concluded that Spain’s 18,000 wind turbines are killing 6-18 million birds and bats yearly …
Extrapolating that and similar (little publicized) German and Swedish studies, 39,000 U.S. wind turbines would not be killing “only” 440,000 birds (USFWS, 2009) or “just” 573,000 birds and 888,000 bats (Smallwood, 2013) (4), but 13-39 million birds and bats every year!
Wildlife expert Jim Wiegand has documented how areas searched under wind turbines are still confined to 200-foot radiuses, even though modern monster turbines catapult 90% of bird and bat carcasses much further. Windfarm owners, operating under voluntary(!) USFWS guidelines, commission studies that search much-too-small areas, look only once every 30-90 days, ensuring that scavengers remove most carcasses, and ignore wounded birds that happen to be found within search perimeters (5)
By 2030, the United States plans to produce 20% of its electricity from wind. That’s nearly six times as much as today, from three or four times as many turbines, striking more flying creatures due to their bigger size (even the mendacious study predicting 1.4 million bird kills recognizes this).
Personally, this is one thing I cannot abide by, killing our Eagles, raptors and bats.
“Wind turbines only last for ‘half as long as previously thought’, according to a new study. But even in their short lifespans, those turbines can do a lot of damage. Wind farms are devastating populations of rare birds and bats across the world, driving some to the point of extinction. Most environmentalists just don’t want to know. Because they’re so desperate to believe in renewable energy, they’re in a state of denial. But the evidence suggests that, this century at least, renewables pose a far greater threat to wildlife than climate change. …Second, because the ongoing obsession with climate change means that many environmentalists are turning a blind eye to the ecological costs of renewable energy. What they clearly don’t appreciate — for they know next to nothing about biology — is that most of the species they claim are threatened by ‘climate change’ have already survived 10 to 20 ice ages, and sea-level rises far more dramatic than any we have experienced in recent millennia or expect in the next few centuries. Climate change won’t drive those species to extinction; well-meaning environmentalists might.
Though I started out neutral on renewable energy, I’ve since seen the havoc wreaked on wildlife by wind power, hydro power, biofuels and tidal barrages. The environmentalists who support such projects do so for ideological reasons. What few of them have in their heads, though, is the consolation of science. …This breaks down as approximately 110–330 birds per turbine per year and 200–670 bats per year. And these figures may be conservative if you compare them to statistics published in December 2002 by the California Energy Commission: ‘In a summary of avian impacts at wind turbines by Benner et al (1993) bird deaths per turbine per year were as high as 309 in Germany and 895 in Sweden.’ Because wind farms tend to be built on uplands, where there are good thermals, they kill a disproportionate number of raptors. In Australia, the Tasmanian wedge-tailed eagle is threatened with global extinction by wind farms. In north America, wind farms are killing tens of thousands of raptors including golden eagles and America’s national bird, the bald eagle. In Spain, the Egyptian vulture is threatened, as too is the Griffon vulture — 400 of which were killed in one year at Navarra alone. Norwegian wind farms kill over ten white-tailed eagles per year and the population of Smøla has been severely impacted by turbines built against the opposition of ornithologists. …You hear similar nonsense from environmentalists about so-called habitat ‘mitigation’. “
Definitely worth reading!
“According to a 2013 peer-reviewed study, America’s wind farms kill more than 573,000 birds each year, including 83,000 raptors—such as eagles, hawks and falcons.
That doesn’t have to be. Audubon has long worked with the wind industry to incorporate the best technology and siting information to build wind farms that pose less risk to birds and other wildlife. We believe that new technologies and better siting must be combined with the necessary government oversight to ensure that the wind industry is taking every step possible to avoid unnecessary bird deaths.
The Interior Department has walked away from years of balancing the need for conservation and renewable energy—and from conservation partners willing to work toward a win-win approach.
While the Interior Department says that it will review wind farms every five years even under the 30-year-permits, the agency in charge of doing the monitoring—the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service—told us this year it doesn’t have the resources to review sites every five years. That’s precisely why it asked its parent agency to extend the permitting period.
In fact, under the two key pieces of legislation that protect birds, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, the death of a single bird without a permit is illegal. Yet, to date, the Interior Department has brought only one case against a wind-energy company. It takes more than a symbolic action to prove that there is a real environmental cop on the beat….
Despite considerable pressure from Audubon and other conservation organizations, the Interior Department said creating a sound process would be too hard. They wouldn’t answer two simple questions: how much would it cost to actually enforce the law; and would the agency be willing to begin doing smart planning now, even with incomplete information. Both of those questions could have led to a breakthrough. Instead, we’ve been stonewalled….
It’s only been a few years since the magnificent bald eagle was brought back from the brink of extinction and taken off the Endangered Species List. It remains one of the great conservation achievements of the past couple of decades. To backtrack now on protections for our national symbol is irresponsible.
As always, Audubon will work with the government and other partners to find balanced and reasonable solutions. We know that won’t always be easy or comfortable for some of our constituents who don’t want to see a single bird killed, or to others focused on the extreme threat of climate change. But we also know that a free pass to kill the national bird—cloaked in vague assurances of protection—isn’t balanced or reasonable.
Problems with solar panels
Solar Energy: Not So Clean After All.
Solar energy turns sunlight into electrical power. What’s not to like? Well, there is that whole process of manufacturing solar panels, which requires a great deal of energy. All that energy requires generation via means other than solar power — usually coal.
“In the case of silicon-based solar panels, which are the most common type, the silicon material requires melting silica rock in roughly 3,000-degree F ovens,” notes The Data Center Journal. “That energy, however, typically comes from coal plants, meaning that although solar panels may produce no emissions when in operation, they indirectly produce a fair amount during manufacturing.”
And what to do with the solar panels when their productive life is over in about 25 years or so? And what about all the waste chemicals generated by the solar panel manufacturing process? The Union of Concerned Scientists write that the photovoltaic (PV) cell manufacturing process “includes a number of hazardous materials,” similar to “those used in the general semiconductor industry,” such as “hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid, nitric acid, hydrogen fluoride, 1,1,1-trichloroethane, and acetone.” If we’re talking about thin-film PV cells, it’s worse, as UCS explains, since those have “more toxic materials than those used in traditional silicon photovoltaic cells, including gallium arsenide, copper-indium-gallium-diselenide, and cadmium-telluride.”
And the problems with concentrated solar technology.
“From Nature World News:
The last thing you’d likely expect is for a new experimental array to literally light nearly 130 birds in mid-flight on fire.
And yet, that’s exactly what happened near Tonopah, Nevada last month during tests of the 110-megawatt Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project. …
Unfortunately, about two hours into the test, engineers and biologists on site started noticing “streamers” – trails of smoke and steam caused by birds flying directly into the field of solar radiation. What moisture was on them instantly vaporized, and some instantly burst into flames – at least, until they began to frantically flap away. An estimated 130 birds were injured or killed during the test.
“Workers at a state-of-the-art solar plant in the Mojave Desert have a name for birds that fly through the plant’s concentrated sun rays — “streamers,” for the smoke plume from birds that ignite in midair. Federal wildlife investigators who visited the BrightSource Energy plant last year reported an average of one “streamer” every two minutes. They’re urging California officials to halt the operator’s application to build a still-bigger version until the extent of the deaths is assessed. Annual estimates range from a low of about a thousand by BrightSource to 28,000 by an expert for the Center for Biological Diversity environmental group. “
Seems like some environmentalists are concerned by this, as I am.
“In 2013, solar accounted for about 0.2 percent of the net electricity produced in the United States, according to the Institute for Energy Research. That same year, solar accounted for 3.1 percent of Spain’s total electricity, according to REE.
Still, Spain’s renewable energy story has not been all roses. The country’s aggressive goals have been heavily subsidized by its government, and the government has fallen into economic distress as a result. Specifically, the New York Times reported in 2013 that Spain’s tariff deficit had built up a cumulative debt of about €26 billion ($35 billion). Since then, however, the country has slashed its subsidies, putting the bulk of costs back on the power utilities themselves. “
“Once touted as the embodiment of progress, wealth and sustainability, the industry is now seen as an unwanted and costly extravagance. …
The decree’s impact has all but erased public support for renewable power, raising alarms in the industry inside and outside Spain.
“We’ve gone from misery to ruin,” said Jaume Margarit, director of the Association of Renewable Energy Producers….
In an embarrassing admission, the government said last month that despite past consumer price increases for power and attempts at reform, the tariff deficit this year would reach €2.5 billion to €3 billion. ..
The overall goal of ending the tariff deficit has broad support, including from the renewable energy industry, but nobody is happy with how the government has proposed to split the unavoidable economic pain. “
The benefits of electricity produced from fossil fuels versus wind energy
“It’s not just that coal-fired power plants can be plunked down pretty much wherever we want them. It’s also that watt for watt they are far more compact than their equivalent in wind turbines.
“Let’s take a 500-megawatt power plant which by itself can power a city of 300,000. (A megawatt is one million watts.) It will sit astride a fairly large plot of land. A coal-fired plant near me is just under that capacity (495 MW) and sits on about 300 acres. Most of that land, however, is essentially devoted to undeveloped transmission right-of-way filled with ponds, woods and streams. Only a small portion is covered by plant facilities including coal storage. I estimate less than 30 acres….
