Pissing In The Wind

On my ride home from work the other day, I happened to hear a rant from Sean Hannity about how the liberals won’t allow drilling in ANWAR, the use of oil shale, etc., and he equated those stances with not truly wishing to solve the problem of American dependency on foreign oil.  I’m sorry, but that’s just wrong.  Short-sighted and wrong.  While I’ll allow that the use of oil shale from existing sources is a short-term solution that doesn’t jeopardize our protected lands, ultimately the solution is not more oil.  In order to minimize long-term costs–which is traditionally an conservative stance–you look to new technologies and more efficient processes.  Such as solar power or wind power.  Those technologies are here, and it’s high time we used them. 

Currently there’s a debate in Vermont regarding the construction of two new wind turbines and their effect on the scenic landscape.  Just the fact alone that said debate is even going on makes me blink. 

“It’s ruining the ridgeline.”  “It doesn’t look natural.”

*blink*

Please somebody tell me of a single man-made structure that looks natural. 

The current VWP states that renewable energy resources “are an essential part of a comprehensive strategy to reduce the environmental impacts of energy production.”  For a state that prides itself on being “green,” the debate on whether or not the wind turbines “look pretty”–and that’s what it really comes down to–is just about the dumbest argument I’ve ever heard about anything.  Ever. 

And I went to public schools. 

Just look at the facts:

Wind Energy and Air Emissions

Wind energy is one of the most environmentally friendly methods for producing electricity.  Wind energy doesn’t produce the air pollutants and greenhouse gases that are produced by fossil fuel electrical generation.

Wind Energy and Air Quality Benefits

·        Electricity generation from fossil fuels produce one-third of U.S. emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), the greenhouse gas that traps heat near the ground to destabilize the climate.  Wind energy and other renewable energy sources can lead to reduced emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2).

·        A single utility-scale wind turbine, by displacing power generated by fossil fuels, can prevent the emission of 5,000 tons of CO2 into the atmosphere each year, as much as could be absorbed by 500 acres of forest.

·        Every kilowatt-hour (kWh) produced from a wind turbine results in one less kWh being produced by a fossil fuel source.  This is the case because in Vermont our primary fuel sources are nuclear, hydro and fossil fuel.  Nuclear plants like Vermont Yankee do not change their output at all, and Hydro Quebec may change the timing of water releases, but the water will still flow through the turbine and produce electricity at some point.  This means that the power that wind generation displaces is power that would otherwise be produced by fossil fuel generation.  Reduction in fossil fuel use means a corresponding reduction in air emissions including CO2, sulfur oxides and nitrogen oxides.Wind Energy and Air Pollutants:

·        Wind Energy Production: The manufacturing of wind turbines and the building of wind energy plants does not contribute to large emissions of CO2.  Several studies have found that the total CO2 emissions of wind energy equipment production, installation and operations is only 1% of coal and 2% of natural gas per unit of electricity generated.

·        Acid Rain: Electricity produced through wind energy does not emit sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides that cause acidification in lakes, streams, and soils; nutrient saturation of coastal waters and river basins; crop damage; forest decline; and loss of biodiversity.

· Particulate Matter :Wind energy does not contribute particulate matter to the environment, thus wind energy does not foster photochemical smog, haze or ground-level ozone that contributes to lung damage, exacerbates asthma and emphysema, and affects visibility in national parks from the Grand Canyon to Acadia Park in Maine.  

Is wind power cleaner?  Safer?  No question there.  Nope, it’s the aesthetic value that’s causing the consternation.  And just like Hannity’s suggestion of opening up ANWAR for drilling, it’s short-sighted at best.  Opponents say that the “relatively low amount of power produced” and “unreliability” of wind power outweigh any potential benefits.  A recent article in the Rutland Herald, however, puts that argument to bed:

They misconceive the way that utilities look at wind. The varied new sources that would be developed if Vermont were aggressively to foster alternative energy projects would all add up to something more than neglible. By itself, 45 megawatts in Searsburg might not mean much. But added to other wind projects, plus a variety of new hydro projects, biomass projects, home wind projects, and any other new and environmentally benign source of power, Searsburg would be part of a considerable bloc of power. The wind would not always be blowing at Searsburg, but an aggregated bloc of power from diverse sources would provide utilities with a relatively reliable source for part of its load.

Opponents of new wind turbine construction in Vermont need to decide if they’re truly concerned for the environment, or merely how the environment looks.  It’s time to use some REAL Vermont common sense: I can slap a new coat of paint on a condemned house to make it look nice, but that doesn’t mean I’d want to live there. 

As an aside, I’m curious as to how many opponents of the wind turbines are skiiers. Those gondolas don’t look natural, either. So come on, Vermonters.  You can either vent about our dependency on foreign oil, or you can bitch about how the wind turbines “will look.”  You don’t get to do both. 

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2 thoughts on “Pissing In The Wind

  1. As far as I’m concerned, they can put one in my backyard! I’d love to see power that isn’t noisy, dirty, polluting, smelly – you name it.

    YOU GO, JAMIE.

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