July 12, 2013

Comments on July North American Windpower

A friend sent us a copy of this month’s issue of the trade journal North American Windpower, and it contains a couple of items that demand comment.

On page 20, the journal’s editor, Mark del Franco, reports “Obama Addresses Climate Change”:
The plan calls on the U.S. Department of the Interior to permit enough renewables projects on public lands by 2020 to power more than 6 million homes. According to the American Wind energy Association (AWEA), such an undertaking would require the construction of more than 11,000 wind turbines assuming a 35% capacity factor and an average turbine size of 2 MW.
Del Franco does not provide a critique of that plan, so here it is.

First, 11,000 2-MW wind turbines would require 1,000,000 acres, more than 1,500 square miles, not to mention massive new power lines (the cover story of this issue is about the 8-billion-dollar, 3,600-mile transmission project that will carry wind output from west Texas to the state’s load centers in the east).

Second, 11,000 2-MW wind turbines would cost more than 40 billion dollars, two-thirds of which would be public funds to ensure the enrichment of private energy investors. And the turbines last only 10-20 years, so such a cost would be recurring.

Third, “6 million homes” in the U.S. represents about 4% of residential use, 1.5% of total electricity use, 0.6% of total energy use, and 0.2% of total CO₂ emissions. (As calculated using data from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration.)

In short: Obama’s climate action plan calls for 40+ billion dollars to industrialize 1,000,000 acres of public land to (theoretically) reduce CO₂ by 0.2%. (And if consumption continues to grow? Then that figure becomes even more insignificant. And if wind, an intermittent and highly variable source, makes other plants run less efficiently, ie, emit more CO₂ per unit of electricity fed into the grid? — Whoops!)

Also in this article, del Franco calls the AWEA an environmental and conservation group. From their own web site: “AWEA is a national trade association representing wind power project developers, equipment suppliers, services providers, parts manufacturers, utilities, researchers, and others involved in the wind industry.” It should be obvious that industrial-scale energy development that requires large areas of rural and wild land stands firmly against the concerns of environmental and conservation groups.

Finally, another piece by del Franco requires a quick comment, “How Wind Can Aid In Climate Change”, page 6:
He [Larry Schweiger, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation] says scientists are also studying the link between May’s deadly Oklahoma tornadoes and climate change, but at this moment scientists do not have sufficient data to conclusively link tornado frequency and intensity to a warming planet. “The point is we are changing the climate with carbon pollution, and that is triggering unprecedented and dangerous weather conditions around the world,” he says.
Wasn’t the point, “scientists do not have sufficient data” to conclusively link weather conditions to a warming planet? Never mind. The point for such industry apologists must always be that we need to promote extensive industrial wind development in our last remaining rural and wild places to reduce human emissions of CO₂ — by, maybe, 0.2%.

OK, one more: “Campaign Combats Anti-Wind Myths”, page 8:
“The wind industry is being attacked by media-savvy and politically influential adversaries who often display a brazen disregard for factual information ...,” comments Morten Albaek, Vestas Group senior vice president.
That is, comments a media-savvy and politically influential industry flack who often displays a brazen disregard for factual information. Not to mention the absurdity of well funded full-time developers, lobbyists, and consultants painting themselves as victims as they expand their campaigns against for the most part spare-time volunteer citizens’ groups.

wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism