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Backpacker Magazine – September 2008

Wind Power: Turbulence Ahead

Wind power offers clean energy–but how much will hikers compromise to get it?

by: Jennifer Weeks, Photo by Mark Goodreau, Photo illustration by Jackie McCaffrey

An artist's take on wind turbines atop New Hampshire's Franconia Ridge.
An artist's take on wind turbines atop New Hampshire's Franconia Ridge.

Imagine 30 wind turbines whirring ATOP two remote Maine peaks. The 300-ton towers, with blades sweeping 400 feet high and aglow with aircraft-warning lights, would each produce 9,000 megawatt-hours of renewable electricity per year. So what's wrong with this picture? A lot, according to groups like the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC)–like the fact that the windmills in this proposed farm would be visible from a 34-mile stretch of the Appalachian Trail.

When a developer tried to make this project a reality on Redington and Black Nubble Mountains in 2006, outdoor advocates balked, envisioning the area's pristine mountaintop panoramas and sensitive slopes ruined by the construction of enormous turbines. Maine's Land Use Regulatory Commission agreed, rejecting the full project in 2007 and nixing a scaled-back version early this year. But it greenlighted several other wind farm proposals, including a 44-turbine operation on nearby Kibby Mountain. Fans of wind bemoaned this mixed record, arguing that clean energy was worth the sacrifice.

Wind farms represent hard tradeoffs for hikers, birdwatchers, and other nature lovers, especially in Eastern states, where consistent and strong gusts tend to blow across scenic ridges. The AMC, ATC, and groups such as Maine Audubon stress that they don't oppose wind power everywhere–and insist that they understand how seriously air pollution and climate change threaten wild places. But they also argue that wind farms put more at stake than the view: Mountaintop development requires clearing land and building access roads, which could harm wildlife and damage fragile ecosystems.

Despite these controversies, wind energy is one of the world's fastest-growing renewable power sources. With good reason: At optimum sites, it's economically competitive with fossil fuels and doesn't emit pollutants that contribute to acid rain, smog, or climate change. It's also plentiful, as any Mt. Washington hiker can attest. "Wind has to play a significant role if we're going to address our environmental concerns," says Jeff Deyette, an energy analyst with the Union of Concerned Scientists. "That will require responsible development in places where hikers like to go."

But increasingly powerful turbines mean wind farms are becoming more intrusive in wild settings. PPM Energy wants to expand a Searsburg, Vermont, farm by adding 17 new 400-foot towers–some on land in Green Mountain National Forest. "Wind development is industrial development, especially when you put a lot of turbines in one area," says ATC Conservation Director Laura Belleville. "We wouldn't oppose a project just because it affected views, but we need to think very critically about its short- and long-term impacts." (The ATC is neutral on the Searsburg proposal.)

In the absence of federal regulations for siting wind farms, the AMC and ATC are stepping in to help steer the process. Both use GIS data to rank potential development areas based on the presence of resources like rare plants, wildlife habitat, trails, and views from the AT and the Long Trail. The AMC has already endorsed several projects in Maine, and the ATC is open to supporting farms that meet its criteria. "It's much more appropriate to put a site where you can already see other human uses, like roads and towns," says AMC scientist Dave Publicover.

"Air pollution and climate change have very significant impacts on the places we care about, so we're not going to put our heads in the sand and say that someone else should solve the problem," Publicover says. "If we're going to find a solution, everybody will have to accept some changes." For hikers, that could soon mean turbine blades spinning on the horizon.

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Joe Wilkas
Nov 12, 2012

Well, it's now year 2012 and there are giant (450 ft) wind turbines showing up and being proposed for many of our scenic ridges and mountaintops in New England, including near popular hiking trails.
Of course they're not cost-effective, but your federal tax dollars are subsidizing all of it.

May 16, 2012

Get off your energy consuming computer if you have any problems with any energy producing system. Use as little power as possible.

J. O. Barnett
Oct 11, 2009

It is a shame you want the "clean" energy and not the sight of these things "in the Eastern states". Come out to West Texas and New Mexico where all of our caprocks have these, so you can get your clean energy. Hypocrits.

Dec 30, 2008

Lets see, how can I put this in a politically correct way...... "Stop your whining."
I have been around the world and have hiked on trails that run right next to wind generators. If you get off your whiney soap box, take a more positive outlook, you'll find the wind generators eco-friendly, even graceful structures. It seems some people will always find something to whine about.

