Wind Power. Just Lots of Hot Air?
President Obama touts at most every chance he can, his “all of the above,” energy policy. However much of the “green energy,” emphasis has not panned out to the satisfaction of the consumers for
whom the energy is destined.
The founders of America made use of wind power in their sailing vessels, grist mills and water pumps. While we continue to make use of these options they are certainly done on a much smaller scale.
Wind power has some obvious advantages: it’s clean and renewable and relatively cheap. That is unless you are Vestas Wind Systems, here in Colorado. The disadvantages include local regulations of land use, and the noise and visual pollution. The main disadvantage of wind power is that the wind does not blow consistently or steadily. The main disadvantage is something that most proponents of wind power fail to mention in any of their discussions.
One criticism is that the large wind turbines kill wild birds. This was true of the early wind turbines, especially in the case of the wind farm located near Altamont Pass in California. An ongoing issue is the killing of the protected American Bald Eagle.
Eagles are vulnerable to injury by wind turbines due to their habits. The birds hunt as they soar, training their eyes on the ground below. If a wind turbine blade is above their flight path they are unlikely to see it. A large wind turbine blade can be as much as 185 feet long and a wind turbine spinning at even a moderate rate can mean the blade tip travels at speeds in excess of 150 mph which is a fatal blow for those unwary birds.
The Altamont Pass wind turbines kill an average of 67 eagles a year. Despite the fact that killing eagles is a violation of law punishable by fines and jail time, not one wind turbine operator has been brought before any court. Eagle-killing windmills are specifically exempted from any legal liability. Windmills are more important than our nations symbol.
Reliance on wind power can be expensive and disruptive for our daily routine. Given that the wind isn’t constant everywhere, that very unpredictability becomes an impediment to our electrical grid. When the wind dies down and the wind turbines are sitting idle, there is the immediate need for backup power to come on line. One pales at the thought of those sitting at their computers, unable to access the internet, due to idle wind turbines.
Wind turbines also create a noise disturbance. The noise created by the wind turbines is a main reason that wind farms are not built near residential areas. Those who do live near wind farms often complain of the incessant noise that comes from the wind turbines.
The development and building of wind turbines also requires rare earth elements (REE’s). The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is well aware of the need for and use of REE’s in the creation and development of these green energy resources.
“Permanent magnet motors power contemporary electric, hybrid electric, and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, while permanent magnet generators produce electricity from wind turbines (USDOE, 2010)”
The EPA is well aware of the byproducts produced in the production of REE’s. REE’s require extensive mining and refining and those processes pose significant environmental impacts. Those processes are significant enough for the EPA to issue regulations to stipulate each step of the destructive extraction, chemical processing, toxic tailing, contaminant disposal, and transportation of REE’s. REEs are often derived as byproducts of other mining operations, as most REE deposits are not economically viable on their own, due to their obvious rarity.
So when those promoting clean and environmentally friendly, green wind energy come calling, let’s remember this. The notion that green energy can be produced without any environmental or social impact is nowhere near what its proponents would have us believe.