Just a few random thoughts regarding some of the issues and points made in the article and comment section. It appears to be SOP to down play the negative effects of wind turbines while promoting them to the public. Direct blade strikes aren’t the only factor affecting bats as there may be habitat destruction during the blasting for footers and the placement of power line towers on delicate cave systems. There is emerging evidence that vibroacoustic disease is an issue when turbines are placed too close to homes and other occupied buildings as well as general loss of property enjoyment due to sleep disturbance. Setback rules for siting are pathetically void. One German marketing firm for turbines recommends a 2 km setback from buildings, especially houses.
Wind advocates overstate the contribution wind power can make for reduction in GHG. Yes, wind turbines produce electricity, they are after all great big generators. However, they do so inconsistently. Pray as you wish, but the wind blows when the wind blows and it tends to not blow when peak demand is greatest. OTOH the sun shines quite consistently when peak demand is occurring, i.e. hot summer days. Too bad solar power isn’t getting the rabid attention that wind power is "generating." In Denmark the reductions in GHG generation in the electric sector have been tied to more efficient coal burning and the use of the heat produced in generation for heating. Interestingly Denmark exported the lion’s share of it’s wind generated power to Norway where it was used to replace hydroelectric power. Not much of a carbon savings in that approach is there?
It is apparent that as the amount of nameplate capacity increases for wind the useful fraction seems to decrease. In Germany it is predicted that the planned 48GW to be installed by 2020 will equate to a meager 2GW of fossil fuel produced electricity. Europe also experienced a massive blackout that was determined to be initiated largely by wide fluctuations in wind generation upsetting grid stability. Mitigation is expected to require massive additions to grid infrastructure. I don’t suppose the customers will have to pay for that.
We need a stable source of electricity to meet base load requirements. Wind has no hope to ever fill this need. It is too unreliable. It appears that a lot of effort, energy, and expense, is going into the development of an industry that has yet to do what it claims it is going to do, shut down dirty coal plants and reduce GHG production. Someone asked about offshore siting. In spite of claims to the contrary, low frequency noise has been measured in a home situated near four turbines already. We’ve a great absence of knowledge about how this may affect marine life, as in mammals, not fish that the industry points out will have new habitat.
I’ve got to love Maine’s approach. Right out of 1984. Saving the environment by willfully damaging a portion of it. Everything has a consequence, kill off large numbers of bats and enjoy a massive proliferation of disease carrying insects. West Nile anyone? Perhaps you’d prefer a dose of equine encephalitis (some of the viruses are hazardous to humans). How many turbine sites have local fire equipment capable of dealing with an oil fire 260 feet above the ground or above the water for the offshore ones? Yes, they do burn from time to time. Regarding the offshore ones again, salt water has a tendency to take its toll on metal. The offshore facility in Copenhagen had a lot of trouble. Before Horns Rev went up the developers claimed they had things sorted out. Then Horns Rev had a massive failure requiring almost all the generators to be removed and sent back to the factory for repairs. I wonder who paid that bill.
For those that think opponents of wind power can be shut up by asking them for alternative solutions I’ve already mentioned one, solar. However, what is wrong with good ol’ conservation? Take a night flight over any city and take note of all the lights still burning, wasting electricity. GHG savings there? Make the coal plants upgrade to cleaner burning techniques and require scrubbers and carbon sequestration. For those thinking about foreign oil consumption reductions and wind contributing to that, forget it. We make very little electricity with oil. Most of that oil is slag unfit for any other purpose. The transportation sector needs a close look on this. Try buying a hybrid AND plan your errands so as to not be running to the store when you only need a 2 liter diet soda.
Ideas are available to reduce consumption. Better insulation. Actually turning off appliances that continue to use electricity even though they’re supposedly turned off. All this focus on global warming seems to have made us forget we’re doing harm to the planet in so many other fashions and subsequently to ourselves. Yep, the mining of coal is a huge environmental assault. It will certainly continue at the current growing pace until it is gone, regardless of how many wind turbines we get built. Focus on renewable energy lets us carry on our merry little way ignoring that we’re part of the problem and therefore part of the solution. Too bad if a few bats die and too bad if some poor sap has his life ruined by having a fleet of the things destroying his ability to sleep at night. Sacrifices have to be made and as long as they’re someone else’s you’re all for it, eh?
For those that don’t understand why bats die at turbines you may wish to find out why before spouting vitriol. Bats use echo location to find and take prey. When they migrate they don’t use echo location. The deaths occur during migration. Not finding dead bats doesn’t mean they’re not dying. Scavengers have a tendency to be pretty good at finding them. Bat experts hired by wind industry admit that taller, larger wind turbines kill more bats. One with a 135 foot blade may only be turning at 20 rpm but the blade tip is traveling somewhere around 200 mph. Motion blur makes the bats unable to avoid them. A 16 foot turbine doesn’t pose a threat, being much closer to the ground where the bats will be feeding via echo location.