For new wind projects huge 5-megawatt wind generators are just now being deployed. If we take these as typical (and they are not), then using an estimate of the direct land footprint for wind towers of 0.38 acres per tower, we find that we’d need 100 towers covering 38 acres. But wind turbines run at only about 30 percent capacity because the wind doesn’t blow all the time. This compares to about 70 percent capacity for coal-fired power plants. So we need to multiply 100 towers by about 2 1/3 to get the number of towers we’d need to match the operating capacity of one coal-fired plant. That means we’d need about 233 towers with a direct land footprint of 87 acres. That doesn’t seem too bad. And, the land under the turbines is still available for farming and other purposes. The overall direct effects on the land and water are certainly less when compared to the coal plant. …
But we’re not done. The spacing between towers is typically at least five diameters of the rotor. That doesn’t sound like much. But for the 5-megawatt towers in this example, the spacing would be 2,065 feet times 232–we don’t need to separate the last tower from another tower beyond it. Then we’d add the diameter of the rotors–413 feet times 233–and we get a distance equivalent to about 110 miles. So, we’d need a line of 5-megawatt turbines stretching 110 miles. In theory, we’d want to split them up and put them in various locations in which the wind blows hardest at different times. But the total length of the line would still be at least 110 miles. “
Lisa Margonelli’s article in the Atlantic regarding Clean Energy’s Dirty Little Secret describes how China controls 70% of the world’s market of rare earth metal oxides, and they recently cut their exports to increase production in-house.
““If we don’t think this through, we could be trading a troubling dependence on Middle Eastern oil for a troubling dependence on Chinese neodymium.” “
Mr. Irving Mintzer has a very wise thought. indeed.
“Supply challenges for five rare-earth metals – dysprosium, neodymium, terbium, europium and yttrium – may affect clean energy technology deployment in the years ahead, the DOE says. …
Using a methodology adapted from the National Academy of Sciences, the report includes criticality assessments for 16 elements based on their importance to clean energy and supply risk.”
““To provide most of our power through renewables would take hundreds of times the amount of rare earth metals that we are mining today,” said Thomas Graedel, Clifton R. Musser Professor of Industrial Ecology and professor of geology and geophysics at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. “
Mr. Pres. I can’t imagine you wanting to have China control either our national security nor the nation’s energy production.
“Notably, the United States has a considerable rare earths supply; what it lacks
is an efficient permitting process to attract investment and promote extraction.”
But, this is no different than the permitting process for oil and gas drilling, isn’t that true Mr. Obama?
“…Wind energy turns out to be a lot like solar energy.
The Daily Mail recently reported that the University of Edinburgh found “for onshore wind, the monthly ‘load factor’ of turbines – a measure of how much electricity they generate as a percentage of how much they could produce if on at full power all the time – dropped from a high of 24 per cent in the first year after construction, to just 11 per cent after 15 years.”
That’s a 55 percent drop, for you dinosaurs who still think that is important — and that is just for turbines still working….
How long can that last? Ask that question of a True Believer at your own peril. They say making money is no longer the point of being in business; saving the planet is.”
“According to recent estimates,there are currently 14,000 abandoned wind farms dotting the landscape in the U.S.
Hawaii, for example, has 37 abandoned wind turbines at one site and there are five other abandoned wind sites in the Hawaiian Islands.
In California, there are thousands of such abandoned sites, including Altamont Pass, Techachapin and San Gorgonio — all considered perfect spots for wind turbines.
Second, when government subsidies stop, the projects die. Third, wind power has proven to be unreliable as a consistent source of power. There’s either too little wind, too much wind, or it’s too cold to operate them. …
It is unlikely that the Obama Administration will let facts get in the way of their war against fossil fuels and their love affair with solar and wind power. Expect more taxpayer dollars to be flushed down the rathole of solar and wind boondoggles. Expect to see more abandoned wind farms in the future — as long as Obama remains in office and the EPA is run by the climate alarmist zealot Lisa Jackson.
Well,the name is changed to protect the innocent, but their ideology towards renewable energy is still in place under Gina McCarthy
“It is also worth noting that wind farming on an industrial scale has the potential to impact global climate by altering the atmosphere’s ability to transport heat and moisture, critically affecting global weather and precipitation patterns by interrupting the natural circulation of moisture by wind. For wind energy to truly provide a reliable alternative to current power generation techniques, it would have to be implemented at a massive industrial scale, at the risk of disastrous environmental consequence. The speculated far-reaching consequences of this impact range from changing hurricane patterns off the coast of Mexico, to having significant downstream effects on cyclones in the North Atlantic….