C. Laska
Dec 29, 2008

Wind has it's place. I have to agree that most of points here are based of falsehood. Please make a your point with fact. The simple fact is wind has to be cost effective and building them on a Mtn top or any place you could not drive a school bus would not make sense. We may want to think it's about the Earth but it's still about the return on investment.

Edward Wilson
Dec 29, 2008

I am a professional in the wind energy generation field.I totally dissagree with the concept that wind turbines would interfere with the sport of hiking in the mountains. Wind turbines will never be placed on top of mountains. It would be to costly to install, and to maintain. Besides wind turbines operate better when wind speeds are less variable, that is not the case on top of hills and mountains. How would you transport and install the 20 ton towers by helicopter?? How would you bring down a turbine blade when they need repair? It is an absolute nightmare to transport these structures through regular highways, it would be virtually impossible to bring these turbines and towers to the mountain top via choppers' it would cost to much.The cost of the transmission lines would be exhorbitant, and would take years to build. There is plenty of flat land real state with predictable winds more conducive to wind power generation. So fear not, there will be no wind turbines (experimental yes), but not wind turbine farms in mountains. So your trail will reamin free from wind turbines for the time being. Enjoy your windy hike, the wind will be caught down hill by the turbines humming away in the valleys and flat lands.
Ed Wilson.

Nov 17, 2008

Forgot to add something :)

Hydroelectric is economical, all it requires is a turbine to be placed between the dam and the treatment plant in normal water production and it will always work(unless you run out of water :)

Nov 17, 2008

Wind is inefficient. How do you get the aluminium for the blades? By using a ton a electricity, aswell as oil for the trucks that mine it. How do you get the steel for the bearings inside of it? Using COAL(coke after it's transformed) and OIL to smelt and extract it. How do you get the oil for the grease used inside of the same bearings? With oil. Basically, something this big which relies entirely on something like the wind, which as we all know is unreliable. And sticking them on top of a ridge is stupid. What happens when theres alot of rain, and it eventually erodes the soil from underneath it and BOOM, no more wind turbine.

Nuclear is probably the only EFFICIENT and ECONOMICAL form of power we can use now. It only requires 2 main things; uranium, and water(or liquid sodium, etc). The water never comes into contact with the radiation, so a stream, ocean, etc could be used without harming the environment. Uranium can be stored deep underground, maybe in abandoned mines which were previously used for opal/diamond mining(long, thin tunnels, usually very deep). Uranium is very abundant in my country, and the only reason we dont use it or sell it(until recently i believe), is because we dont want to have to store it, and other countries will want us to store it for them. So we simply wont use it. It has the potential to produce all the worlds power for the next 1000 years. Hydrogen fission(fusion?) is a long way off, and at the moment is EXTREMELY expensive, although theres estimated to be enough deuterium(isotope of hydrogen) in seawater to provide enough power for the next 60 million years.

Wind turbines are really only economical for small towns, such as albany(south-west australia). They had 12 MASSIVE turbines put in, and they only produce around 75% of the whole town of 25,000 people.,_Western_Australia

This place is economical, as the winds coming off Antarctica blow consistently, and are likely to keep blowing for the next million years.

Wind power isnt economical for powering a whole nations power, and if theres no wind, looks like it's "sorry guys, no power today". Solar only functions 30-60% of the time, and if theres clouds theres even less. Solar isnt worth investing in. period.

Wind will always be there, but isnt efficient/reliable enough.

Geothermal is economical in certain places, but the hot spots have been known to cool down, and thus are a waste.

Tidal is still experimental, but it has the potential if it works.

Nov 17, 2008

I must also agree with mtnmaniac that nuclear is probably the only source for the majority of our long term base-load electricity demands, in spite of its environmental impacts and radioactivity.

While the football field estimation of radioactive waste is probably a significant underestimation the creation of toxic wastes is most likely by far the least significant for any other power source except hydro-power.

Electricity must be available in large and variable amounts when needed, not when it happens to be available. Solar in all its proposed forms does not meet this criteria at the moment. There is no reasonable way to store the electricity it generates until it is needed. While solar does currently save fuel that would otherwise be generated by coal or gas, it does not relieve the need for such generation capacity for the times that it is not delivering.

Hydro-power in the United States is already operating at its maximum capacity and is not sustainable over the long run even if you wanted to destroy all of our watersheds to access it the current dams are using all of the best spots and many are silting up. We should be looking to remove not add more dams.

Wind power on land does take up very large areas of land, if you don't believe me go look at the Altamont Pass in N. California. It must also have a backup electricity source because, as we all know, the wind does not always blow. It is also geographically constrained by its source (wind).

Solar-electric generation has many of the same problems as wind-energy with respect to location, space requirements and intermittent availability, although at least the areas are not often the same ones as for wind.

In any case for any intermittent power source (such as solar/wind/even hydro) there must be backup capacity in non-environmentally dependent sources such as Fossil Fuels or Nuclear. Solar/Wind/Hydro can only reduce the amount of fuel (Coal/Gas/Nuclear) that will be used not eliminate it. So the choice is either Coal (Lots of CO2), Gas (somewhat less CO2) or nuclear (very little CO2). In sum solar, wind and hydro electric power generation can only supplement not replace hydro-carbon or nuclear power with out some efficient and very long term storage capacity (ie weeks or months). Such long term storage has not even been conceived much less worked on.

We need to be conserving our wild and road-less areas in this country, and not just for enjoyment purposed but for the long term health of the environment. Even if the power storage issue is solved in some way Solar Power is generally not friendly to natural landscapes because of roads and power lines (that require cleared areas under them) that must be available for them.

The point of current policy should be to completely replace all fossil fuel usage with non CO2 generating sources. If we include automobiles and other fuel driven devices we will need about triple the current electrical generating capacity even if we significantly reduce current usage per capita.

While considerations of Uranium fuel is a consideration it must be pointed out that we have not even begun to prospect for it and that there are several alternative elemental isotopes that we will be able to use instead the near future. The isotopes such as Thorium are much more plentiful and in some cases can be derived from used uranium. The possible pollution effects from radiation release are not insignificant but even a Chernobyl sized event does not compare to the yearly destruction of our environment wrought by fossil fuels in every single year we use them. Nuclear proliferation is a concern but even without our help that cat has been let out of the bag by the ambitions of smaller nations.

In sum, to paraphrase Winston Churchill nuclear energy 'is the worst possible choice we have.. ..except for all the others'.

Scott B.
Nov 14, 2008

I design wind turbine collection systems. There are many comments here about not wanting to use oil and gas as an energy source. Well, I believe we're too far into the game to just quit, unfortunately. But, in wind and solar power we have a chance to at the very least clean up the air. Renewable energies are a viable and sustainable source that we need to take advantage of. I love to hike in "pure" environments, but name one place in the good old USA that you won't find trash. My friend hiked out fifteen bags of garbage from just one trail in Glacier NP! The number one item found? Over 2500 Cigarette butts! But that's for another soap box session...seriously... 2500!

Wind turbines are huge and noisey... true, but I believe there's no reason to place them in areas sensitive to hiking. Right now we are reusing tapped out oil fields in Texas. The ultimate renewable. The majority of these collection systems will be near the coast... a few in the foot hills of mountain ranges... but NEVER on top of a mountain as in the stuipid artist rendition in this article! The foundations for these turbines are 54' across! The cranes needed to assemble these beasts need another crane to assemble them! There's no room on a mountain ridge to do this! The engineering needed to place one of these golliaths would be too cost prohibitive! It would be shot down from that point alone. So people, get a hold of yourselves, put down your pitch forks and torches. This won't be happening. Wind, solar, and hydro... the energy of the furture, get over it!

Nov 14, 2008

Did anyone read the article "Offshore Wind Power Could Alter Ocean Currents" from Discovery News:

I'm all for wind power, but this is disturbing.

Oct 21, 2008

well this was a really good article please write more about the environment.

Juan B
Oct 20, 2008

Wow. I suppose I posted links to support my facts for 'everyone else.' Even though at the end of my previous comment I suggested you should get your facts correct, you simply spewed the same falsifications again. Are you related to the Political process?

Solar is being made three different ways: 1) mono-, 2) poly-, 3) Amorphorous (thin-film). Cadmium is one of the main components of the newer, amorphorous form that currently yields no more than half the efficiency of the first two silicon-made panels. Silicon, by the way, is the most prevailing mineral on the earth's surface. Are you referencing the newest solar PV science – amorphorous thin film for your solar longevity and toxicity ‘facts’? Why, when the original solar PV panels which have been producing energy for 25+ years and new ones are again going to be producing for 40-50 years would you say 5-10? Show me a nuclear plant that can do that without continual monitoring, refueling, maintenance, large abundance of cooling water source, lots of energy driven control, main, and auxiliary processes.... Again, I'm not saying nuclear cannot be done safely - I did it for 8 years. There's just no END OF LIFE plan right now and what we are left with is not something I want in my backyard but, anywhere. I find this ironic when one of the main legs you stand on for putting down solar PV is the waste at end of life.

I operated a nuclear power plant in the Navy. I saw the fuel leave on multiple rail cars and then come back because their planned disposal site in Idaho was closed by the Governor. And that was just from one of my ship’s refueling events. Yes, uranium is dense, thus fission - duh. But someone forgot to include the cooling medium, gamma and neutron shielding, other contaminated metals, secondary contaminated metals & equipment, cleanup and disposal contaminated equipment in your 1 football field 10 feet thick estimate. Maybe you don't have a understand of the potential health damage Radiation from nuclear waste presents to life, further maybe you find it hard to understand quarter-million year half-life’s of the material that we STILL don't have a place to put!!!! Further, I'm sure they may have newer, fancy ways to mine the U238. But how much energy did it take to generate the Oxygen and ship in the Baking soda, mix them together and pump water in, and filter the U238 and other things out. U238 is deposited along with many other minerals and compounds that way so you're going to be pulling a lot more than just U238. How much Energy did this take? Where did it come from? What was its carbon foot print? And to monitor surrounding wells, and close and cap wells, etc? Further, you're still left with U238. It takes an immense amount of energy to enrich U235 from U238 – Look up Chalk River. We had a joke of what Nuclear ‘CRUD’ stood for (Chalk River Unidentified Deposits). And guess what, all that refining equipment becomes radioactive waste too. Generally, this U235 matrix is put into a fuel grid and the rods are actually control rods to control the reaction process. Anyone who uses the term Fuel Rod doesn't really understand the way the real nuclear plants work. So again, Sure, put on your blinders and just look at nuclear once you've spent billions on a plant with huge subsidies, and just the snap-shot of it creating energy, yup it's clean and carbon free. I'll grant you that. It's all the above that dissuades me from supporting nuclear when clearly there are key places for Solar (Southwest USA and roofs in optimal areas), Wind (offshore and in key windy places), geothermal, and others that I think right now, yes RIGHT NOW, can provide all the energy needs we have if only we had the right energy policies in place. Then we can have the luxury of investing in finding a long-term solution for nuclear or a realistic vision for clean coal and sequestering the carbon exhausted. But to promote these two only shows a lack of concern for the larger triple bottom line and posterity.

One wind turbine per sq mile for ALL of Colorado’s energy? That sounds like a pretty good comparison if we can get some from Solar and Some from wind in places where it does work well. You seem to be so smart and then spew facts like this. The above photo shows what 11 or so wind turbines on a linear line that spans much less than the length of one side of a square mile. It doesn’t make sense to put them in every sq mile but only where it will produce the most efficient and constant wind speeds. As nuclear and Solar and everybody but coal has become more efficient… so has wind. Further, once these huge wind turbines do need to be replaced, isn’t it possible to recycle to steel and materials used to make them initially when making new ones. Further, when solar PV reaches its end of life, it can be recycled too. Pretty good end of life solutions from my perspective.

I'm not advocating any One energy will be the solution for our and other’s future... But clearly, Occam's Razor applies here, Which is more simple to solve our energy crisis: Solar or Nuclear? You figure it out.

Clearly, Large-scale Hydro's days are done, Coal needs a lot of work and research before it can be retrieved and made carbon mininal or effectivley sequestered (are we just hiding the problem here), Nuclear ... too many problems that still haven't been solved in 50+ years. Yes, it is more efficient and, nay I say safer, than then, but when it comes the nuclear, three words: END OF LIFE.

Paraphrasing Einstein, "One cannot pull at one part of the universe without the rest of it feeling it."

daryl hull
Oct 17, 2008

I aprove of wind energy !! I do'nt approve of Exon Mobil or any oil,nor do I approve of nuclear. Put those prop's wherever you want I think they are cute.

daryl hull
Oct 17, 2008

I aprove of wind energy !! I do'nt approve of Exon Mobil or any oil,nor do I approve of nuclear.

