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Wind power: perception vs. reality  

Credit:  By Bill Gregware, The Republican-American, www.rep-am.com 16 January 2011 ~~

Wise people (and politicians) often say perception is more important than reality. Take the case of wind energy in Connecticut. What are the perceptions and what are the realities? With the proposed wind projects in Colebrook and Prospect currently being so hotly debated, perhaps it’s timely to consider a few points.

n Wind power will lower the cost of electricity. The promoters of wind power frequently start their pitch by saying Connecticut has the highest rates for electricity within the continental United States. That is true, and the target audience often comes away with the impression more wind power will mean a decrease in electricity costs.

The reality is electricity generated from wind is much more expensive than that produced from traditional sources. It’s often stated wind-generated electricity costs 15 percent to 20 percent more than does that generated by coal, but the actual cost may be even more. It is difficult to calculate because of the variables involved. Only in rare cases is it lower than 15 percent more than coal-generated electricity. And with wind power, consumers not only pay higher prices for electricity, they are, as taxpayers, also paying for the generous subsidies this industry is receiving. Without subsidies there is simply no way wind power can compete economically.

n Oil imports will be reduced. A misleading perception is that more wind turbines will reduce our dependence on foreign oil imports. The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) says, “Unlike the dirty energy from fossil fuels, wind energy does not cause … dependence on unfriendly foreign regimes.”

In reality, wind energy may not cause the dependence but does nothing to reduce it. The majority of the electricity produced in the United States is derived from domestic sources: coal, about 45 percent; natural gas, 25 percent; nuclear, 20 percent; and hydroelectric, 6 percent, not from burning fossil fuels imported from other nations.

The danger in promoting such claims is that it leads the public into thinking something positive is being done to curb oil imports and this very serious problem is being solved. People are then less apt to support the implementation of projects that could improve the environment and reduce imports of oil, such as increasing emphasis on efficiency and conservation.

n Environmentalists support wind power. The promoters of wind power make every attempt to show “true environmentalists” support wind power while opponents are anti-green. The truth is growing numbers of hard-core environmentalists are becoming disillusioned with wind power.

In his book “The Wind Farm Scam,” Dr. John Etherington, a highly esteemed UK ecologist and beyond doubt an avid environmentalist, wrote: “The specter of climate change is being used as a scare tactic to get people to buy wind power. This is the old quack-doctor trick – scare them to death and they’ll buy anything. It (wind power) will certainly be seen by history as a swindle supported by untruths and half truths.”

n Property values are unaffected by wind turbines. The wind industry has taken a hard-line approach to the property-value question. It often presents detailed reports by “experts” that indicate property values do not decrease in the vicinity of wind turbines. Most of these reports are written by wind advocates using flawed data and reaching invalid conclusions.

The answer to the property-value question is found in common-sense reasoning. Who, given a choice, would want to live near these devices? How many potential buyers would seek homes in the vicinity of a wind turbine? For that matter, how many executives of the wind industry live near turbines?

Numerous anecdotal stories tell of folks being unable to sell their homes and abandoning them because they could no longer tolerate the noise or other characteristics of turbines.

n Wind power will replace dirty power plants. “U.S. winds contain enough energy to provide over 10 times our total electricity, and to fuel a large portion of our auto fleet with electricity as well,” says the AWEA, giving the perception we can eliminate existing conventionally powered plants.

Think of that! All we have to do is to cover our countrysides with wind turbines and the dirty old coal plants can be shut down, with enough electricity will be left over to fuel electric cars. The problem is the intermittent nature of wind means it must have backup. Wind turbines have never replaced a traditional power plant.

n Wind power means jobs. Jobs are created by the wind industry, but that can be said of any industry. The perception the promoters try to depict is that wind power means a great many new jobs for local workers. However, most of the work is in the manufacture of the turbines, which is done far away from the site, perhaps even in a foreign land. And once they are in place, turbines require little manpower except for once a year or so routine maintenance.

Why does the wind industry work so hard hawking half truths and hyperbole to create false perceptions that wind power is so wonderful, even in relatively low-wind areas like Connecticut?

It’s because a bad idea is difficult to sell. The reality is that wind power is not about “going green.” It’s all about money.

Bill Gregware (gregwarebill@hotmail.com) of Goshen is a retired oil company geologist/exploration manager. He is also an avid environmentalist and freelance writer who specializes in writing about nature and energy. Further, he is a party to those fighting the proposal by Optiwind to build a turbine in Goshen.

Source:  By Bill Gregware, The Republican-American, www.rep-am.com 16 January 2011

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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