Many of the purported benefits of wind energy, such as the lack of harmful emissions associated with conventional power generation techniques, have yet to prove themselves. It is true that wind turbines on their own do not emit carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases in operation, meaning that on the surface, at least, wind energy has a relatively small carbon footprint. They do, however, rely on the use of rare earth metals, which require mining and are, as the name suggests, of limited supply. This poses a problem for a renewable energy technology to remain ‘renewable’ when it is dependent on a finite resource. The magnets integral to the operation of wind turbines include neodymium, terbium and dysprosium, three rare earth metals that, as yet, have no equivalent substitute. Some harmful emission like CO2 are still released in the manufacture, transportation, and maintenance of wind turbines, but even at its worst, a wind turbine is likely still minimally damaging to the environment. …
The exorbitant costs involved in developing and maintaining wind farms is increasingly resulting in the abandonment of completed wind farm projects. Approximately 4,500 wind turbines have been built and abandoned just in California, while many others are unable to function at maximum capacity due to previously unforeseen problems. The Altamont Pass Wind Farm of Northern California, for example, was once the largest wind farm on earth, but the turbines must now be shut down during four months of the year to protect migrating birds….
On a broader scale, some sources have even gone so far as to point out that there has been “zero scientific empirical proof provided by the wind industry to support their claims of consequential CO2 reduction,” (Droz, 2012) while others suggest that actual CO2 savings from wind energy have been miniscule, if not actively detrimental. The Colorado energy market, for example, in having to accommodate the use of inefficient and unreliable wind energy into its power grid (and continuously balancing the grid on a second-by-second basis with fossil-fuel-generated electricity), found that forcing the inclusion of wind energy actually resulted in having to operate coal-burning power generators at a lower state of efficiency than they would have otherwise, inadvertently resulting in the release of even more harmful emissions.
“The biggest user of heavy rare earths in the years ahead could be large wind turbines, which need much lighter magnets for the five-ton generators at the top of ever-taller towers. Vestas, a Danish company that has become the world’s biggest wind turbine manufacturer, said that prototypes for its next generation used dysprosium, and that the company was studying the sustainability of the supply. Goldwind, the biggest Chinese turbine maker, has switched from conventional magnets to rare-earth magnets….
“…There was a reason wind power went out of fashion historically while other power generation techniques flourished: it just wasn’t as efficient. Truth be told, despite many advancements and a whole lot of funding for wind energy over the last two decades, it is still inefficient. “
“…While it is true solar and wind energy have not yet made themselves a viable, financially sound alternative to coal-fired power plants – without the help of massive government subsidies – their industry has hardly suffered while lawmakers try to do what is right for Ohio. …
If renewable energy advocates are looking for sympathy because they have not experienced the explosive growth to which they believed they were entitled, with the help of government, they should look elsewhere. Ohio lawmakers were correct in attempting to slow the bleeding in the coal industry caused by the war on coal and affordable electricity. “
Wind Energy Controversies: Environment, Health and Community
Read the article in PDF.
Wind energy is widely cited as the fastest-growing source of energy in the world today. For anyone who has witnessed wind turbines sprouting up on the horizon like dandelions over the last ten years or so, this is no surprise. For many others, this development has been less localized to the horizon than to their own backyards, often without community consultation or thoughtful implementation.
Wind energy carries with it an abundance of hopes and expectations: that it will power our vehicles, decentralise and diversify our power grids, replace coal-fired power plants, eliminate our reliance on fossil fuels, and essentially save the world from the catastrophic global warming mess that we’ve gotten it into.
That’s a lot to ask of a technology that, despite technically exiting on a small scale for centuries, is actually still in its infancy. There was a reason wind power went out of fashion historically while other power generation techniques flourished: it just wasn’t as efficient. Truth be told, despite many advancements and a whole lot of funding for wind energy over the last two decades, it is still inefficient.
Wind power is dependent on wind speed, turbine size, and air density. The bigger the wind turbine, the more power it is capable of generating, hence the behemoths we see today (which can range from 200 to 400 feet to the tip of the rotor). The theoretical limit of 60% to a windmill’s efficiency is largely necessary (wind must continue past the wind turbine, after all), but this is still a significant limitation that doesn’t even begin to address the additional problem that these turbines are estimated to not function at all in 25% of cases—as many as 1 in 4 wind turbines, whether they appear to be rotating or not, simply do nothing.
