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Losing on wind

At the ribbon cutting ceremony for Hoosac Wind on Dec. 3, Gov. Patrick and others frequently mentioned that this project will provide power for 10,000 homes. These projects are always promoted this way. In truth, residential electricity only accounts for about a third of total electricity consumption. Massachusetts has 2.5 million households. To put this in perspective, this largest wind farm in Massachusetts will produce, on an annual basis, only enough power for one out of every 250 households in the state … or 1/750 of electrical power consumed in Massachusetts.

As electric power consumption, total, only accounts for about a third of anthropocentric greenhouse gas emissions. The best you could say is that Hoosac Wind will offset 1/2250th of Massachusetts GHGs. However, this large figure needs to be tempered by the fact that a considerable amount of GHGs were emitted in the process of eliminating 75 acres of forest, manufacturing, transporting and installing massive amounts of concrete and steel. And … of course, assumes that wind energy can be incorporated into the grid without affecting the efficiency of fossil fuel generators needed to offset the erratic nature of wind energy.

Disturbingly, demand for new electricity is growing faster than in-state wind/solar generating capacity. So, contrary to what the governor said to the media, we are actually losing ground.

These facts eclipse all other facets of the debate about wind power in that they challenge the very core of widely held assumptions about what we can really accomplish with wind energy. When so little is gained, why is it worth the massive public subsidies, impact on neighbors, wildlife, etc?