Conserve first
Oct 16, 2008

We need to get consumption under control before we start decimating our mountain ridge lines for an unreliable pittance added to the grid. People won't sacrifice big screen TVs and huge houses lit up like Xmas trees 24/7, but they are happy to sacrifice the health and beauty of our remaining wilderness mountains. Time to look in the mirror.

Oct 13, 2008

Shame on Backpacker, that was an inflammatory photograph. Turbines would never be installed on anything looking remotely like Frankonia Ridge. But bring on the wind turbines. We need clean power now. And we need the jobs that industry can bring to a dying manufacturing base in the US.

I so agree with this comment listed above...."I'm so tired of people wanting everything. We want clean power, but we don't want to look at it. We want renewable energy, but we don't want it in our backyard. For the love of God!! There are NO perfect, end-all solutions. It's just not possible. I love wilderness too, but people either need to make due with the power generation we have now or shut the hell up!!"

Lisa Linowes
Oct 13, 2008

At this point, there is an utter lack of independent, unbiased research on the impact of these turbine installations on the natural environment, let alone the effect on humans residing within 1-2 miles of the structures. PPM's Searsburg project, Noble's project proposal for Coos County NH, the soon to be completed UPC/FIrst Wind's Stetson Mountain site in Maine (which received no capacity credit because there was insufficent transmission to deliver the energy) and the multitude of others in the east and northeast states all share this issue. If you get a chance read some of the testimony by wind experts on the emission offsets they anticipate from their projects or even the claimed production levels (KWH) as they pitch their wares and then look for the substantiation. Yet, those who look closely and ask what they consider basic questions are mocked as NIMBY or somehow anti-environment. Wind has issues -- that's a fact. Even the latest report from the DOE which asserts we can reach 20% wind power by 2030 acknowledges that wind will not (and cannot) negate the need to build reliable sources of generation that will deliver during peak periods. So no matter how many turbines get erected, wind will never be more than supplemental -- it acts as a fuel displacement option, not a power plant we can rely on.

--Lisa Linowes

Rob McDonough
Oct 13, 2008

The problems with wind power go way beyond "viewshed" issues. A lot of people simply don't realize how gargantuan these turbines are, or the ecological devastation that accompanies their construction.

The upland regions are some of the most fragile that exist on this planet, and those of us who feel drawn to visit them are surely aware of how much impact can result just from a relatively few well-meaning visitors.

That's nothing compared to the blasted and bulldozed roads required to get the collosal components up into the mountains, or the high-voltage lines to take the power to distant cities. Or the impact on avian fauna, especially bats.

Take a look at what's happening around the world. The real story doesn't get told as often as it should. Check out or google "cefn croes photo gallery" (spelling is correct, it's in Wales, UK).

Industrial wind power is not "clean energy"!

Oct 13, 2008

I don't believe that wind power has a place on mountain ridges -- or a number of other places, for that matter.

Many of the comments on this page seem to accept that wind is an alternative to conventional power generation. It is not. At best, it is merely a supplement -- an occasional fuel saver.

In theory, anyway.

The issues surrounding industrial wind development are explored quite thoroughly at National Wind Watch and other sites. I encourage those who wish to explore these issues further to visit those sites and consider the situation as it really exists, not how it might be in theory.

In my view, the downsides of wind power outweigh the supposed benefits.

James L
Oct 12, 2008

I think wind power is a good option but, do not want them in very areas with exceptional views. I realize the need to compromise and would like to see the wind turbine industry put more effort into camouflage of the units and the area to lessen the visual impact.

Oct 10, 2008

I've backpacked and kayaked in wilderness areas all over the world for the last 30 years. I've seen the damage wrought by pollution and climate change and I have a solid grasp of what we have a head of us. And I am definitely not a fan of development in wilderness areas (especially related to down hill skiing, mining, logging, and drilling for oil and gas). However, I am definitely for wind farms. Well thought out development in this area has a net benefit for us all with little downside beyond scenic view issues. Most of these areas under consideration for wind farms are not in wilderness areas. However, the oil and gas alternatives definitely are in wilderness areas, including ANWR, the Kaiparowits Plateau, and the continental shelf (not declared but defacto wilderness). I say build'em now. I'll be glad to hike through knowing we have started to fix something.

