wind turbine

Windy Arguments

The internet can be a veritable fount of information, but also a source of of disinformation. It is easy for an industry to hire bloggers to write confusing, disingenuous, and even deceptive posts about other industries to gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace. No where is this more obvious than the struggle between the fossil fuel industries and sustainable energy supplies such as wind and solar.

Wind generated power has taken a lot of derision, mostly undeserved, from the flacks for the fossil fuel industry, so let’s talk about wind energy.

Wind is expensive due to the production tax credit? Although the current production tax credit (2.3 cents per kWh) has expired, it may be reinstated. So, yes taxpayers are subsidizing wind power, to the tune of about six billion dollars a year. How does that compare to the subsidization of the fossil fuel industry? Just the health care costs due to burning fossil fuels is estimated to be the equivalent of 8 to 30 cents per kWh, or several hundred billion dollars a year.

Wind Turbines kill birds? Estimates are the wind turbines kill about 25 thousand birds a year, about 90 per cent songbirds, and the remainder raptors such as hawks and vultures. But is this rate of bird deaths important compared to other human caused bird mortalities? Total human caused bird mortalities are a billion birds a year. Collisions with buildings cause close to half a billion deaths. Cats, both pets and feral, kill about a 100 million. Cars, trains and planes cause another 100 million. When one considers total bird deaths, wind turbines would hardly rate a foot note.

What about human deaths? One can compare just how deadly wind turbines are by comparing the death rate per unit of electrical energy used. Wind deaths are 0.15 deaths per TeraWatt-hours per year. Competing technologies such as electrical energy from burning coal are 15 deaths per TWh/year and for Oil 36 deaths per TWh/year. Burning fossil fuels produces hundreds of times as many deaths.

And Jobs? Here we compare jobs created per million dollars spent on energy. Oil and gas, one job; coal, two jobs; wind five jobs. Interestingly building retrofits to save the same amount of money on energy is the winner with eleven jobs.

Wind turbines are noisy?

wind noise

wind noise

But just how noisy? Modern turbines have incorporated features that reduce noise from the swooshing blades and squeaking generators. The noise level at a distance of only three turbine blade lengths is rated as acceptable. The noise from a turbine a few suburban lots distant would be no louder than standing near a humming refrigerator, about 45 decibels.

But they’re ugly?

Nantucket site

Nantucket site

A large off shore wind project in Nantucket Sound will supply much of the electrical energy of Cape Cod, MA. It has been resisted by some local residents as unsightly. Not surprisingly Bill Koch, a coal and oil magnate, has provided 1.5 million dollars to lobbyists and a group called the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound.

5 thoughts on “Windy Arguments

  1. Randy

    The unsightly point gets me every time. Because oil rigs are so damn beautiful…

    I recently drove through massive turbine decorated hills in Southern California and it was strikingly beautiful and mesmorizing. And also 20 miles into unhabitable dessert. Despite being within a quarter mile of thousands of turbines, I didn’t register any noise in the car, I actually didn’t know that was a common complaint.

    Reply
  2. Steve Zimmer

    Traveling to New England this past fall, I saw many windmills on the mountains across several of the northeastern states. The windmills across the Green Mountains were a beautiful sight. I was amazed how many windmills I did see on my trip.

    Reply
    1. bob Post author

      I saw a bunch between Indianapolis and Northern Indiana last summer, which I hadn’t expected to see. Out to the west of course they are everywhere it seems.

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *