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Resource Documents: Environment (233 items)

RSSEnvironment

Unless indicated otherwise, documents presented here are not the product of nor are they necessarily endorsed by National Wind Watch. These resource documents are shared here to assist anyone wishing to research the issue of industrial wind power and the impacts of its development. The information should be evaluated by each reader to come to their own conclusions about the many areas of debate. • The copyrights reside with the sources indicated. As part of its noncommercial effort to present the environmental, social, scientific, and economic issues of large-scale wind power development to a global audience seeking such information, National Wind Watch endeavors to observe “fair use” as provided for in section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law and similar “fair dealing” provisions of the copyright laws of other nations.


Date added:  August 27, 2019
EnvironmentPrint storyE-mail story

Toward understanding the physical link between turbines and microclimate impacts from in situ measurements in a large wind farm

Author:  Rajewski, Daniel; et al.

Abstract:
Recent wind farm studies have revealed elevated nighttime surface temperatures but have not validated physical mechanisms that create the observed effects. We report measurements of concurrent differences in surface wind speed, temperature, fluxes, and turbulence upwind and downwind of two turbine lines at the windward edge of a utility‐scale wind farm. On the basis of these measurements, we offer a conceptual model based on physical mechanisms of how wind farms affect their own microclimate. Periods of documented curtailment and zero‐power production of the wind farm offer useful opportunities to rigorously evaluate the microclimate impact of both stationary and operating turbines. During an 80 min nighttime wind farm curtailment, we measured abrupt and large changes in turbulent fluxes of momentum and heat leeward of the turbines. At night, wind speed decreases in the near wake when turbines are off but abruptly increases when turbine operation is resumed. Our measurements are compared with Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer Terra and Aqua satellite measurements reporting wind farms to have higher nighttime surface temperatures. We demonstrate that turbine wakes modify surface fluxes continuously through the night, with similar magnitudes during the Terra and Aqua transit periods. Cooling occurs in the near wake and warming in the far wake when turbines are on, but cooling is negligible when turbines are off. Wind speed and surface stratification have a regulating effect of enhancing or decreasing the impact on surface microclimate due to turbine wake effects.

Daniel A. Rajewski
Eugene S. Takle
Russell K. Doorenbos

Department of Agronomy, Iowa State University, Ames
John H. Prueger
National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment, Ames, Iowa

Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres
Volume 121, Issue 22, 27 November 2016, Pages 13,392–13,414
doi: 10.1002/2016JD025297

Download original document: “Toward understanding the physical link between turbines and microclimate impacts from in situ measurements in a large wind farm

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Date added:  August 23, 2019
EnvironmentPrint storyE-mail story

Impacts of wind farms on surface air temperatures

Author:  Baidya Roy, Somnath; and Traiteur, Justin

Abstract:
Utility-scale large wind farms are rapidly growing in size and numbers all over the world. Data from a meteorological field campaign show that such wind farms can significantly affect near-surface air temperatures. These effects result from enhanced vertical mixing due to turbulence generated by wind turbine rotors. The impacts of wind farms on local weather can be minimized by changing rotor design or by siting wind farms in regions with high natural turbulence. Using a 25-y-long climate dataset, we identified such regions in the world. Many of these regions, such as the Midwest and Great Plains in the United States, are also rich in wind resources, making them ideal candidates for low-impact wind farms.

Somnath Baidya Roy and Justin J. Traiteur
Department of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Illinois, Urbana

PNAS October 19, 2010 107 (42) 17899-17904; doi: 10.1073/pnas.1000493107

Download original document: “Impacts of wind farms on surface air temperatures

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Date added:  July 8, 2019
Environment, WildlifePrint storyE-mail story

Impact of wind energy on wildife and the environment

Author:  Henderson, Peter; Krüger, Oliver; Richarz, Klaus; and Byrne, Paula

This publication focuses on a topic that has previously been a taboo for policymakers, but also for nature conservation organisations in Germany. The environmentally destructive effects of renewable energies has never been widely discussed – mainly because they are seen as reducing carbon dioxide emissions. … The German Wildlife Foundation is not generally against wind energy. We are not opposed to any technology. But we are opposed to the unbridled expansion of energy projects in natural environments and natural spaces, a process that is increasingly happening today, especially in Germany. … The papers in this publication show what threats nature and wildlife now face from this expansion.