Lonnie L. Jones
Oct 10, 2008

Would hikers rather see smokestacks blowing out black smoke from burning coal? I don't care how many wind turbines I see as I hike, cycle or snowshoe; the more the better! Without clean air to breathe, hikers can kiss their passion good-bye.

Oct 10, 2008

Very good responses...I have to give a speech soon. Some of these points are in my script but I didn't know if they would resonate with the group I'm addressing. Nice to know that my observations and facts mesh with these comments. It is a confidence booster that I'm not "out there".

Juan B
Oct 10, 2008

Billy said,

"Now, for all you saying "well solar is the way"- all the same problems exist-except worse. Extra materials must be mined and smelted. They have terrible efficiency and minimal longevity. In addition, some the materials that go into solar panels are toxic waste, and once the panel wears out (5-10 years), it must be disposed of properly. Notice I said "it must be disposed of". So we are now filling toxic waste dumps with solar panels leaking cadmium, etc. Additionally, the solar panel industry must also compete with all other industries utilizing silicone (ie. comptuer & technology), therefore prices will be driven by supply and demand of silicone."

WHAT???? Solar panels have been around now for 40 years and some are still producing electricity. Nearly all solar panels produced now are guaranteed for 25 years to be putting out at least 80% of initial electricity output. Further, they are anticipated to still be producing reasonable electricity for 40-50 years. The only part of a grid-tied system that would need maintenance is the replacement of the inverter ~15 years for a residential quality one (they are waranteed for 10 years now). Oh and occasionally if your panels become dirty - hose them down. That's it!

The average solar panel must operate for less than one year to the average of one to two during its lifetime to pay off its estimated production carbon output - from then on it is carbon-free and if installed correctly, maintenance-free. Many panel manufacturers are leaning to safer materials that minimize the need for any hazardous material disposal - Mitsubishi makes their panels all lead-free. Solar panel efficiency is now averaging 11-14% in the field and over 40% in the lab. Thin-film panel efficiency is about half this but is increasing fast and can be made using materials other than silicon.

As far as mining and smelting... Nuclear must be mined which leaves lots of leftover toxic and lightly radioactive dust and debris. U-238 must be refined to U-235 using centrifuges like in currently Iran which creates a lot of concentrated radioactive waste and uses A LOT of energy for very little useful product. Then if you put blinders on and operate the nuclear power plant, then yes, for for 3-9 months the energy is clean ... opps, but then the fuel is spent and it must be continuously water-cooled for 2-4 years and then stored... where? Currently, it is onsite. Highly radioactive waste... what do we do with this? Why worry about this or trying to get something as filthy as coal to be clean? When wind, solar, geothermal, tidal, and upcoming technologies like radiant heat conversion to electricity can provide nearly all of our energy needs if we simply focus our policy and infrastructure that way.

Heavy metals can be easily and safely retrieved from solar panels. Radioactive nuclear wastes from uranium mining, enrichment, and fuel and reactor system disposal are all unsafe and have half-lives on geologic time scales. And currently we have No WAY to safely dispose of the WASTE!!!!! The waste is not small - the average commercial system fuel cask is larger than a VW bus and there are 4 casks per fuel load. Plus, the casks need to be spaced to provide ambient cooling over time. Initial testing of average radioactive heat decay simulation inside Yucca Mountain's tunnels indicated the storage rooms began to collapse and degrade within a few weeks to a few months when estimated they would last 250,000 years. This is nothing to play around with lightly.

Mining of coal is very dirty and destroys our environment. Burning of coal is very dirty - and even if the power generation of coal can be made 'clean' - which is not yet available to be efficient with current technology - it still leaves a lot of nasty, dirty waste.

It's been calculated that we could power the Unites States' Daytime needs by using solar power technology in Nevada Nuclear Test Site.

At that's using 110W panels. Today similar size panels can reach well over 200W and even larger panels are available that produce 300W!!!

As far as wind goes. Wind is already a proven technology on its way to providing a significant portion 10% of the nations energy supply. A lot has been learned about these turbines over the last 30+ years and the ones they are building now are designed specifically for the area and wind climate, designed for minimal maintenance and replacement, designed for minimum impact for bird kills, and initially solar panels were considered 'ugly' but now two houses side by side one with solar on the roof and one without. The one with panels will fetch an additional $10-30k depending on the average home electrical savings. I see wind power being much better than coal, nuclear, and natural gas burning plants because they create no carbon output - which is the real key to the game RIGHT NOW!

