Gone with the Windmills? The downside of wind power.

Chris Bolgiano shines a green light on windmills in A Plea to President Obama to Save the National Forests of Appalachia, excerpted at Via Negativa. Here's the PDF.

Bottom line: Keep the windmills on the Great Plains.

Link: Gone With The Windmills? A Plea to President Obama to Save the National Forests of Appalachia « Via Negativa.

These forests now face their greatest threat in a century.

Reflecting a nearly 50% nationwide increase in wind electricity plants in 2007, developers are arriving in what they themselves called “a gold rush” at a recent industry conference. There, a wind map ranked thin red currents along the highest Appalachian ridges as just possibly strong enough to power turbines for massive industrial wind installations.

Glossy ads for wind power always show turbines in open fields, never in forests. That’s because every turbine requires up to five acres of deforestation. Hundreds of turbines are being built here, burgeoning to tens of thousands if the U.S. Department of Energy indiscriminately pursues its “20% Wind Energy By 2030″ program. Do the math, and factor in the forest fragmentation that multiplies the loss of habitat, and the super-wide new roads that destroy the last remote, wild ridges.

wind turbine with powerlinesSlender, rocky ridges are blasted and bulldozed to flatten pads for turbines. Each pad requires hundreds of tons of concrete. After the 25 year life span of the huge machines, the pads remain as dead ground but possibly good tennis courts in a summer camp for giants in the future.

Deforestation is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions after fossil fuel burning. The rest of the world agreed at the recent U.N. climate summit to protect maturing forests that sequester huge amounts of carbon dioxide — like those now healing from old abuse in the Southern Appalachians. In Transition to Green, the 400 pages of nature tips sent you by a coalition of environmental organizations, the first recommendation for the U.S. Department of Agriculture is to “manage the national forest system to secure climate benefits.”

Industrial wind will blow this opportunity away.

It’s already blowing away a lot of wildlife. Turbine blades reach 450 feet above ridge crests where songbirds migrate, bats feed, and eagles rise on thermals. Just across the state line in West Virginia, thousands of creatures are being killed every year at new wind plants, the highest kills ever documented worldwide from turbines. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service strongly recommends against turbines on nearby Shenandoah Mountain due to the likelihood of killing endangered species, yet several projects are underway.

Some of the people living near turbines suffer from chronic sleeplessness and other symptoms of Wind Turbine Syndrome (including depression over loss of property values).

Death, destruction and insomnia are marketed to urban consumers as “green” electricity, what little there is of it. Turbines produce only about 30% or less of their maximum rated capacity, and some of that is lost along hundreds of miles of transmission lines. When the wind does blow, the aging lines can hardly handle the surge.

via Fred First at Fragments from Floyd

Is Wind Power the Way? The Top 7 Alternative Energies

New Scientist reports that a study by Mark Jacobson of the atmosphere and energy programme at Stanford University found wind power to be by far the most desirable source of energy. Excerpts below.

Link: Top 7 alternative energies listed – environment – 14 January 2009 – New Scientist.

The US could replace all its cars and trucks with electric cars powered by wind turbines taking up less than 3 square kilometres – in theory, at least. That's the conclusion of a detailed study ranking 11 types of non-fossil fuels according to their total ecological footprint and their benefit to human health.

The study, carried out by Mark Jacobson of the atmosphere and energy programme at Stanford University, found wind power to be by far the most desirable source of energy. Biofuels from corn and plant waste came right at the bottom of the list, along with nuclear power and "clean" coal.

Watch a video of Jacobson discussing his findings.

The energy sources that Jacobson found most promising were, in descending order:

• Wind

• Concentrated solar power (mirrors heating a tower of water)

• Geothermal energy

• Tidal energy

• Solar panels

• Wave energy

• Hydroelectric dams

To compare the fuels, Jacobson calculated the impacts each would have if it alone powered the entire US fleet of cars and trucks.

He considered not just the quantities of greenhouse gases that would be emitted, but also the impact the fuels would have on the ecosystem – taking up land and polluting water, for instance. Also considered were the fuel's impact on pollution and therefore human health, the availability of necessary resources, and the energy form's reliability.

"The energy alternatives that are good are not the ones that people have been talking about the most," says Jacobson.

"Some options that have been proposed are just downright awful," he says. "Ethanol-based biofuels will actually cause more harm to human health, wildlife, water supply, and land use than current fossil fuels."