Sunday, October 30, 2005

The Low Benefit of Industrial Wind

Driving the desire for industrial wind power is the conviction that its development is necessary to reduce the effects of fossil and/or nuclear fuel use. Thus the local impacts of large wind turbine installations are justified by a greater good of healthier air and water, reduction of global warming, and moving away from harmful mining and fuel wars. These are all without question important goals.

While the wind power industry tends to downplay its negative effects, many conservation groups call for careful siting and ongoing study to minimize them. There is debate, therefore, about the actual impacts, but there is none about the actual benefits. Even the most cautious of advocates do not doubt, for example, that "every kilowatt-hour generated by wind is a kilowatt-hour not generated by a dirty fuel."

That may be true for a small home turbine with substantial battery storage, but such a formula is, at best, overly simplistic for large turbines meant to supply the grid. The evidence from countries that already have a large proportion of wind power suggests that it has no effect on the use of other sources. This is not surprising when one learns how the grid works: A rise in wind power simply causes a thermal plant to switch from generation to standby, in which mode it continues to burn fuel.

Read the rest of the paper at: www.aweo.org/LowBenefit.pdf.

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