Saturday, October 21, 2006

Should the Fox Guard the Hen House?

Will Mass Audubon benefit from Cape Wind project?
Barbara Durkin

The Cape Wind project is proposed for an ecosystem and aviary corridor with documented endangered species, and that is under current and conflicting use as an essential fish habitat. "Clean, green, renewable" is not benign when it represents an industrial-scale wind facility comparable in scale to a land area the size of Manhattan Island proposed to be introduced into this ecosystem.

The magnitude of the Cape Wind project, along with the fact that this is nascent technology, merits deep consideration.

One consideration that must be evaluated is the objectivity of any agency involved in the permit review process. If, as example, Mass Audubon has a financial stake, for whatever reason, in the outcome of any inquiry, such as the process of accounting for any wildlife mortality that stems from a major power plant such as Cape Wind, then that is a prima facie reason to question the objectivity of the subsequent analysis. That Mass Audubon, or any of its members, would profit from a project it was reviewing, should clue any reasonable observer that the results might be tainted. Mass Audubon's "preliminary approval" of Cape Wind is taken at face value: "no harm to birds."

Mass Audubon's "Challenge" states: "We also propose adoption of an Adaptive Management Plan that includes a rigorous monitoring program beginning at the construction phase and continuing for at least three years post-construction, mitigation measures in the event that the project results in significant adverse environmental impacts..."

The condition Mass Audubon has imposed on its preliminary approval of Cape Wind is a monitoring contract worth multimillions of dollars. This monitoring contract language is the most strongly stated condition of Mass Audubon's preliminary approval of Cape Wind in its "Challenge."

The president of Mass Audubon, Laura A. Johnson, submitted these comments on the Cape Wind draft environmental impact study on Feb. 23, 2005, to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers:

"By utilizing other bird mortality data provided in the DEIS, Mass Audubon staff scientists arrived at avian mortalities that ranged from 2,300 to 6,600 collision deaths per year."

However, Taber Allison of Mass Audubon, in his Aug. 3, 2006, letter to SouthCoast Today, has stated, "Mass Audubon scientists have never concluded that up to 6,600 birds, or any number of birds, would be killed if this project is permitted."

Mass Audubon must disclose any potential financial benefit it might have in the outcome of the Cape Wind proposal if it is to be considered an objective and unbiased reviewing agency. Mass Audubon must declare if it or its affiliations are to become the monitoring agency, or will bid on this contract, or accept this contract that it imposes as a condition of its "preliminary approval" by its "Challenge" so that we can all "get this right."

Time is of the essence.

Barbara Durkin Northboro, MA


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am angered that you continue to oppose Cape Wind and continue to supply false information about the project to the media and the public.
You are employing typical NIMBY Scare tactics that the same NIMBY's use for bicycle paths.
For example when a new bike path comes in, a lot of times people say oh its not going to be used much, its going to cause crime and problems in the neighborhoods, and its not going to benefit the area economically or environmentally. Well 10 years later when the path is built, the same people who were opposed to the project are the ones using it the most. I believe the same will be with Cape Wind.

I am upset that you people continue to think that Cape Wind will be so deterimental to the sound when in reality it will benefit the sound and the region tremendously. I am angered that you (majority of whom are rich elite ) don't want your views spoiled by a few wind turbines which will hardly be visible in reality.
And anyway most people find out in the end that wind turbines are quite beautiful and attract people to a location in the end.

Basically your arguments are NIMBY in style and putting the self interest of a few islanders who think they own the Cape and the Sound above everyone else and our environment. We need to move away from Big Oil, and Massachusetts has the opportunity to be one of the first states to build a wind farm and become an environmental leader.

This project also provides significant environmental benefits. The Final EIR projected that, compared with electricity generated by fossil-fuel burning power plants, the project’s operation would annually offset 802 tons of sulfur dioxide, 497 tons of nitrous oxide, and 733,876 tons of carbon dioxide within the New England area. In terms of carbon dioxide, the major greenhouse gas, this is equivalent to taking 175,000 cars off the road.

The proponent of Cape Wind has proposed several measures to avoid, minimize, and mitigate impacts. I note that for the most part, the proponent proposes mitigation for unavoidable impacts from activities in federal waters, and this mitigation is not required for purposes of MEPA. However, the proponent has voluntarily offered this mitigation in the MEPA context. In all, the project will provide over $10 million in mitigation. These mitigation measures consist of the following:

• $780,000 towards the restoration of Bird Island, off the town of Marion in Buzzards Bay. At 1.5 acres in size, Bird Island provides prime nesting habitat for Roseate and Common Terns, but the island is subject to significant and accelerating erosion. The enhancement of nesting habitat on Bird Island will benefit the same tern population that is subject to potential impacts from the wind turbine array.

