Recently T. Boone Pickens has been advertising his plan for US energy independence. His plan calls for a huge investment in wind powered electric generators to free up the natural gas currently used for generating electricity to be used for powering our automobiles. This Shootout will not discuss the practicality of switching our cars to natural gas but will instead present the arguments for and against wind generated electric power.
We need wind generators now!
Main Reference: American Wind Energy Association
- Wind generated electricity is renewable energy. The electricity it generates does not generate the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. See Shootout: Do We Need To Limit CO2 Emissions?
- Wind generated electricity is cost competitive with coal, nuclear and natural gas generated electricity and the cost is expected to come down even more.
- Wind generators are proven technology. Denmark currently receives over 20% of its electricity from wind energy.
- Increases the fuel diversity.
- Lessens our dependence on fossil fuels.
- Wind energy has a greatly reduced environmental impact compared with conventional power plants such as nuclear or coal.
- The United States has an abundance of locations where wind can be harnessed. The DOE estimates U.S. has enough economical wind locations to generate 120% of our total energy needs.
- The cost of the "fuel" will never change or need to be imported.
- Provides long-term income to farmers and ranchers who own the land on which windfarms are built.
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Wind power is not the panacea.
Main Reference: World Nuclear Association
- Wind energy is intermittent and unreliable. It will generate electricity on its schedule and not the needs of the electric grid.
- New wind electric generation is currently only competitive because of government rebates.
- Wind energy requires a substantial reserve conventional generation backup for the times when wind may not be blowing. The cost of backup power generation is not included in the wind proponent's cost estimates.
- The cost of transmission lines is often not included in the cost. Locations that are good for wind electric generation typically are a great distance from the consumers of the electricity.
- The mega-watt capacity ratings for wind turbines can be misleading. It is the maximum power output rating. Wind generators generally are only able to generate, over a years period, a maximum 30% of the electricity indicated by its capacity rating.
- Extensive installation of wind turbines could hurt our balance of trade. Many of the wind generators are built overseas and the turbine represents 70% of the installed cost.
- Wind turbines are viewed as "ugly" eyesores by many citizens.
- They are a danger to birds. There have been many documented instances of birds being killed by the moving blades.
- If global warming is a priority, nuclear power plants can provide power without generating greenhouse gases.
- Wind turbines, located offshore, can be a hazard to ships.
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