The Real Downside of Wind Power

We hear a lot from the President, his environmental allies, and crony capitalists regarding the wonders of wind energy. Obama’s favorite crony capitalist, who is also a prominent supporter, heads up General Electric, a prime beneficiary of the wind power subsidies, grants, and mandates that have poured forth from the federal government ever since the president took power. These subsidies — giveaways — will be severely cut back at the end of this year unless Congress and the President extend them.

Now comes a documentary ” Windfall” that reports on the many downsides from wind power development that you will not hear about from its promoters: neighbors suffering from the effects of these towers and their spinning propellers, among them. But the problems go beyond the “whopping, whopping” and strobe effect of the blades rotation. The movie is a revelation about the dark underside of green energy. These schemes might enrich their promoters who donate to Democrats. They also might give a warm and fuzzy feeling for environmentalists in big cities whose exposure to them may be limited to seeing them along the road as they motor to their vacation homes. But they cause a lot of misery for the common folks left behind.

The Wall Street Journal reviewed the movie when it first started hitting the film festival circuit:

The film offers few experts on either side of the debate; rather, it allows local townspeople to discuss their own research, experiences and fears, such as the wind turbine’s “flicker effect,” as the machines pass across the sun and cast immense shadows, as well as the dangers of their low frequency hum.

Robert Bryce, author of “Power Hungry: The Myths of ‘Green’ Energy and the Real Fuels of the Future,” and a frequent critic of the wind industry (in the op-ed pages of the Wall Street Journal), says the “infrasound” issue is the most problematic for the wind industry. “They want to dismiss it out of hand, but the low frequency noise is very disturbing,” he explains. “I interviewed people all over, and they all complained with identical words and descriptions about the problems they were feeling from the noise.”

A more updated review by John Anderson for the Wall Street Journal was published on Friday;

They’re sustainable, they produce no emissions and they’ll reduce U.S. dependency on foreign oil. Right? Not quite. And living next to one seems like a nightmare.

Ms. Israel’s movie proves, once again, that the best nonfiction cinema possesses the same attributes as good fiction: Strong characters, conflict, story arc, visual style. The people of Meredith, be they pro or con the wind-turbine plan being fast-tracked by their town council, are articulate, passionate, likable. The issues are argued with appropriate gravity, and even though Ms. Israel, a Meredith homeowner herself, is clearly antiturbine, the other side gets a chance to speak its piece: Farmers, an endangered species, need income. Turbine leases are a way to it. But not only do the energy and ecological benefits fall short of what they’re cracked up to be, the turbines themselves are an environmental disaster: The monotonous whoosh of the propellers, the constant strobing effect caused by the 180-foot-long propellers, the threat of ice being hurled by the blades, the knowledge that it’s never going to end, all adds up to a recipe for madness. And that’s just during the movie.

Read more here.

Going “Green” Is Bunk

By: John Stossel

I ride my bike to work. It seems so pure.

We’re constantly urged to “go green” — use less energy, shrink our carbon footprint, save the Earth. How? We should drive less, use ethanol, recycle plastic and buy things with the government’s Energy Star label.

But what if much of going green is just bunk? Al Gore’s group, Repower America, claims we can replace all our dirty energy with clean, carbon-free renewables. Gore says we can do it within 10 years.

“It’s simply not possible,” says Robert Bryce, author of “Power Hungry: The Myths of ‘Green’ Energy.” “Nine out of 10 units of power that we consume are produced by hydrocarbons — coal, oil and natural gas. Any transition away from those sources is going to be a decades-long, maybe even a century-long process. … The world consumes 200 billion barrels of hydrocarbons per day. We would have to find the energy equivalent of 23 Saudi Arabias.”

Bryce used to be a left-liberal, but then: “I educated myself about math and physics. I’m a liberal who was mugged by the laws of thermodynamics.”

Bryce mocked the “green” value of my riding my bike to work:

“Let’s assume you saved a gallon of oil in your commute (a generous assumption!). Global daily energy consumption is 9.5 billion gallons. … So by biking to work, you save the equivalent of one drop in 10 gasoline tanker trucks. Put another way, it’s one pinch of salt in a 100-pound bag of potato chips.”

How about wind power?

“Wind does not replace oil. This is one of the great fallacies, and it’s one that the wind energy business continues to promote,” Bryce said.

The problem is that windmills cannot provide a constant source of electricity. Wind turbines only achieve 10 percent to 20 percent of their maximum capacity because sometimes the wind doesn’t blow.

“That means you have to keep conventional power plants up and running. You have to ramp them up to replace the power that disappears from wind turbines and ramp them down when power reappears.”

Yet the media rave about Denmark, which gets some power from wind. New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman says, “If only we could be as energy smart as Denmark.”

“Friedman doesn’t fundamentally understand what he’s talking about,” Bryce said.

Bryce’s book shows that Denmark uses eight times more coal and 25 times more oil than wind.

If wind and solar power were practical, entrepreneurs would invest in it. There would be no need for government to take money from taxpayers and give it to people pushing green products.

Even with subsidies, “renewable” energy today barely makes a dent on our energy needs.

Bryce points out that energy production from every solar panel and windmill in America is less than the production from one coal mine and much less than natural gas production from Oklahoma alone.

But what if we build more windmills?

“One nuclear power plant in Texas covers about 19 square miles, an area slightly smaller than Manhattan. To produce the same amount of power from wind turbines would require an area the size of Rhode Island. This is energy sprawl.” To produce the same amount of energy with ethanol, another “green” fuel, it would take 24 Rhode Islands to grow enough corn.

Maybe the electric car is the next big thing?

“Electric cars are the next big thing, and they always will be.”

There have been impressive headlines about electric cars from my brilliant colleagues in the media. The Washington Post said, “Prices on electric cars will continue to drop until they’re within reach of the average family.”

That was in 1915.

In 1959, The New York Times said, “Electric is the car of the tomorrow.”

In 1979, The Washington Post said, “GM has an electric car breakthrough in batteries, now makes them commercially practical.”

I’m still waiting.

“The problem is very simple,” Bryce said. “It’s not political will. It’s simple physics. Gasoline has 80 times the energy density of the best lithium ion batteries. There’s no conspiracy here of big oil or big auto. It’s a conspiracy of physics.”

Examiner Columnist John Stossel is nationally syndicated by Creators Syndicate.