Fritz Vahrenholt, German Wildlife Foundation

The Global Warming Policy Foundation, an educational think tank based in London, does not have a position on wind energy or renewable energy. We neither oppose nor promote it. However, we are in favour of weighing up the pros and cons. Any form of energy production, whether conventional or renewable, has its costs and benefits, and many environmental problems come with every form of energy generation.

One of the big problems that confronts us today is that we live in an age where some of these issues are taboo; where particular topics cannot be openly discussed. Throughout history, whenever societies were faced with a lack of openness or censorship, grave mistakes have been inevitable. After all, you can only learn from mistakes if you are allowed to talk about problems openly. It is in this context that it is eminently important that the pros and cons of all forms of energy generation are openly addressed. Only by weighing up the pros and cons can politicians and the wider public get a better idea of what is reasonable and what is unreasonable.

We are not opponents of wind energy. Where wind energy makes sense it should be used. Wherever it is unreasonable and destructive, it should be avoided. The problem, of course, is that we often don’t fully understand the positive and negative impacts. I hope that this booklet will allow readers to have a better understanding of both German and international developments, so that the interested public can get a better picture of these particular problems of conservation.

Benny Peiser, Global Warming Policy Foundation

This paper, produced by the Global Warming Policy Foundation and the German Wildlife Foundation, takes a Europe-wide look at the conflict between wind energy and nature conservation. In many European countries, people are opposing wind energy projects that are destroying wildlife habitats. … In particular, the consequences of wind turbines in forests are serious for many types of wildlife. We observe with great concern the massive expansion of wind power in Germany’s forest areas. … An open and constructive debate on the consequences that wind energy can have on wildlife – from insects to black storks to wildcats – is more than overdue.

The German Wildlife Foundation regards wind energy as an important contributor to the energy mix of the future. Its further expansion in Germany, Europe and also worldwide, however, should not be promoted at any price. For Germany, at least for the construction of wind turbines in the forest, we demand a moratorium. This would allow us to reconsider the future course of action and, on the basis of scientific findings and national and European nature conservation laws, to adopt a far-sighted course in line with the precautionary principle that is enshrined in environmental policy.

Hilmar Freiherr von Münchhausen, German Wildlife Foundation

Contents:
Ecological impacts of wind turbines – Peter Henderson, Pisces Conservation and University of Oxford
Wind power and birds of prey: problems and possible solutions – Oliver Krüger, University of Bielefeld
Wind energy in forests and species conservation: vision and reality – Klaus Richarz, Bundesverband Wissenschaftlicher Vogelschutz
Wind energy in Ireland – Paula Byrne, Wind Aware Ireland

© Copyright 2019 The Global Warming Policy Foundation

Download original document: “The impact of wind energy on wildife and the environment

See also: 
Green killing machines: The impact of renewable energy on wildlife and nature”, by Andrew Montford
Truly Green? How Germany’s ‘Energy Transition’ is destroying nature”, by Michael Miersch, director of the German Wildlife Foundation (Deutsche Wildtier Stiftung)
Grüne Energie? Wie ökologisch sind Windkraft und Biogas?

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Date added:  March 2, 2019
Economics, Emissions, Environment, WildlifePrint storyE-mail story

Why Renewables Can’t Save the Planet

Author:  Shellenberger, Michael

When I was a boy, my parents would sometimes take my sister and me camping in the desert. A lot of people think deserts are empty, but my parents taught us to see the wildlife all around us, including hawks, eagles, and tortoises.