Many of the purported benefits of wind energy, such as the lack of harmful emissions associated with conventional power generation techniques, have yet to prove themselves. It is true that wind turbines on their own do not emit carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases in operation, meaning that on the surface, at least, wind energy has a relatively small carbon footprint. They do, however, rely on the use of rare earth metals, which require mining and are, as the name suggests, of limited supply. This poses a problem for a renewable energy technology to remain ‘renewable’ when it is dependent on a finite resource. The magnets integral to the operation of wind turbines include neodymium, terbium and dysprosium, three rare earth metals that, as yet, have no equivalent substitute. Some harmful emission like CO2 are still released in the manufacture, transportation, and maintenance of wind turbines, but even at its worst, a wind turbine is likely still minimally damaging to the environment. All of this would be understandable, if not laudable, if wind energy were actually efficient and effective as a renewable power source. It certainly has the potential to result in reduced fossil fuel consumption, and less water and air pollution. Whether it will live up to this potential on the scale we need it to, however, remains to be seen.
So far, what we have seen is that wind turbines do not last as long as promised, they require far more maintenance than anyone had anticipated, and they don’t produce as much energy as hoped. In many cases, the cost of repairs to existing turbines has proven to be more expensive than replacement, as was the case with the 37-turbine Kamaoa Wind Farm in Hawaii.
The exorbitant costs involved in developing and maintaining wind farms is increasingly resulting in the abandonment of completed wind farm projects. Approximately 4,500 wind turbines have been built and abandoned just in California, while many others are unable to function at maximum capacity due to previously unforeseen problems. The Altamont Pass Wind Farm of Northern California, for example, was once the largest wind farm on earth, but the turbines must now be shut down during four months of the year to protect migrating birds.
Currently, wind power accounts for about 0.2% of the world’s energy demands. Initial estimates posited that wind power could provide the planet with a total of 68 terawatts of power (to put this into perspective, consider that we currently use an estimated 17 TW per year worldwide), but these estimates have since been downgraded to closer to 18 TW, because wind energy isn’t the easy solution we were all hoping for; and could, in fact, have disastrous environmental consequences of its own if employed at the massive industrial scale that would be needed for wind power to provide energy at significant levels.
In the US, wind power generated about 3.5% of the country’s electricity in 2012. Since 2007, almost 40% of all the new electricity capacity in the states has been in the form of wind energy, though the actual electricity produced by wind power still accounts for a very small percentage of the country’s power generation. Also as of 2012, wind power provided 2.3% of Canada’s electricity demands, with a goal of 25% by 2025. In Ontario alone, wind energy is expected to generate 10% of Ontario’s electricity by 2030. And as a result of Ontario’s 2009 Green Energy Act (an attempt to meet these lofty goals) a proliferation of haphazard wind turbine projects sprouted up throughout the province. In its early years, it was almost taboo to imply that wind energy was in any way faulted. Saying you didn’t like the idea of wind energy was like saying you didn’t like puppies. However, now that wind energy has reached its awkward teenage years, that unquestioning support has dwindled. Ontario is the perfect example of this renewable energy unrest.
The Green Energy Act, with all its good intentions, gave the green energy industry license to install wind, solar and biogas systems wherever they chose, and required the serious implementation of wind energy into the infrastructure of the province—without requiring the permission or input of the municipalities that were to host it…because who doesn’t love wind energy? As it turns out, jumping onboard the wind energy train without due consideration of the potential drawbacks did not go over well with many Ontario communities, resulting in protests, outrage, and declining public standing of renewable energy. This wasn’t just because the turbine dandelions were considered a blight on an otherwise idyllic landscape. Wind farms present real problems, ranging from environmental and health concerns, to community unrest.
One of the most commonly cited environmental concerns related to wind energy has to do with avian mortality rates. The American Bird Conservancy estimates that wind turbines kill between 10 and 40 thousand birds per year. This is a huge number of birds, but it is also important to consider this number in context. Estimates in Toronto, for example, suggest that about 10,000 birds die per year between 11:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m. due to collisions with brightly lit office towers. Similarly, buildings and windows are estimated to kill up to 980 million birds each year in the United States (with another 80 million dying in vehicle-related collisions). Power lines are cited to be responsible for 130 million avian deaths per year in the US, communications towers contribute to another 4-5 million deaths, pesticides to 67 million, and the innocuous house cat to an estimated 100 million.
That is not to say that the 10-40 thousand deaths by wind turbines are inconsequential, of course. In some ways it is not a fair comparison—the birds colliding with office towers in Toronto are not necessarily the same birds being killed by rural wind turbines.
Ten thousand dead pigeons may not create much of a dent in the overall pigeon population, but 10,000 deaths in a smaller or more fragile avian community could have far more serious and far-reaching impacts. So while it is important to consider wind-turbine-related avian mortality rates in context, and not fall into the trap of overstating the severity of the problem, we still cannot disregard the argument entirely.
Birds are not the only causalities; bat populations are taking a hit as well, and while this may not seem like a big problem to city-dwellers who may not have ever seen a bat in their lives, the impact of their deaths has broad consequences, ranging from agricultural losses to significant alterations in the local ecosystem (fewer bats, for example, typically results in more mosquitoes, resulting in the spread of more mosquito-borne diseases—and maybe such a correlation is a touch melodramatic, but it does illustrate the point that anything we do to the environment, even the most well-meaning of alterations, can have vast and detrimental impacts in delicate ecosystems that eventually cycle back to affect us). Estimates suggest that agricultural losses in North America related to current bat mortality rates (due to wind turbines and white-noise syndrome, the two greatest threats bats face today) could cost $3.7 billion per year.
The impact of wind turbines on local wildlife has led some facilities (such as those in Searsburg, Vermont) to institute monitoring programs in order to analyse and, theoretically, prevent some of this damage. Others, like Northern California’s Altamont Pass Wind Farm, require that the facilities be out of operation during certain times of the year when avian migration activity is at its peak, preventing avian mortality, but at the expense of much of the facility’s efficiency.
On a broader scale, some sources have even gone so far as to point out that there has been “zero scientific empirical proof provided by the wind industry to support their claims of consequential CO2 reduction,” (Droz, 2012) while others suggest that actual CO2 savings from wind energy have been miniscule, if not actively detrimental. The Colorado energy market, for example, in having to accommodate the use of inefficient and unreliable wind energy into its power grid (and continuously balancing the grid on a second-by-second basis with fossil-fuel-generated electricity), found that forcing the inclusion of wind energy actually resulted in having to operate coal-burning power generators at a lower state of efficiency than they would have otherwise, inadvertently resulting in the release of even more harmful emissions.
“This report, sponsored by the Independent Producers Association of Mountain States, concludes that the emissions benefits of renewable energy are not being realized as planned based on examination of four years of Public Service Company of Colorado (PSCO) operational history. Integrating erratic and unpredictable wind resources with established coal and natural gas generation resources requires PSCO to cycle its coal and natural gas fired plants. Cycling coal plants to accommodate wind generation makes the plants operate inefficiently, which drives up emissions. Moreover, when they are not operated consistently at their designed temperatures, the variability causes problems with the way they interact with their associated emission control technologies, frequently causing erratic emission behavior that can last for several hours before control is regained. Ironically, using wind to a degree that forces utilities to temporarily reduce their coal generation results in greater SO2, NOX and CO2 than would have occurred if less wind energy were generated and coal generation were not impacted.”
-Bentek Energy, 2010
It is also worth noting that wind farming on an industrial scale has the potential to impact global climate by altering the atmosphere’s ability to transport heat and moisture, critically affecting global weather and precipitation patterns by interrupting the natural circulation of moisture by wind. For wind energy to truly provide a reliable alternative to current power generation techniques, it would have to be implemented at a massive industrial scale, at the risk of disastrous environmental consequence. The speculated far-reaching consequences of this impact range from changing hurricane patterns off the coast of Mexico, to having significant downstream effects on cyclones in the North Atlantic. Less dire, but still significant findings include a 2012 study by the journal Nature, which found that large wind farms in west-central Texas have already warmed nighttime temperatures over last nine years by one degree.
This is not to say that wind energy does not have the potential to be highly beneficial to the environment, but rather to point out that it is not a cure-all for our environmental problems and should therefore not be treated as such. This is an industry with as much potential for environmental harm as good, and it needs to be regulated accordingly.
Noise is the leading complaint from those living near grid-scale wind projects. The impact of this noise is the subject of ongoing scientific and policy debate worldwide.
When it comes to wind turbines specifically, noise can be generated by the wind turbine itself while in operation, the facility’s transformer station (when applicable), as well as the vehicle traffic between turbines necessary for maintenance. The two primary types of noise related to wind turbines include mechanical noise (from the motor and gearbox of the turbine’s nacelle), and the aerodynamic noise produced by wind passing over the blades as well as the passage of the blades in front of the turbine tower. Early designs generated a considerable amount of low frequency vibration because blades were placed downwind of the tower, forcing wind to travel past the tower before striking the blades. Modern wind turbine designs have to some extent been able to overcome these noise challenges, but are also considerably larger than many of their predecessors and continue to generate noise complaints from their host communities.
A review of the current literature on the subject shows that health effects related to wind turbine noise have been found to include a broad range of symptoms. The largest reported concern is sleep disruption, while other symptoms include headaches, migraines, ear pain, and psychological distress. Wind turbines tend to be found in rural communities where ambient noise is typically low, and may therefore have a more pronounced effect on residents unused to noise.
