The stance of environmental groups against wind farms which so puzzles your last guest columnist is easy to explain. These environmentalists, like many others around the world, have done their own research and concluded that the wind farm business is an immense folly inflicted on a gullible public by big business, with the collusion of big government, at enormous expense to taxpayers and the environment, with shockingly little energy benefit.
The fact is that the big energy companies are promoting what they call green energy (but don’t be taken in by the terminology) in the form of wind farms in order to capitalize on huge government subsidies and tax credits made available by ignorant and misguided policy. It should not surprise anyone to learn that these companies are in business not to save the planet, but to make a profit for their shareholders. NextEra Energy for example, the company applying to erect wind test masts at Dillon, presumably to justify a subsequent wind farm like their Altamont Pass business, is a $15Billion annual revenue enterprise also owning nuclear and gas fired power plants in the USA and Canada. Incidentally those Altamont Pass turbines are small compared to modern turbines. 400 to 500 ft is now typical. By comparison Grace Cathedral is 174 ft.
Your correspondent imagines that occasional bird kills are a small price to pay for the pleasure of being considered green. Let us be clear: a recent report estimates that the Altamont Pass turbines kill between 7,500 and 9,300 birds each year, including many state and federally protected golden eagles, red-tailed hawks, American kestrels and burrowing owls.
West Marin is an area of outstanding natural beauty and should be kept that way for the many visitors and future generations who are able to come and enjoy it. The area also boasts a world renowned fly pass for many avian species in the path of which the erection of wind farms would be ecologically devastating, with an obvious local knock-on impact on the view shed, tourism, property values and the local economy. Not many tourists visit Altamont Pass to see the windmills.Perhaps more important is the need to understand just how inefficient this form of energy is, both in terms of power generated per dollar spent, limited CO2 benefit, and low power generated per acre of land laid waste. Green it is not. Meanwhile generous tax credits and subsidies distort the real financial cost, a burden which will be paid for by us taxpayers and electricity users for years to come.
Wind power is intrinsically unreliable, as far as power companies needing energy to meet customer demand are concerned. Wind varies, so power companies can not bet on having wind power available when it is needed and have no means of storing the electricity when it is provided. In other words the base amount of power needed will still have to be generated by conventional means, including oil, gas, coal and nuclear.
Finally modern turbines with their huge structures and blades require enormous concrete foundations, clearing of land, installation of transmission lines, aircraft warning lights and power. The materials used are steel, and composite fiber (for the blades) often imported and practically impossible to recycle. The turbines have only a 25 year life cycle. When these monstrosities are replaced by a more efficient genuinely green technology, which is only a matter of time, we or our children will face the all but impossible task of trying to reverse the damage done to our environment and return the planet to its natural glory.
More power to the environmentalists with the vision to see this folly for what it is.
Christopher Barnes, a British emigrant, moved to West Marin ten years ago to enjoy the country air, flora, fauna and bucolic scenery.
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