The Objections to Wind Farms

Despite massive subsidies, wind power still only provides about two percent of U.S. energy. Part of the problem is inherent. It takes a lot of turbines to produce the power that a single coal-fired or nuke plant can produce. So wind farms are going to comprise a lot of turbines. And that causes problems, as we’ve been seeing in a 10-year fight over constructing a 130-turbine offshore wind farm near Martha’s Vineyard.

It would be the first offshore wind project in the country and furnish about 75 percent of Cape Cod’s energy.

Ian Bowles, the Massachusetts energy and environmental affairs secretary, has called the project “symbolic of America’s struggle with clean energy. Its symbolism has risen above the number of megawatts.”

Although some protests have been dealt with, including potential hindrance to navigation and fishing and harm to birds, Indians are still against it. (I used to say “native Americans” until once when I was interviewing two of them and I kept saying “native Americans” and they kept referring to themselves as “Indians.”)

The Indians in the area practice a sunrise ritual on the sound and also say they may have artifacts buried beneath the seabed, according to the Washington Post. They’ve gotten the sound qualified for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, which could restrict its commercial use.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar says that although his department is trying to broker a deal between the tribes and Energy Management, the company seeking to build the farm, “I’m not holding my breath for a consensus.” If both sides can’t settle on a compromise by April, he says, he’s going to just lay down the law himself in April and probably tick off everybody.

Michael Moynihan, director of the Green Project at NDN, a centrist think tank, told the Post, “It is emblematic of the difficulty of getting wind online, anywhere in America, with a system designed a century ago that is frankly hostile to renewable energy.”

Right. If it were just a few tightly-bunched turbines, it wouldn’t be a problem. But these farms, in addition to things like chopping up birds and bats have a big and obvious footprint.

Compare that with the nearest power plant to my home, which I often pass on my bike rides. It’s small, but probably provides more power than hundreds of turbines. Nonetheless, being coal-powered it drew the ire of a number of local residents. So the owners did something really smart. They built a wooden wall around the plant, then painted a very nice mural on it depicting local history.

This being the land of George Washington, the murals include such as Washington’s crossing of the Delaware. The wall isn’t that high, yet it’s enough so that if you didn’t already know the plant was there you wouldn’t know it was there. It has smokestacks, but you never see anything come out of them. The only ugly aspect was the coal pile, and it’s now obscured.

Out of sight, out of mind. But you can’t do that with wind. Solar has its own problem, also based on inefficiency, in that it requires huge tracts of land for all the panels needed.

But if you’re looking for new facilities that don’t produce greenhouse gas emissions there is a fourth solution. Nuclear power. A natural gas-burning power plant under construction has just exploded, killing five people. Every year, American coal miners die violently in mines or slowly from exposure to coal dust. Nuclear power in this country has never killed anybody. No birds, no bats, and most importantly no humans. That’s also true in France, where 70 percent of their power comes from nukes.

And today’s nuke plant designs are less prone to accidents than ever.

The writing is on the wall. Go nuclear.