Wind Farms: Are They Worth it?

A USA Today article reported that thousand of birds are being slaughtered by wind turbines in the Altamont Pass in California. Five thousand four hundred wind turbines were installed and birds that were sadly affected include Golden Eagles, Red Tail Hawks and Burrowing Owls. In other cases, local wildlife activists are disputing locations of wind turbines in the Atlantic, which will disturb migratory birds. I am appalled at the fact that we are so thirsty for electricity that we’d rush to install wind farms in locations that are hurting some of the greatest wildlife we have in the world.

I have not seen the studies to back-up these location choices. It seems the electrical industry is so gung-ho to produce renewable energy that they damn the consequences. It’s ironic that we’re trying to save the environment by building these clean energy plants, while disturbing the delicate natural environment and sending countless animals to their Maker. I fully support steps to reduce our carbon footprints, but not at this cost.

The current Administration has issued incentives for renewables and every wind turbine manufacturer in the country is scouring the land to find a spot to plop their machines down as there are no guarantees for how long these programs will run. Renewables are sexy and it seems to be our President’s ambition to blanket the nation with clean energy sources. Unfortunately, the execution of this agenda is socially irresponsible.

Critics plainly state that we are polluting the air (I agree), and that we must take any measures to remedy the situation. However, there are many options for reducing our environmental impact. The cost to install a wind turbine and remove that load from the electrical grid is approximately $0.11/kw. To save the same kilowatt from the electrical grid via energy efficiency would only cost $0.03. If that’s not a cost-effective alternative, I don’t know what is.

McKinsey published the “Unlocking Energy Efficiency in the U.S. Economy” report, indicating that the best way we can reduce our carbon footprint is through energy efficiency programs in existing buildings. Buildings consume 40% of our total energy usage. Of that percentage, running an HVAC system accounts for 40% to 60% of energy consumption. In addition, a DOE-funded study concludes the single most effective measure to reduce energy consumption and decrease the carbon footprint is to concentrate on upgrading existing buildings and their operations via an existing building commissioning or energy audit program.

I propose we focus on improving the efficiency of our existing buildings, rather than racing to construct wind farms that cause more damage than good. The economics make sense, jobs are created and it’s still good for the environment.

Mr. Obama please read the reports generated by your own Administration, stop pushing the sexy things and start pushing what makes sense.

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2 Comments

Filed under Building efficiency, energy efficiency, Uncategorized

2 responses to “Wind Farms: Are They Worth it?

  1. Kurt Wagner

    Here’s an interesting related article about bat fatalities caused by wind turbines; It seems the pressure drop created by the turbine blades can cause a bat’s lungs to burst.

    http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/08/080825-bat-bends.html

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