After college, I moved to California to work on environmental campaigns. I helped save the state’s last ancient redwood forest and blocked a proposed radioactive waste repository set for the desert.

In 2002, shortly after I turned 30, I decided I wanted to dedicate myself to addressing climate change. I was worried that global warming would end up destroying many of the natural environments that people had worked so hard to protect.

I thought the solutions were pretty straightforward: solar panels on every roof, electric cars in every driveway, etc. The main obstacles, I believed, were political. And so I helped organize a coalition of America’s largest labor unions and environmental groups. Our proposal was for a $300 billion dollar investment in renewables. We would not only prevent climate change but also create millions of new jobs in a fast-growing high-tech sector.

Our efforts paid off in 2007 when then-presidential candidate Barack Obama embraced our vision. Between 2009–15, the U.S. invested $150 billion dollars in renewables and other forms of clean tech. But right away we ran into trouble.

The first was around land use. Electricity from solar roofs costs about twice as much as electricity from solar farms, but solar and wind farms require huge amounts of land. That, along with the fact that solar and wind farms require long new transmissions lines, and are opposed by local communities and conservationists trying to preserve wildlife, particularly birds.

Another challenge was the intermittent nature of solar and wind energies. When the sun stops shining and the wind stops blowing, you have to quickly be able to ramp up another source of energy.

Happily, there were a lot of people working on solutions. One solution was to convert California’s dams into big batteries. The idea was that, when the sun was shining and the wind was blowing, you could pump water uphill, store it for later, and then run it over the turbines to make electricity when you needed it.

Other problems didn’t seem like such a big deal, on closer examination. For example, after I learned that house cats kill billions of birds every year it put into perspective the nearly one million birds killed by wind turbines.

It seemed to me that most, if not all, of the problems from scaling up solar and wind energies could be solved through more technological innovation.

But, as the years went by, the problems persisted and in some cases grew worse. For example, California is a world leader when it comes to renewables but we haven’t converted our dams into batteries, partly for geographic reasons. You need the right kind of dam and reservoirs, and even then it’s an expensive retrofit.

A bigger problem is that there are many other uses for the water that accumulates behind dams, namely irrigation and cities. And because the water in our rivers and reservoirs is scarce and unreliable, the water from dams for those other purposes is becoming ever-more precious.

Without large-scale ways to back-up solar energy California has had to block electricity coming from solar farms when it’s extremely sunny, or pay neighboring states to take it from us so we can avoid blowing-out our grid.

Despite what you’ve heard, there is no “battery revolution” on the way, for well-understood technical and economic reasons.

As for house cats, they don’t kill big, rare, threatened birds. What house cats kill are small, common birds, like sparrows, robins and jays. What kills big, threatened, and endangered birds—birds that could go extinct—like hawks, eagles, owls, and condors, are wind turbines.

In fact, wind turbines are the most serious new threat to important bird species to emerge in decades. The rapidly spinning turbines act like an apex predator which big birds never evolved to deal with.

Solar farms have similarly large ecological impacts. Building a solar farm is a lot like building any other kind of farm. You have to clear the whole area of wildlife.

In order to build one of the biggest solar farms in California the developers hired biologists to pull threatened desert tortoises from their burrows, put them on the back of pickup trucks, transport them, and cage them in pens where many ended up dying.

As we were learning of these impacts, it gradually dawned on me that there was no amount of technological innovation that could solve the fundamental problem with renewables.

You can make solar panels cheaper and wind turbines bigger, but you can’t make the sun shine more regularly or the wind blow more reliably. I came to understand the environmental implications of the physics of energy. In order to produce significant amounts of electricity from weak energy flows, you just have spread them over enormous areas. In other words, the trouble with renewables isn’t fundamentally technical—it’s natural.

Dealing with energy sources that are inherently unreliable, and require large amounts of land, comes at a high economic cost.

