Even if the proposed Goodhue County wind farm never killed a bird or a bat, it wouldn’t make sense. The Prairie Island nuclear plant provides 50 times the electric power that T. Boone Picken’s 52 excess wind turbines.
In 2010 and 2011, U.S. wind farms had a capacity factor of 27 percent, which suggests the Goodhue project would provide a measly and intermittent 20-25 megawatts.
Our nation’s largest proposed wind project is off Cape Cod. U.S. Rep. William Delahunt, D-Mass., estimates “This will be the most expensive and most heavily subsidized offshore wind farm in the country at over $2.5 billion, with power costs to the region that will be at least double.”
Figures from the U.S. Energy Information Administration report that for an equivalent amount of energy produced, subsidies for oil and gas are 28 cents; nuclear energy, $1.79; wind, $32.59.
In addition to costs and wildlife threat, Goodhue locals are opposing the wind farm because of the noise. The intended setback from residences is far short of the 1 to 2 miles needed for relief from the low-frequency sounds. As a recent film documentary noted, “The towering turbines impose themselves on a residence like unwelcome guests at a dinner party. They emit a low-frequency sound, stronger at night, producing noises like a passing car with a deep bass on its stereo system. Subjects describe it variously as a jet that never lands or sneakers in the dryer at night.”
As to the environment, in 2010, Bentek Energy, a Colorado-based analytics firm, looked at power plant records in Colorado and Texas. Bentek concluded that despite large investments, wind-generated electricity has had minimal, if any, impact on carbon dioxide emissions. This results from on-and-off backup fossil fuel plants supporting intermittent wind output.
As Kevin Forbes, the director of the Center for the Study of Energy and Environmental Stewardship at Catholic University, said, “Wind energy gives people a nice warm fuzzy feeling that we’re taking action on climate change. Yet when it comes to CO2 emissions, the reality is that it’s not doing much of anything.”
There is a role for wind in our energy mix as a supplement in areas with consistent winds. But experience so far suggests taxpayer subsidy funds should be spent for wind energy research at facilities like the University of Minnesota’s Eolos Wind Research Station at UMore Park Rosemount.