• $4.22 million towards natural resource preservation, marine habitat restoration, and coastal recreation enhancement projects in the area of Cape Cod, Nantucket, and Martha’s Vineyard.

• An estimated $5.6 million in Federal Lease Payments over 20 years, representing 27 percent of the revenues received by the federal government. Statement of Policy 3

This ambitious program of renewable energy development is in the interests of the citizens of Massachusetts. The Commonwealth has an obligation to its citizens to promote development of renewable energy. Global climate change, sea level rise, dependence on foreign oil, and the health impacts of local and regional air pollution create an urgent need for sustainable alternatives to energy produced from fossil fuels. While new technologies are not without impacts themselves, these pale in comparison to the scale of impacts that continued fossil fuel emissions will have on the environment of Massachusetts. The development of the large scale wind farm as proposed is expressly consistent with and will significantly advance the Commonwealth’s energy policy goals, and will provide immediate and significant benefits to air quality and energy reliability in Massachusetts and the Northeast. Overall, the Cape Wind Project will contribute to the long-term preservation and enhancement of our environment.

the wind park will be unseen from most of Cape Cod, and visible only one half-inch off the horizon on clear days, economic benefits from the Cape Wind project will be felt throughout the Cape.

These benefits include:

Environmental, geological and oceanographic studies

Even before construction starts, the Cape will accrue economic benefits from environmental, geological and oceanographic studies. Many of these studies will be managed by regional companies and organizations. ESS Group Inc., Cape Wind's lead environmental consultant, recently opened an office in Sandwich, MA to support this and other Cape Cod projects. And Cape Wind’s local office is in Yarmouth Port.

Construction jobs

The construction phase is expected to last 18 months and employ dozens of people during the peak construction period. The resulting secondary and spin-off spending will benefit local businesses.

Year-round jobs

Once the project is complete, year-round jobs will be created to monitor, operate and maintain the park. To ensure peak efficiency, the turbines will be monitored 24 hours a day from a high-tech control center located on the Cape and will receive regular preventive maintenance checks.

New tourism opportunities

Because of the Cape’s scenic beauty and pristine beaches, visitors from around the world have come to enjoy its natural resources. And Cape Wind is committed to preserving that environment.

From the shore, the slender supporting towers will blend into the horizon, but when seen up close, the wind park offers a majestic view. As this inspiring view is only possible from the water, demand for tourist visits will create new opportunities for tour boat operators. Charter fishing boats, sailboat tours and scenic cruises may include the wind park as part of their Cape experience. The wind park, like so many across the globe, can become a new eco-tourism destination.

A high-tech presence

Recently, Cape Cod has become a center of high-tech growth. State-of-the-art facilities like Cape Wind and the potential for technology transfer will continue to attract additional high-tech jobs to the Cape.

Economic Impact Report

An economic impact study released on April 3, 2003 concludes that the manufacturing, construction and operation of America’s first offshore wind farm by Cape Wind Associates will generate an estimated 600 to 1,000 jobs in the region. The study, prepared by Global Insight also states that there will be a significant increase in revenue and taxes paid to the state and local towns

Cape Wind will be able to bid “$0” (because the fuel—wind—is free) for the energy it provides, lowering the overall cost of that day’s market. A leading electric economic consulting firm estimates the Cape Wind park will save New England more than $800 million in energy costs over the next two decades.

As for the impact on our environment and air quality - the wind farm project will be beneficial in that it emits no polluting gasses whereas "Clean" Coal does.
Here is an example from the Caoe Wind Website

Carbon dioxide is the primary gas involved in global warming. Rising global temperatures are expected to raise the sea level, change precipitation and alter other climate conditions.

Nitrogen oxides contribute to the formation of smog, acid rain and toxic chemicals by reacting with other compounds in the air. NOx emissions also contribute to the deterioration of water quality by increasing nitrogen loading.

Sulfur dioxide contributes to respiratory illness and aggravates existing heart and lung disease; damages trees, crops, stone and other materials; increases acidity in soils, lakes and other bodies of water; and increases visibility impairment. Sulfur dioxides form particulates that can be transported over long distances and deposited far from the point of origin.

Carbon monoxide causes harmful effects by reducing oxygen delivery to the body’s organs and tissues; it also contributes to the formation of smog.

