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Wind-driven delusions

By Alan Caruba
web posted September 24, 2007

"Wind-Power surge" was the headline of an article by Newhouse News Service reporter, Gail Kinsey Hill. "Demand for turbines generates higher prices" was the sub-title and it noted that, "The supply shortage comes as New Jersey officials have begun planning a windmill farm off the South Jersey coast."

Wind farmNow it's worth keeping in mind that New Jersey is one of the East Coast States that is on record as not wanting to permit any drilling for oil or natural gas on its part of the continental shelf, presumably because the sight of any rigs might dampen property values or pose a hazard to the "pristine" environment. So, let's see, a few oilrigs are bad, but miles of wind turbines are good.

Each one of the 1.5-megawatt turbines, the most popular size, will cost $2.5 million, including all turbine components and installation. How will utilities pay for them? They will "recover the expense through rate increases, but they first must ask state regulators for permission."

Every megawatt of wind capacity "powers roughly 250 homes annually," said the article, but failed to mention that only occurs when the wind is blowing. When it is not blowing, the electricity will have to be supplied by conventional means of generating electricity. To put it another way, no wind, no power, no really compelling reason to bother building a wind farm.

If you're expecting the mainstream media to tell you the truth about wind power, I will be happy to come by and read some fairy tales to you.

Wind farms are one of those trendy, environmental fairy tales about "alternative" energy sources that will save us all from burning coal to provide electricity because, according the Great Big Book of Environmentally Bad Things, it's "a fossil fuel" and it "pollutes."

Okay, let's build nuclear facilities. After decades of opposing nuclear energy the Greens have apparently decided it's okay, but first we have to do one million environmental studies before actually building a new one.

There are a few, teeny-weeny problems with wind farms. First of all, from a purely aesthetic standpoint they are unsightly. There is nothing pretty or inspiring about wind farms.

A proposed wind farm, Cape Wind, slated to cover 24 square miles of federally controlled waters in Nantucket Sound has found some powerful opponents such as Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy who lives on the Cape. Loath as I am to agree with anything Teddy says, he's right when he says the wind farm will destroy some of the most beautiful ocean vistas on the East Coast, not to mention being a danger to sea and air vessels. Even presidential candidate and former Governor, Mitt Romney, opposes this project.

Bird lovers hate wind farms. Back in April when the issue of federal tax credits for wind energy was all the rage, the American Bird Conservancy, quoted the National Wind Coordinating Committee whose own estimates reveal that, "this growing alternative energy source is killing between 30,000 to 60,000 birds a year."

Yikes! "At the current mortality rate and growth rate of the wind industry," said the bird folks "by 2030 a projected 900,000 to1.8 million birds would be killed per year by wind turbines, unless protective measures are implemented." Considering how Greens go nuts over ordinary hunting and fishing, their indifference to this bird Holocaust is fairly astonishing.

Then there's the problem with the way wind farms play havoc with radar that is used for commercial flight control and by the military as well. It turns out that, if you plant a wind farm anywhere within the proximity of an airfield, it "clutters" the signals needed to guide your flight from Phoenix to a safe landing. This is why the siting of wind farms is subject to Federal Aviation Agency approval.

Wind farms are quite possibly the dumbest way possible to produce electricity. Coal, uranium, natural gas, and hydro currently produces 97% of all the electricity used in the United States. Of these energy sources, coal accounts for half of all the electricity generated. It's abundant and it's cheap. Apparently that's a bad thing.

Suffice it to say that to replace one traditional 1,000-magawatt power plant you need a lot of wind turbines that, in turn, take up a lot of space whether on land or at sea.

Picture in your mind that you're driving along the shoreline of New Jersey, glancing over at the Atlantic Ocean…and seeing hundreds of wind turbines. These towers can stand over 400 feet into the air, have gigantic blades that make them into bird Cuisinarts, and, in the winter, they throw off big chunks of ice. In addition, the blades have been known to come loose. Lightning has a particular affinity for wind towers. Keeping a respectful distance is a good idea.

With wind power advocates pushing for more "renewable energy" by the year 2020, the energy projected would require between 50,000 and 100,000 towers, occupying some 7,500 to more than 10,000 square miles. That's an area comparable to the entire state of Vermont.

So the "wind-power surge" may not be such a wonderful thing in either the short or long run. It is, like so many other strange environmental ideas, a fantasy, a delusion that sounds rational right up to the moment you begin to look at it closely. When you do that, the vision of hundreds of wind towers producing miniscule amounts of electricity—and only when the wind is blowing—seems, well, nuts! ESR

Alan Caruba writes a weekly column, "Warning Signs", posted on the Internet site of The National Anxiety Center. His latest book, "Right Answers: Separating Fact from Fiction", is published by Merril Press. © Alan Caruba, September 2007

 

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