(My response to a letter in Hays Daily News criticizing 'How Green is the Wind?)
I find it very disturbing that the Sierra Club, whose mission is supposedly the protection and preservation of wild areas, somehow views industrial wind energy plants as compatible with this mission. I can't believe I once actually gave money to these people. They are either gullible idiots, or complete phonies. Mr Volland is a member of Kansas chapter of the Sierra Club.
In last Monday’s paper Mr. Volland called my estimates of CO2 emissions associated with wind turbine production and installation ‘grossly exaggerated’ but cites nothing beyond propaganda from the wind industry in refutation. The wind industry has never calculated the true carbon footprint of a turbine, nor would it be in their interest to publicize it. There are a multitude of websites with far more objective information than those promoting the industry. What is truly exaggerated are claims of the American Wind Energy Association touting the benefits of turbines and completely ignoring their impacts on health and environment.
If wind power is "the most environmentally benign source of power commercially available today" as Volland claims, then why is the wind industry mounting such shrill opposition to bill HR2337 currently before the House Committee on Natural Resources? It merely sets out responsible guidelines for siting wind turbines to minimize impacts on wildlife and natural environments – something the wind industry claims to be doing already.
In the words of IWA Executive Director Lisa Linowes "The AWEA's objections to HR 2337 are either simple self-interested misrepresentations, or worse, indicate the industry is not capable of upholding its claims to be environmentally sound and cannot deliver sustainable value in the foreseeable future."
Of course the extraction and burning of coal has a carbon footprint that we should aim to reduce. The question is whether or not wind energy is a viable alternative that will truly help us achieve that objective. It may become a part of the energy solution, but it certainly will never be a very big part – and it hasn’t enabled the decommissioning of a single conventional power plant anywhere in the world. The tradeoff is that many thousands of acres of land are forcibly industrialized in order to produce a relatively small amount of unreliable power.
A very good argument can be mounted that the vast amounts of taxpayer money currently being spent subsidizing wind energy would be much better spent on cleaning up conventional power plants so that their CO2 can be captured and either sequestered underground or used to stimulate the growth of plants to be used for biofuels or other purposes. Let’s not forget that CO2 availability becomes the primary factor limiting plant growth once light, moisture and nutritional requirements are met.
Germany is the world leader in wind power, but has recently removed all government subsidies for it, even though it has yet to obtain 10% of its power needs from wind. A German study published in 2004 came to the conclusion that "…CO2-emission reductions caused by additional RES (wind power) generation could be achieved much cheaper by realizing the efficiency gains associated with the replacement of older thermal units with new capacity (mainly highly efficient combined cycle gas technologies) and upgrading existing thermal units." Reference: EWI / IE / RWI, 2004, ‘Macroeconomic, sectoral and ecological effects of the Renewable Energy Act (EEG)’ (report in German with English executive summary), http://www.ewi.unikoeln.de.
A 2005 study by two German economists concludes: "After a description of this subsidy’s structure (Germany’s Renewable Energy Act), we discussed whether the aims formulated in the act, namely climate protection, increasing the security of supply, restricting the consumption of finite resources and promoting technological progress in RES generation technologies, could be achieved more efficiently by other means. We found that every single aim could indeed be achieved in a more efficient way using other means…". Reference: Growitsch and Musgens (2005), cited in article above.
One is left wondering why Mr. Volland would even be reading the Hays Daily in Kansas City, or if perhaps he was recruited by our local ‘windies’ to shill for their cause.
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