November 9, 2007

NBC News drinks the Danish wind Koolaid

On Nov. 5, NBC Nightly News, 80% of which is owned by General Electric, the leading U.S. manufacturer of wind turbines, sang the praises of wind energy in Denmark, saying the Danes lead the way that we should follow.

This was part of the network's "green week", a fine idea but one that should not be seen as a license to abandon all veridicality.

The piece on wind included many errors of fact.

To start with, Denmark's wind turbines do not "supply 20% of Denmark's electricity needs".

Denmark's wind turbines produce electricity equivalent to 20% of what the country uses. But much (if not most) of that wind-generated energy is exported to larger grids that can absorb the fluctuations better.

Rather than leading the way to building even more wind turbines, Denmark has in fact essentially halted new onshore construction. Any development that is still talked about (to keep the market for Vestas turbines alive) is far off shore. But even that has stalled since 2004 because of the expense and technical challenges.

The island of Samso is presented as so successfully energy independent that it produces more than it needs. Actually, the island is able to "depend" on its highly variable and intermittent wind turbines precisely because it is still connected to the national grid and not independent at all. The island uses the national grid to balance its wind energy, just as Denmark as a whole uses the international grid.

While it is true that wind turbines emit "no pollution or carbon dioxide" (after their (and their infrastructure's) manufacture, transport, and construction, and not counting ongoing maintenance (including oil changes) or if they are built on and thus disturb peat or other important carbon sinks), the crucial fact is that neither do they reduce pollution or carbon dioxide emitted by other sources. There is no evidence that Denmark has reduced emissions or other fuel use because of wind on its grid.

That is the unfortunate fact that is getting harder every year to deny or ignore, even if one's only goal is to create a market for Vestas and GE.

wind power, wind energy,environment, environmentalism