There’s been a lot of publicity about how solar panels and wind turbines have come down in cost. But those one-time cost savings from making them in big Chinese factories have been outweighed by the high cost of dealing with their unreliability.

Consider California. Between 2011–17 the cost of solar panels declined about 75 percent, and yet our electricity prices rose five times more than they did in the rest of the U.S. It’s the same story in Germany, the world leader in solar and wind energy. Its electricity prices increased 50 percent between 2006–17, as it scaled up renewables.

I used to think that dealing with climate change was going to be expensive. But I could no longer believe this after looking at Germany and France.

Germany’s carbon emissions have been flat since 2009, despite an investment of $580 billion by 2025 in a renewables-heavy electrical grid, a 50 percent rise in electricity cost.

Meanwhile, France produces one-tenth the carbon emissions per unit of electricity as Germany and pays little more than half for its electricity. How? Through nuclear power.

Then, under pressure from Germany, France spent $33 billion on renewables, over the last decade. What was the result? A rise in the carbon intensity of its electricity supply, and higher electricity prices, too.

What about all the headlines about expensive nuclear and cheap solar and wind? They are largely an illusion resulting from the fact that 70 to 80 percent of the costs of building nuclear plants are up-front, whereas the costs given for solar and wind don’t include the high cost of transmission lines, new dams, or other forms of battery.

It’s reasonable to ask whether nuclear power is safe, and what happens with its waste.

It turns out that scientists have studied the health and safety of different energy sources since the 1960s. Every major study, including a recent one by the British medical journal Lancet, finds the same thing: nuclear is the safest way to make reliable electricity.

Strange as it sounds, nuclear power plants are so safe for the same reason nuclear weapons are so dangerous. The uranium used as fuel in power plants and as material for bombs can create one million times more heat per its mass than its fossil fuel and gunpowder equivalents.

It’s not so much about the fuel as the process. We release more energy breaking atoms than breaking chemical bonds. What’s special about uranium atoms is that they are easy to split.

Because nuclear plants produce heat without fire, they emit no air pollution in the form of smoke. By contrast, the smoke from burning fossil fuels and biomass results in the premature deaths of seven million people per year, according to the World Health Organization.

Even during the worst accidents, nuclear plants release small amounts of radioactive particulate matter from the tiny quantities of uranium atoms split apart to make heat.

Over an 80-year lifespan, fewer than 200 people will die from the radiation from the worst nuclear accident, Chernobyl, and zero will die from the small amounts of radiant particulate matter that escaped from Fukushima.

As a result, the climate scientist James Hanson and a colleague found that nuclear plants have actually saved nearly two million lives to date that would have been lost to air pollution.

Thanks to its energy density, nuclear plants require far less land than renewables. Even in sunny California, a solar farm requires 450 times more land to produce the same amount of energy as a nuclear plant.

Energy-dense nuclear requires far less in the way of materials, and produces far less in the way of waste compared to energy-dilute solar and wind.

A single Coke can’s worth of uranium provides all of the energy that the most gluttonous American or Australian lifestyle requires. At the end of the process, the high-level radioactive waste that nuclear plants produce is the very same Coke can of (used) uranium fuel. The reason nuclear is the best energy from an environmental perspective is because it produces so little waste and none enters the environment as pollution.

All of the waste fuel from 45 years of the Swiss nuclear program can fit, in canisters, on a basketball court-like warehouse, where like all spent nuclear fuel, it has never hurt a fly.

By contrast, solar panels require 17 times more materials in the form of cement, glass, concrete, and steel than do nuclear plants, andcreate over 200 times more waste.

We tend to think of solar panels as clean, but the truth is that there is no plan anywhere to deal with solar panels at the end of their 20 to 25 year lifespan.
Experts fearsolar panels will be shipped, along with other forms of electronic waste, to be disassembled—or, more often, smashed with hammers—by poor communities in Africa and Asia, whose residents will be exposed to the dust from toxic heavy metals including lead, cadmium, and chromium.

