June 8, 2007

In love with wind energy money

To the editor, On Earth, the magazine of the Natural Resources Defense Council:

According to Joseph D'Agnese's Summer 2007 cover story and the accompanying box, people are in love with large-scale wind energy only because they are getting money. But what does such taxpayer largesse do for the rest of us? Does wind energy on the grid provide energy that actually reduces the burning of fossil fuels or splitting of atoms to a meaningful degree? An answer to that question was notably missing from D'Agnese's love note. Even in the showcase example of Denmark, one is unable to find a significant effect on the use of other fuels from saturating the countryside with wind turbines.

It is no wonder that "lucrative subsidies are drying up in Europe". European governments want renewable energy, but with wind they have learned that they still have to build and rely on conventional plants as much as ever. Wind is fickle. Either the grid operates as if it isn't there, absorbing its fluctuations in a large enough system (as Denmark apparently does with its large international connections), or it must provide costly back-up to balance it.

Since the U.S. is comparatively late to the game, we ought to learn from Europe's example, not blindly follow it, however much such unquestioning enthusiasm might delight the developers now seeking holdings here.

wind power, wind energy, wind farms, environment, environmentalism