Volatile organic compounds contribute to the formation of ozone, which causes respiratory problems in people susceptible to asthma. Ozone also contributes to smog and increases plant vulnerability to disease, pests and harsh weather. Many forms of VOCs have been determined to be hazardous air pollutants that contribute to detrimental health effects such as cancer.

Particulate matter has been linked to increases in respiratory problems including asthma, chronic bronchitis and decreased lung function. Particulate matter contributes to visible haze and soot, which stains and damages stone and other materials.

Cape Wind emits 0 amount of these gasses which are a factor in pollution and global warming.

The cost of electricity is measured in more than dollars and cents.

In the average year, pollution from power plants cost Massachusetts residents 78,000 lost work days, 441 premature births, 104 hospital emergency room visits and 8,800 asthma attacks.[1]

The cost from burning coal, which comprises more than half the US electric production, is even higher than most other fuels.

Coal dust kills 2,000 US miners yearly, and since 1973 the federal black lung disease benefits program has cost $35 billion

Health and environmental costs bring the total price for coal-based energy to $0.055 to $0.083 kWh.[2] In comparison the cost of producing electricity from wind energy has steadily declined by more than 80% since the early 1980s.[3]

Extracting, transporting and refining oil creates significant environmental risks. Oil spills and ballast cleanouts in routine offloading operations endanger birds and marine life. And although rare, oil tanker spills—like the Exxon Valdez, which released 10.8 million gallons of oil—can foul our beaches and put wildlife at severe risk.

Currently, America relies heavily on foreign oil, a reliance that has steadily increased since the early 1970s. At that time, only about a third of our petroleum came from outside the US. Today more than half of our oil needs are met from foreign sources, and if nothing changes, we will become even more dependent on foreign oil. It is estimated that by the end of the decade 75% of our oil could come from sources outside the US. Relying on a strategic resource controlled by foreign sources puts our country at risk to political pressures and interruption in supply. If we seek to offset this dependence by using new US sites, such as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, we risk destroying irreplaceable ecosystems.

Nuclear plants generate waste including plutonium and radioactive cesium, strontium, iodine and krypton, which needs to be transported and stored safely. This waste will remain lethal for thousands of generations. If stolen, the plutonium can be used to make weapons. Because of the security risks associated with nuclear energy, generating plants and storage facilities require complex security.

Wind stands out as the energy source that best balances environment, health and economics—it is a true alternative for cost-effective energy
What global warming means to New England

Scientists predict that continued global warming on the order of 2.5 to 10.4 degrees Fahrenheit over the next 100 years (as projected in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Third Assessment Report) is likely to result in:

A rise in sea level between 3.5 and 34.6 inches, leading to more coastal erosion, flooding during storms and permanent loss of coastline to the sea.
Severe stress on many forests, wetlands, alpine regions and other natural ecosystems.
Greater threats to human health as mosquitoes and other disease-carrying insects or rodents spread diseases over larger geographical regions.
Disruption of agriculture in some parts of the world due to increased temperature, water stress (more or less rain) and sea-level rise in low-lying areas such as Cape Cod and the Islands

To Cape residents and all New Englanders, the effects of global warming will not be abstract. A recent study conducted by the University of New Hampshire provides some alarming information on how global warming in New England—estimated to be between 6-10° F projected over the next century—will affect the region.

Regional air quality will worsen—higher temperatures increase the formation of smog and sulfate haze, and water vapor combines with other pollutants to produce acid rain.
Risk to human health will significantly increase not only from higher levels of smog and allergens, but because warmer weather can facilitate the expansion of Lyme disease-carrying ticks, West Nile virus-carrying mosquitoes and other disease vectors into the region.
New England’s natural environment will be altered as the forests, already under stress from pollution, are further damaged as non-native plants take over our woodlands. Potential droughts and flooding will also have profound impacts on regional water availability and quality.
Coastal regions will be changed forever when warmer coastal waters put some marine life in peril and sea-level changes dramatically alter coastal landscapes. Based on climate studies, the sea level is predicted to rise by as much as three feet—putting all of the Cape and especially the beaches and dunes at risk. Warmer water temperatures may cause species shifts and toxic algal blooms.
Why 6° matters

Although 6° doesn’t seem like very much—as today’s temperature can easily vary by much more than that from yesterday’s temperature—it is significant when you compare the average temperature. Boston’s 30-year average temperature is 51.3°; if the average temperature increases “just” 6°, it would be like that of Richmond, VA (57.7°), while a 10° increase would make our weather closer to that of Atlanta, GA (61.3°).