Wherever I travel in the world I ask ordinary people what they think about nuclear and renewable energies. After saying they know next to nothing, they admit that nuclear is strong and renewables are weak. Their intuitions are correct. What most of us get wrong—understandably – is that weak energies are safer.

But aren’t renewables safer? The answer is no. Wind turbines, surprisingly, kill more people than nuclear plants.

In other words, the energy density of the fuel determines its environmental and health impacts. Spreading more mines and more equipment over larger areas of land is going to have larger environmental and human safety impacts.

It’s true that you can stand next to a solar panel without much harm while if you stand next to a nuclear reactor at full power you’ll die.

But when it comes to generating power for billions of people, it turns out that producing solar and wind collectors, and spreading them over large areas, has vastly worse impacts on humans and wildlife alike.

Our intuitive sense that sunlight is dilute sometimes shows up in films. That’s why nobody was shocked when the recent sequel of the dystopian sci-fi flick, “Blade Runner,” opened with a dystopian scene of California’s deserts paved with solar farms identical to the one that decimated desert tortoises.

Over the last several hundred years, human beings have been moving away from matter-dense fuels towards energy-dense ones. First we move from renewable fuels like wood, dung, and windmills, and towards the fossil fuels of coal, oil, and natural gas, and eventually to uranium.

Energy progress is overwhelmingly positive for people and nature. As we stop using wood for fuel we allow grasslands and forests to grow back, and the wildlife to return.

As we stop burning wood and dung in our homes, we no longer must breathe toxic indoor smoke. And as we move from fossil fuels to uranium we clear the outdoor air of pollution, and reduce how much we’ll heat up the planet.

Nuclear plants are thus a revolutionary technology—a grand historical break from fossil fuels as significant as the industrial transition from wood to fossil fuels before it.

The problem with nuclear is that it is unpopular, a victim of a 50 year-long concerted effort by fossil fuel, renewable energy, anti-nuclear weapons campaigners, and misanthropic environmentalists to ban the technology.

In response, the nuclear industry suffers battered wife syndrome, and constantly apologizes for its best attributes, from its waste to its safety.

Lately, the nuclear industry has promoted the idea that, in order to deal with climate change, “we need a mix of clean energy sources,” including solar, wind and nuclear. It was something I used to believe, and say, in part because it’s what people want to hear. The problem is that it’s not true.

France shows that moving from mostly nuclear electricity to a mix of nuclear and renewables results in more carbon emissions, due to using more natural gas, and higher prices, to the unreliability of solar and wind.

Oil and gas investors know this, which is why they made a political alliance with renewables companies, and why oil and gas companies have been spending millions of dollars on advertisements promoting solar, and funneling millions of dollars to said environmental groups to provide public relations cover.

What is to be done? The most important thing is for scientists and conservationists to start telling the truth about renewables and nuclear, and the relationship between energy density and environmental impact.

Bat scientists recently warned that wind turbines are on the verge of making one species, the Hoary bat, a migratory bat species, go extinct.

Another scientist who worked to build that gigantic solar farm in the California desert told High Country News, “Everybody knows that translocation of desert tortoises doesn’t work. When you’re walking in front of a bulldozer, crying, and moving animals, and cacti out of the way, it’s hard to think that the project is a good idea.”

I think it’s natural that those of us who became active on climate change gravitated toward renewables. They seemed like a way to harmonize human society with the natural world. Collectively, we have been suffering from an appeal-to-nature fallacy no different from the one that leads us to buy products at the supermarket labeled “all natural.” But it’s high time that those of us who appointed ourselves Earth’s guardians should take a second look at the science, and start questioning the impacts of our actions.

Now that we know that renewables can’t save the planet, are we really going to stand by and let them destroy it?

Michael Shellenberger is a Time Magazine “Hero of the Environment,” and president of Environmental Progress, an independent research and policy organization.

Originally published on February 27, 2019, at quillette.com

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