Saturday, April 23, 2005

Environmentalists don't support industrial wind "farms"

The Berkshire Eagle ends an article about the federal energy bill and the nonsolution of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge with a quote from Amherst representative John Olver:
Olver, who said global warming "is the most critical environmental issue of the 21st century," is worried that his constituents might agree with Michaels [of the Cato Institute, who argues that we are not running out of fossil fuel]. He seemed perplexed by Massachusetts residents' unwillingness to support proposed wind farms, including one in remote [sic] Fitchburg [a city of 40,000 people].

"For the environmentally conscious people in Massachusetts, the level of opposition to this is really quite startling," he said.
Even if there were still centuries of fossil fuel left, we obviously can't keep digging it up and burning it like there's no tomorrow. Nuclear power, too, has very serious problems of digging, transport, pollution, and waste. Unfortunately, industrial wind power won't get us away from either of these power sources.

A comment on a blog entry by LA Weekly columnist Judith Lewis about the proposed Pine Tree wind facility outside of Los Angeles -- in which she laments the environmental issues but compares it to the alternative, a giant new coal-fired plant in Nevada -- might help explain to Olver why environment-minded people do not support industrial wind power:
The new coal plant ("Granite Fox") that Sempra wants to build in Gerlach is rated at 1,450 MW. It would be great to be make it (and the many more proposed new plants) unnecessary -- through conservation at the user end and increased efficiency at the existing producer end. Or, if we just want to try continuing on as we are, we could build wind turbines instead. At a 20% capacity factor for wind turbines in California, 7,250 MW would be required to equal the annual average output of the Gerlach plant. That's 500 MW more than is currently installed in the entire U.S. Two-thirds of the time, however, that massive wind plant (340-680 square miles) would be producing less than its average output, so you'd still need substantial frequent back-up from a more reliable source. And frequently ramping up and down those other plants diminishes their efficiency, increasing their pollution.

In short, it is unlikely that enough industrial turbines could be built to have a significant impact, and even then they wouldn't have a significant impact. Except in the negative.
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