Robert Bradley, in his seminal policy paper entitled Renewable Energy Not Cheap, Not "Green", discusses the Department of Energy's 1976 study which estimated wind power could supply nearly 20% of the U.S. electricity by 1995. By 1996, wind represented 1/10th of 1 percent share with clear signs the market was in decline. In 1997 Enron entered the picture with its purchase of Zond, one of the largest developers of wind generation. This, coupled with new state and federal restructuring initiatives that funneled billions into new subsidies for wind and other renewables, resuscitated the near-dead market.
Two different, but very similar news reports (CBS News: Winds of change blow in Texas and NPR: Winds of change blow into Roscoe, Texas) were published in the last two weeks. Each highlighted the economic opportunities resulting from wind energy development in West Texas and the revitalization of otherwise land-rich, resource-poor communities of the State. CBS termed it a "wind energy gold rush".
The U.S. Department of Energy's Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) has undertaken a study to determine the impact of utility-scale wind turbines on property values. In June 2007, the preliminary results of the study presented at the American Wind Energy Association's (AWEA) annual meeting showed "No effects found" on property values. The study analyzes four sites, including areas in Somerset County and Wayne County, PA which are already highly-industrialized including active and reclaimed strip mines. This is in direct contrast with target sites like rural Lempster, NH not included in the EERE study. The topographical map of Lempster reveals a site with no industrialization and located at least fifteen miles from the nearest interstate highway. While the final EERE report is not due until 2008, the preliminary results rushed to the AWEA annual meeting appear suspect, insufficiently sampled, and overly generalized.
The transmission and distribution grid system within the United States loses approximately 7.2% of the energy to resistance. Given 500,000 MW of energy available on the U.S. grid system, up to 36,000 MW may be lost, representing nearly 3x the installed capacity of wind in the country. If wind facilities are built far from load centers and the energy delivered via an extensive transmission network, it's reasonable to ask how much of this energy actually reaches its destination.
The New York Times
Several important studies pertaining to noise and utility-scale wind turbines are listed below. Others can by found on www.windaction.org by searching on the keyword 'noise'.
The U.S. Forest Service is proposing new directives pertaining to wind energy development on national forest system (NFS) lands. To date, there are no wind energy facilities on forest lands so this direction will set the rules for an entirely new public land use across all national forests and grasslands. The Federal Register notice and other information about this matter can be accessed at http://www.thefederalregister.com/d.p/2007-09-24-E7-18715
Wisconsin State Journal
According to California ISO's Integration of Renewable Resources draft report (http://www.windaction.org/documents/12510) wind generation on a typical summer day peaks during periods of low demand and is at its lowest production levels when electricity demand is high.
An analysis of grid interconnection requests within U.S. portions of North America reveals that proposed wind energy development as of October 2007 totals up to 164,900 MW. This information, based on data compiled within the last two months, is regionally distributed as follows (rounded to the nearest 100 MW):
By the end of 2005, Germany's installed capacity of wind energy connected to the grid represented 18,300MW. The control area for transmission operator E.ON Netz GmbH included close to 7,600MW or 41% of the total installed. According to E.ON Netz's report entitled Data and Facts Relating to Wind Power in Germany (see: http://www.windaction.org/documents/11871), wind availability for 2005 was below average. This helps explain why the average wind power feed-in within E.ON's control area for that year was only 1327 MW, or 18%. The lowest feed-in for 2005 was 8MW (0.1% capacity) and occurred just after noon on May 5, 2005.
The Green-e Renewable Energy Program's seal of approval is provided to all wind and other renewable energy projects which adhere to a set of national standards and pay a fee. According to the Green-e website ( http://www.green-e.org/ ), "The Green-e logo is the most trusted symbol in America for high quality renewable energy. The logo is backed by the Green-e program, the nation's leading independent certification and verification program from the Center for Resource Solutions." However, the only "environmental" criteria used to determine whether a renewable energy project qualifies for "green-e" certification is if it generates electricity from fuel sources other than fossil fuels, nuclear and hydropower greater than 5 MW (see: http://www.windaction.org/documents/12207). If a wind project slaughters thousands of bats and birds annually, destroys hundreds of acres of forest or important wildlife habitat, is built on public land, or impacts a scenic viewshed or "dark sky" reserve, the facility, nonetheless, would be awarded the coveted "Green-e" marketing stamp-of-approval without questions or reservations.
The News Journal
The windaction.org database contains over 35,500 items selectively culled from sources all over the world.
The wind industry has incented rural communities to host wind energy installations with promises of jobs for local workers, the bulk of which are short-term, construction-related positions. After the facility is operational, only 1-2 people are employed full-time near the site per 50 megawatts of installed capacity. The facility largely runs unattended and is monitored remotely from locations in Europe and elsewhere.
Wind developers encumber the private land on which they propose to build a wind plant through a legal contract referred to as a Wind Energy Easement Agreement. Landowners often sign these agreements without first receiving advice from an attorney. An attorney reviewed one such agreement. His comments, embedded in this document http://www.windaction.org/documents/11774 , highlight the common pitfalls of signing without legal advice. A second contract, often referred to as a Good Neighbor Agreement, might be executed between a developer and landowners who own property near the project site but whose land will not host turbines. One agreement can be found at http://www.windaction.org/documents/11807 along with comments provided by an attorney. Other examples of agreements can be found on windaction.org at http://www.windaction.org/documents/2435
Wind proponents regularly assert that bird mortality at wind energy sites averages at a low 2.3 birds per turbine per year. These collision figures were derived from outdated, and inadequate bird mortality studies conducted at land-based wind projects in western United States. William R. Evans, well-known ornithologist with expertise in nocturnal bird migration provided a critique of these studies in his 2004 testimony on the Chautauqua (NY) proposal ( http://www.windaction.org/documents/11726 ) where he states the Erickson, et.al. 2001 studies are "now widely seen as prematurely conceived." Evans continues, "the high mortality figures associated with cats and windows predominantly involve plentiful species that are common in suburban and residential neighborhoods or in the vicinity of farms, whereas the species killed at commercial wind turbine facilities and communications towers are largely neotropical migrant songbirds; species of conservation concern that nest in our wild lands." Recent bird mortality research from Europe ( http://www.windaction.org/documents/11725 ) found that collisions can vary substantially between sites with mortality as high as 103 to 309 birds/turbine/year. The researchers state that "[mortality] results of individual wind farms can not be generalized" but that "the collision mortality is mostly related to the number of (flying) birds present (at rotor height)". The Erickson et.al. numbers are inappropriately used by proponents to bolster their claims that pre-construction avian surveys are an unnecessary expense.