The Canadian Journal of Rural Medicine found that turbines located too close to residents can have a negative effect on their physical, mental, and social well-being, and present a potential cause of health problems. The fact that wind turbines produce noise is indisputable, but what is hotly disputed is whether or not the noise produced is actually capable of causing health problems for those exposed to it.
Some wind industry supporters argue that the health concerns reported by individuals living in close proximity to wind farms are merely psychosomatic, resulting from negative media attention around turbines. This argument stems from some intriguing studies that concluded health problems associated with wind turbine noise tended to only be reported after negative media attention began to surround wind turbines, while not occurring prior to this attention in spite of the continuous presence of the wind turbines.
While negative media attention around a particular subject does tend to spur complaints, and these complaints may merely be the result of human suggestibility or hypochondria, it is also possible that such media attention encourages increased awareness of a legitimate, existing problem. Historically, people certainly loved their lead-based household and beauty products, but just because increased public awareness of lead poisoning accompanied the presentation of lead-related health problems does not mean that their symptoms were not real, or that lead exposure was not a real concern.
The province of Ontario requires wind turbines to be a minimum of 550 metres from nearby residences, but many have argued that this distance is still too close. In Ontario alone, the Ministry of Environment has been cited to have received over 200 health complaints related to wind turbines, and at least one wind company has been the subject of a 1.5 million dollar lawsuit over alleged health impacts. Exposure to wind turbine noise may not be as problematic as coating one’s face in thick layers of lead-based makeup for years, but to disregard the public’s health concerns is at best short-sighted, and at worst dangerously irresponsible.
Due to the indirect and insidious nature of noise on health, and the youth of the wind industry, there remains limited scientific research in the area of potential health impacts, a problem which will take time to address comprehensively as longitudinal studies will be required to reach any firm conclusions. Until then, sound level limits (for Ontario, at least) currently fall under provincial jurisdiction.
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity” and, “the extent to which an individual or a group is able, on the one hand, to realize aspirations and to satisfy needs, and on the other, to change or cope with the environment” (WHO, 1999)
One interesting study, by the Netherlands’ University of Groningen, found that support for wind turbines in the country was sharply divided between those complaining about the noise and those for whom noise was not an issue. What was interesting about this particular study was that the complaints were shown to have very little correlation with proximity to wind turbines. Contrary to expectations, many of the closest residents did not find the noise to be problematic at all. It turns out that many of these unbothered residents were also the ones receiving direct economic benefits from the power produced by the windmills. The opposite was found to be true for those who did complain (some reporting annoyance even at 30 decibels, while many of those in the other group found no reason to be concerned by 45 decibels of wind turbine noise). This finding suggests that involving the local residents in wind energy projects by providing some direct benefit from the presence of wind turbines in their communities could significantly alleviate some of the unrest that has come to be associated with these projects.
Widespread community discord surrounding wind farms has prompted the development of a variety of anti-wind groups, particularly in Ontario. Wind Concerns Ontario, an organization that compiles and maintains a list of municipalities unwilling to host wind farm projects, is one of the more vocal examples of grass-roots protests aimed at the province’s aggressive promotion of wind power. They have called the Liberal government’s seven years of wind power development “a disaster for rural Ontario.”
Anti-wind billboards and driveway signs are increasingly common in many communities, largely due to the resentments bred by the wind industry’s general lack of consultation with host communities.
Due to the nature of wind, wind turbines are more suited to particular regions (such as the coast) and require a significant amount of space to operate, meaning that communities in an ideal wind-farm location frequently find themselves the unwilling hosts of large-scale wind energy projects that take over their space. It takes more space for renewables to produce the same amount of energy as fossil-fuel power generation due to lower power density.
It has been posited that off-shore wind may be the solution to community concerns and space requirements, though many jurisdictions currently maintain a moratorium on off-shore wind farms. Until things change in this regard and more suitable locations are found for wind farm projects, they remain in the public eye, and the public’s backyard.
As a result, the presence of wind turbines (especially the large-scale facilities) has also prompted increased community concern over property devaluation due to the perceived stigma attached to these developments.
Various recent studies have been conducted defending both sides of this debate. One study by Ontario’s government-appointed property assessment body, the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC), examined the effects of industrial wind turbines (defined as having a capacity of at least 1.5 megawatts, consistent with Health Canada’s definition), and concluded that there was no statistically significant impact on sale prices of residential properties in these market areas resulting from proximity to turbines. This study was both peer-reviewed and rigorous, but directly contradicts other studies and local reports that have found the presence of wind turbines can decrease property values by up to 35% compared to surrounding homes.
It remains to be seen which side will win this debate, though both sides have certainly claimed victory already. The fact of the matter is that whether or not wind energy is having real detrimental effects on residents of host communities, there is no question that the perceived detrimental effects are influencing the public’s willingness to embrace wind energy and join in the unquestioning devotion of the Green Energy True Believers.
Including capital and operating costs, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), wind power currently costs 8.2 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh). This can be compared to advanced clean-coal plants and nuclear power, both of which come in at 11 cents per kWh, and advanced natural gas-burning plants at only 6.3 cents per kWh.”
Forbes magazine indicates that this estimate is grossly inaccurate, as “A fascinating new report by George Taylor and Tom Tanton at the American Tradition Institute called “The Hidden Costs of Wind Electricity” asserts that the cost of wind power is significantly understated by the EIA’s numbers. In fact, says Taylor, generating electricity from wind costs triple what it does from natural gas.”
More Health Concerns with Wind Energy
“The study found a correlation between severe sensations experienced by the small group of residents studied and the power output of the turbines at Cape Bridgewater in Victoria.
The Cooper report has been hailed internationally as representing a breakthrough in the study of wind turbines and possible impacts.”
“But once bitten – twice shy – the Waterloo residents also brought in acousticians from the University of Adelaide to run the sound studies at Waterloo in parallel with the disgraceful EPA work. This Channel Seven news story covers it. “
“When travelling throughout Southern Ontario this summer one can’t help but notice the proliferation of wind turbines. After the Green Energy Act and the Feed-In Tariff (FIT) program were enacted in 2009, large scale wind farms sprang up across the province driven by a desire to increase clean, renewable energy in the supply mix. You may also notice the growing discontent in communities near turbines. Anti-wind billboards and driveway signs are becoming increasingly common in many towns located near energy projects.
As noted in Thomas Walkom’s recent article in the Toronto Star, municipal anger has boiled over and the provincial Liberals’ rural support has dwindled to virtual non-existence. The government belatedly decided to change the rules in late May, granting municipalities the ability to comment on proposed wind farms and receive tax revenue from them. However, the damage has been done, and many town councils, such as Kincardine, have passed motions declaring their communities unwilling hosts for additional wind farms. Looking ahead to 2014, the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) has 26 large-scale wind farms scheduled to come online without feedback from the host municipalities. Opposition efforts to take the matter to the Environmental Review Tribunal have been met with defeat, further inflaming rural residents.
This summer the Ministry of Energy will begin public consultations for its Long-Term Energy Plan, but given that many Ontarians are vacationing the timing is questionable. Under the 2010 plan, wind energy was expected to generate 10 per cent of Ontario’s electricity by 2030, about 19.6 terawatt hours. Given the current political climate and anti-wind sentiments, it will be difficult for the government to move ahead with its proposals.
“Just think, in South Carolina, power company Scana and its partners are investing about $11 billion to construct two 1,100 mw nuclear reactors on roughly 1,000 acres. To get the same amount of electricity out of wind (remember that turbines operate at an average of less than 50% capacity because of wind’s intermittancy) and you’d need more than 1,700 turbines stretched across 200,000 acres, for an upfront investment of $8.8 billion.The nukes might cost more upfront, but they last longer, they provide reliable base load power and they emit zero carbon.
And the nukes will be there when the turbines are down, being maintained or replaced.
Given all of these negatives for renewable energies, why on earth would you continue to push for yet more of these renewable energy projects, when doing so will force poor families to spend more on this energy needs, costs tons of money per job created, cause more damage the environment, if not here, then certainly in China?
Mr. Pres., why in heavens name do you continue to attempt to fool around with the energy mix that were currently using? Have you learned nothing from other governments that try to control their economies with central planning, like the Soviet Union, Cuba, or North Korea? Our liquid fossil fuel supply has a great job of providing fuel for transportation needs which will always be with us. Slowly but surely, natural gas is displacing coal as a primary energy source for stationary power-plants, for economic, rather than ideological reasons. Rather than continuously push for more energy from renewable sources, why don’t you let the marketplace decide what new sources of energy will be suitable for most businesses and residential units. Rather than renewables, alternative energy forms include nuclear fusion (as discussed in this link), advanced nuclear fission technologies such as Small Modular Reactors (SMR), lithium fluoride thorium reactors,and Cold Fusion . Also, were you aware, Mr.Pres. that a new source of power has been developed, which although using natural gas or other kinds of flammable gas, can supply most of our home and business energy needs very efficiently and compactly without combustion. This product is currently being tested in several large businesses and is known as Bloom Energy’s fuel-cell. This fuel cell has proven to be much more efficient than solar panels and wind farms,and has the potential to replace most of the electrical grid.If you were to adopt this philosophy, you would surely be a president for the people, but somehow I doubt your ideology would allow you to.