October 17, 2004

The myths of wind power

Promoters of industrial-scale wind power often provide lists of criticisms which they helpfully dispatch as "myths." In fact, the myth making is in their answers to these charges. Here, for example, is the "top 5" list at the Greenpeace-sponsored Yes2Wind web site, all of them well documented valid complaints.
1. Wind turbines spoil the landscape
2. Wind turbines kill lots of birds
3. Tourists hate wind farms
4. Wind turbines are noisy
5. Wind power isn't reliable

1. Obviously they spoil the landscape. They are huge man-made erections. Even if you think they are beautiful kinetic sculptures, you don't have the right to fill natural landscapes with them.

2. They kill bats, too. And their noise and vibration drives away animals on the ground, not to mention people and animals in nearby homes and farms. Remember that a viable wind "farm" requires dozens of turbines, each requiring about 50 acres of space, its blades chopping over an acre of air at well over 100 mph. At night they must be lit.

3. Hate may be an extreme word, but tourists sure don't love them. Nobody who makes a long trip to enjoy some unspoiled nature is going to be thrilled to see a wind farm instead. Even if they think it's "cool," they are likely to seek a different vacation spot next time. Several visitor centers at wind plants in the U.K. have already closed for lack of business.

4. The state of Oregon changed their noise regulations because wind power facilities couldn't be built in rural areas. Now the rules say that if it's not a disturbing level of noise in the city then it isn't disturbing in the country, either. Except, of course, it still is.

5. As long as you make sure the sustained wind speed at the nearest wind plant is above 30 mph when you turn on your computer, it will indeed be a good source of energy. If it goes above 60, though, quick, turn it off, because the turbine has to shut down. If it dips below 30, better have the backup power going, because the power generated falls off exponentially.