In this week’s Benzie Record-Patriot, Blaine township resident William Olsen questions whether factual data substantiate the claim that industrial wind energy is “clean”. He also questions whether investing in and encouraging in energy efficiency might have a better end result.
To the Record Patriot:
Because wind energy advocates have done a terrific job selling industrial wind as an abundant source of “clean” energy, many environmentally sensitive people support it. But proponents have produced no factual data to substantiate their claim, because it doesn’t exist.
The only way industrial wind energy can help the environment is by displacing greenhouse gas (GHG) emitting power plants. Wind produces less than 2% of our nations electricity, 0.3% of Michigan’s. Not much opportunity for displacement there, one reason no power plant has ever been closed or eliminated by wind energy.
Because wind is sporadic, wind farms are dependant upon full time GHG producing power plant backup. Except by pump storage, which is not available near most wind farms, industrial wind energy can’t be stored. So, when the wind blows, power plants decrease their output, and when the wind dies, they ramp up again. This “cycling’” causes the plants to be less efficient, producing more GHG than they would without wind. In Colorado, where 6% of electricity comes from wind, cycling has increased GHG production to the extent that the net effect of wind energy is to increase, rather than decrease, GHG production.
Michigan’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) requires 10% of our electricity from “renewable” energy, meaning wind, by 2015. This would cost over $8 billion for the turbines alone, and would produce no more electricity than we could save by changing our light bulbs. California adopted energy efficiency and conservation standards over 20 years ago, uses 30% less electrical energy per capita than Michigan, and has saved millions of dollars. Saved energy works just as well as produced energy and is 100% GHG emission free.
Our current energy policies are unsustainable. We can’t hope to supply enough electricity with today’s technology to meet projected needs for more than a few years, and continuing to embrace industrial wind only delays meaningful solutions. Fossil fuels produce two thirds of our electricity and nuclear energy another 20%. We have used the most accessible half of the world’s supply of fossil fuels, we are causing global climate change by burning what is left, and large nuclear plants are dangerous. We must start conserving energy now and will soon need “alternatives” which produce abundant, clean and affordable energy if we want to maintain any semblance of a modern society. We must stop wasting resources on false “solutions” which do not work, like industrial wind, and start investing them on research and development to produce energy sources that do.
The Michigan Wind Energy Resource Zone Board recommends 778 turbines for Benzie, Manistee and Leelanau Counties. Potential wind farm sites in Benzie County include some of the most beautiful parts of Joyfield, Blaine, Benzonia, Gilmore, Crystal Lake, Lake, Platte, and Almira townships. Wind farms decrease property values, hurt long-term employment, and the claimed “tax benefits” are merely a return of a fraction of the taxes we pay to subsidize the industry. Do we really want to support this industry?
William R. Olsen, Frankfort