The Reality of Industrial Wind Power
Oct 01, 2018| Jeff Ingber |Opinion – Townhall.com.
Wind energy derives from solar radiation, and humans have safely and logically used it for thousands of years through mechanisms such as sails and wind wheels. However, in recent years, argument has raged about the wisdom of building and subsidizing wind farms comprised of dozens or hundreds of huge industrial wind turbines that can blanket hundreds of acres. Earlier this year, this debate was heightened by anti-wind-power comments made by President Trump at his rallies. The president’s viewpoint quickly was attacked by anti-climate-change advocates.
I certainly want to preserve the environment for my grandchildren and theirs, and I appreciate the threat posed by fossil fuels. But wind power, shrouded in a mystique of cost-effective, clean, renewable energy, creates far more problems than is commonly understood. The reality of wind power, which satisfies only about 6% of America’s energy needs, is starkly different from the myths that surround it.
Industrial wind turbines weigh dozens of tons and are hundreds of feet high, with blades that can sweep a vertical airspace of an acre or more. These behemoths, with blades that appear slow and majestic from a distance but which, at their tips, move as fast as 180 mph, slaughter millions of birds and bats every year worldwide. Many of these killing fields are located directly in bird migration corridors or in breeding and nesting sites, including precious and iconic bird habitats such as those for bald and golden eagles. Affected birds include those from endangered species such as falcons, hawks, and ospreys. Turbines kill larger birds at the top of the avian food chain that have fewer broods, and keystone species whose presence is crucial for maintaining the diversity of other species and the health of the overall ecosystem.
Pristine mountain ranges and ridges typically are ideal locations for turbines, which damage or destroy them and their wildlife. Their transport, and the cranes needed to assemble them, require roads to be widened, curves straightened, or new roads built altogether. Moreover, the turbines are anchored in a platform of more than a thousand tons of concrete and steel rebar, dozens of feet across and deep, often requiring mountain tops to be blasted to create a level area several acres wide.
The construction and maintenance of wind-energy facilities negatively alters forest structure through vegetation clearing, water flow disruption, and soil erosion. Construction of turbines in a watershed area also has the potential to impact water resources through deforestation, which causes decreased groundwater recharge and flow and increased storm water discharge.
The bottom line is that there is no free environmental lunch when it comes to building and using massive turbine structures.