I've seen estimates that indicate we need to be building a new power plant a week to keep up with increasing power demands. I believe when the realization of Peak Oil has occurred - a paradigm shift to more sustainable energy sources will occur such that we will have to rethink our power plant demand for sources and proximity to users as the transmission grid is teetering on failure by being ran at peak load or higher more frequently.

I too want cleaner energy sources. There are many other parts of your comments that I haven't even touched on. But I think I've made my point.
Please get your facts correctly.

Oct 09, 2008

There's no free lunch in the energy biz, it's more a matter of which choices have the least environmental impact. I'm in the energy efficiency biz, and most people have no idea of how electricity is generated, much less the relative impacts of various generation sources. I vote for as much energy conservation as we can manage, followed by responsibly sited wind and solar.

To mtnmaniac: You're not the first one to have thought of resource extraction costs/impacts. The concept is called life cycle assessment (LCA). Here's a link:

Unless you can back up your assertions with some published research, they're just your opinion.
Trehugger has been covering LCA issues:

To Joe C: If you think only wind power gets subsidies, read this report:


Joe C.
Oct 09, 2008

I hate wind turbines. They don't fly without massive subidies and tax breaks, and we have them ruining vistas all over Texas, just so a few NIMBY bastards can sleep better thinking they buy wind power.

Oct 09, 2008

I'm so tired of people wanting everything. We want clean power, but we don't want to look at it. We want renewable energy, but we don't want it in our backyard. For the love of God!! There are NO perfect, end-all solutions. It's just not possible. I love wilderness too, but people either need to make due with the power generation we have now or shut the hell up!!

Oct 09, 2008

Let me start out by saying I'm very pro for whatever is the cleanest form of energy, and I do not believe wind turbines even come close. What most don't realize when being so pro wind-energy and calling it a "clean" & "renewable" source of energy, is that the 300 tons of material in the above article has to be mined. Most of the materials comprising the tower and inner mechanical parts must be mined via open-pit or underground operations utilizing heavy diesel/electrical power-guzzling equipment. The overburden and/or tailings must then be stock-piled somewhere- usually on the surface. Only very few of these ingredients may be mined via an in-situ recovery process using water-based solutions that are then filtered once "mining" is complete. Once the material is mined, it must then be smelted via a coal-fired smelting plant and molded into the various parts of the tower. So in summary; in addition to mining and burning coal (what goes on for a typical coal-fired power plant), wind turbine companies must also mine millions of tons of various metals and their associated overburden/tailings, then ship the final product in pieces via trails and newly developed roads, sometimes crossing pristine wilderness. Once it's onsite and built, it'll have a minimum efficiency compared to other forms of power production. Then after about ten years it will break down and need to be rebuilt. What comes along with the low efficiency of these things is the need for thousands to equal the power of one coal plant. For example, in the state of Colorado alone, there'd have to be approximately one wind turbine per square mile across the entire state to produce the power consumed within the state boundaries. Well, not every square mile is windy enough to rotate a turbine enough to produce power, nor are many areas accessable. So that shrinks the area available to put all those turbines by many multiples. Any volunteers for one...or ten in your backyard?

Now, for all you saying "well solar is the way"- all the same problems exist-except worse. Extra materials must be mined and smelted. They have terrible efficiency and minimal longevity. In addition, some the materials that go into solar panels are toxic waste, and once the panel wears out (5-10 years), it must be disposed of properly. Notice I said "it must be disposed of". So we are now filling toxic waste dumps with solar panels leaking cadmium, etc. Additionally, the solar panel industry must also compete with all other industries utilizing silicone (ie. comptuer & technology), therefore prices will be driven by supply and demand of silicone.

So, compared to the above two popular alternatives, it's looking like coal is actually much cleaner due to it's simplicity- mine it, ship it, burn it, then use waste product for making plastics, cement additives, etc. Afterall, these other two forms of power must burn coal to get the end product. So instead of burning coal to melt a product, to build another product that's going to produce 100's of times less electricity, create an eyesore, and then need to be replaced every 5-10 years, why not use that coal to create power right off the bat?

There are other alternatives out there that are many times more efficient. Hydropower, Nuclear Power, and recently "Landfill Power".

Hydropower: It's been around for decades and efficiently produces clean electrical power while managing flood control. Downsides: I takes a lot of material and the right circumstances to build a dam. Once it's built, there are also negative impacts to the ecosystem around it.

"Landfill Power": In the past few years scientists have recognized that instead of burning off the methane gases that are created under our nations ever-increasing landfill supply, they could capture the gases and use the energy to run electrical power plants. The problems: There are not enough landfills producing enough quality gas to be considered a stand-alone source of electricity. Burning still produces CO and CO2, the two gases we're trying to eliminate.

Nuclear Power: Uranium 238, a very common element all around us in the water and earth, must be mined and then enriched to U235 to create fuel rods for a nuclear reactor. A nuclear reactor is tens or hundreds of times more efficienct than even a coal plant, and does not produce a combustion gases. Processes developed in the early 80's allow U238 to be extracted through a series of small diameter water wells that flush oxygen and baking soda-enriched water through the Uranium 238 down below the ground surface. The water solution reverses the process by which the Uranium 238 was deposited, bringing only it to the ground surface. Once "mining" is complete, the groundwater in the "mining" area has all of the extra oxygen and baking soda removed, the wells are plugged and chopped off below the ground surface, and any areas affected by traffic are plowed and seeded. Monitoring wells around the "mined" area ensure that the oxygen and baking soda did not extend outside of the mining zone into neighboring wells that may (if the water well driller was un-knowlegeable and stuck a drinking water well in Uranium bearing unit) be in the Uranium bearing unit. This "in-situ recovery" process only extracts the needed U238, therfore eliminating stockpiles of overburnden and/or tailings laden with all the other nasty elements that deposit around U238 underground. Those stockpiles are the object of many nightmares and stereotypes of the old days. Other stereotypical nightmares surrounding nuclear power include Chernobyl, 3-mile Island, and toxic waste of reactors. First of all, meltdowns are a thing of the past for reactors being built now days. Technology have advanced big time since those experimental days of nuclear power. Secondly, todays plants are more efficient than ever, as if they even needed to get better- all the waste from all the old school plants in the U.S. history(20% of the U.S. power is nuclear-derived), would only fill a football field 10 feet thick. Compare that to the waste of all the processes described above! That's decades of power with only a small amount of waste. You see, Uranium is extremely dense, so it only takes a very small amount volume-wise to create the power we need. Once its "spent", it takes only a very small space, and theoretically, after 1000 years, it will be reusable too. To me it's sounds like nuclear power is the cleanest way to meet the power demands of today's world. "In-situ Recovery" is least invasive, cleanest "mining" method ever, processing is self-sustaining, it's the most efficient (minimal facilities), it doesn't burn anything, and has a very very small volume of waste that is eventually reusable.

Sorry for the long response. I hope people find this interesting and usefull, and please reconsider all the damage to be truly done by wind and solar power.

Steve C.
Oct 09, 2008

Fix one problem, create another. History repeats itself. Hydro-power was hailed as clean, then the issue of loss of fisheries and spawning surfaced. Coal was once king. Remember, it came from under the ground so we would not have to cut down forests for heating and cooking. Nuclear was cool, until it needed to be cooled and stored. The gas light days helped fuel the industrial midwest, until it burned up. It seems that this is a repeating cycle. Every energy source has it's benefits...and it's drawbacks. I view the discussion of wind energy like the old hydroelectric discussion years ago. There are some areas where wind is channeled more than others, like valleys and mountain passes. The main difference is that wind is also found in high doses in places other than the "Kodak moment" mountian vistas. Central & northern Indiana, known for productive farmland and high-tech industry, has many wind turbines going up -- along with the biodiesel plants. My point? Many things can co-exist, but recognize that with one fix, often new problems come up. Some people don't like the 'whoop, whoop, whoop' of wind turbines -- but consider the alternatives and be ready for some give and take. Windmills will pop up in some unexpected places, like your own back yard...or your neighbors. I think some logical advance planning now could help minimize some of the conflicts later. It won't eliminate all problems and as we go we'll probably find some new ones to address. But I think that good planning from a collective group of players will help in the long run. I also suggest that if you want to influence the discussion, then you need to take a page from Econ 101 and become a stakeholder. Environmentally minded people should seek out opportunities to partner with others financially in developing this growing industry. In other words, put the 'ol money where the mouth is (or where the heart is) and help guide the direction of the industry by being an owner in the industry.

I'm Steve C and I approve this message.


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