Regarding the Aug, 28 Politics & The Nation article “Backers hope nation’s first offshore wind farm will jump-start an industry”:
As a retired engineer, I find it hard to justify wind farms from an economic, aesthetic or environmental perspective. The article stated that a five-turbine, 30-megawatt project off Rhode Island will provide enough energy for about 17,000 homes. What is the cost for backup power generation when there is little or no wind? What about the limited lifetime of the turbines (20 years estimated, but a British study found that 12 to 15 years is more appropriate)? Even with government subsidies, the economic value of wind farms is highly questionable.
The article said the nation’s almost 50,000 wind turbines account for about 5 percent of the nation’s energy generation. If only half of the nation’s renewable-energy needs are to be solved by wind farms, then we would need 500,000 turbines. The land/water area needed by each turbine depends on a number of variables – for example, the GE 1.5-megawatt turbine needs 82 unobstructed acres. So if one chooses 80 acres per turbine, 500,000 would need 40 million acres – about the size of Florida. On land or offshore, this would be certain to impact ecology and scenery.
Renewable energy sounds great until one gets into the details of efficacy, efficiency and cost. We need to tread carefully before jumping on the renewable-energy bandwagon.
Walt Boge, Berlin, Md.