The old saying is that there’s no such thing as a free lunch, but electricity from windmills seemed as close to that goal as energy production gets. However, a report to Congress by the research arm of the National Academy of Sciences should have a calming effect on the enthusiasm for wind-generated power.
The report noted that the huge wind turbines do pose a threat to bats and migrating songbirds and raptors, but further study is needed to determine the level of threat.
The wind farms require a lot of land. The nation’s largest, in Altamont Pass, Calif., has more than 5,000 windmills. And many people think the towers, with blades 230 to 295 feet in diameter, are a blight on the landscape. Some of the best locations for wind farms tend to be among the most scenic.
Northern and central Indiana have been discussed in the state as good territory for wind farms. Also, just last week, Nancy Turner, president and CEO of the American Lung Association of Indiana, in discussing air quality here said Indiana’s commitment to alternative fuels and power sources, such as the wind, are going to pay off in the long run.
And Vectren is giving customers here the option of buying some power generated from a northern Indiana wind farm.
But while power from wind farms quadrupled from 2000 to 2006, it still contributes less than 1 percent of the nation’s electricity, and even optimally it will never contribute very much, perhaps 7 percent within 15 years.
And while the best thing about energy derived from wind is that it is free of pollution, the researchers say that at best, wind farms will only slow the rate of increase in greenhouse gases, perhaps by 4.5 percent by 2020.
The report suggests that wind farms will be at best a small yet desirable component of the nation’s energy production, but hardly a panacea. And there are tradeoffs.
Nothing is ever completely free, not even the air.
Evansville Courier & Press
7 May 2007
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