Cape Wind can help slow global warming

Unlike fossil fuel generated electricity, wind power produces no greenhouse gases. The electricity from the Cape Wind project will keep more than a million tons of greenhouse gases from being spewed into the air. In addition because wind power does not use cooling water, it does not introduce thermal pollution to rivers or the ocean as do most steam-powered electric generators.

Our energy reserves are finite. Experts predict that we will exhaust the world’s readily extractable reserves of oil within the century. But renewable sources of energy never run out—they will allow us to meet our energy needs for generations.

Renewable energy sources include:

Wind: converting the movement of the wind using turbines

Solar cells (Natural Bridges National Monument, UT)

Geothermal power plant (Susanville, CA)

Solar: using photovoltaic cells to directly convert the sun’s energy into electricity

Hydro: converting the movement of water over a dam into electricity

Biomass: burning wood and waste chips from lumber factories, trash, etc.

Geothermal: tapping underground hot springs

Tidal: using the movement tidal currents to generate electricity

Renewable energy in New England

In 1997, the Massachusetts Division of Energy Resources stated that 7% to 14% of the total electricity purchased in the state is derived from renewable resources. Three-quarters is produced through hydropower; the rest is generated through waste-to-energy and landfill gas facilities. To date, wind energy has played a relatively insignificant role, but the Cape Wind project will help change that.

The Cape Wind project represents a major step forward in producing environmentally friendly electricity for New England. The wind park would mark Cape Cod, Massachusetts, as not only a leader in renewable technology, but in environmental protection as well.

Massachusetts encourages the use of renewable energy. In passing the 1997 Electrical Industry Restructuring Act, the state requires investment in new renewable energy generating plants. The Act requires that by the end of the decade these new sources account for 4% of our electricity—in addition to the current level of renewable energy sources.

The addition of Cape Wind electricity would exert a downward pressure o­n wholesale electricity market prices, leading to a savings of approximately $25 million per year for the New England electricity market.d project—as one of the most cost-effective and environmentally friendly alternatives—offers the best route towards meeting this objective

Cape Wind will provide a quantity of wind generated electricity annually equivalent to the amount of electricity that would be produced from burning 570,000 tons of coal, or 113 million gallons of oil, or 10 billion cubic feet of natural gas.

Cape Wind will help to stabilize and even reduce the price of electricity. Cape Wind will do this in 3 ways:

1) Cape Wind will reduce the clearing price for electricity in the New England spot market by reducing operations of the regions most expensive power plants, this will reduce electricity prices in New England by 25 million dollars per year.

2) Cape Wind will reduce the implementation costs of the Renewable Portfolio Standard to Massachusetts electricity consumers by increasing the supply of renewable energy certificates.

3) Cape Wind will pursue long-term power contract(s) that will lock-in a fixed price for electricity for a term of ten or more years. This would provide electricity consumers purchasing Cape Wind energy with far greater electric price stability and price certainty than is typically available.

Cape Wind will become a major point of interest for existing and new travelers to Cape Cod and the Islands, as has been the case at other wind farms around the world. There is not a single example in the world of a wind farm, on land or offshore, that has harmed local tourism.

In Denmark, there are wind farms off the shores of the two biggest tourist destinations in the country – the capital city of Copenhagen and the beach resort town of Blavandshuk. There are many examples around the world of wind farms becoming major tourist attractions.

There are no reports of offshore wind farms in Europe harming the values of expensive coastal real estate properties. Since loss of real estate values is a common concern expressed in communities near wind farms prior to their construction, the US Government commissioned a study that was released in 2003 that tracked over 25,000 real estate transactions around the largest wind farms in the U.S. and the report found no adverse effects of wind farms on nearby real estate prices

In the assembly, staging and ocean construction stage of the project, Cape Wind will create 600 to 1,000 jobs. Once operating, Cape Wind will create 150 permanent jobs, with at least 55 based on Cape Cod.

Cape Wind’s supply of wind power will reduce the amount of electricity coming from more expensive fossil fuel power plants in New England. This will reduce the amount of fossil fuels being imported into, and burned, in New England. New England does not produce any of its own coal, oil or natural gas, as these fuels are all imported into New England from other regions of the US, or increasingly, from other countries

Given the relatively small area of seabed that is required there is no evidence to suggest that total fish catch will decline as a result of wind farm developments; if anything the opposite is true. Fish stocks have been in decline for many years due to overfishing. Many environmental groups believe that wind farms will provide welcome sanctuary for fish spawning as well as refuge from intensive fisheries activity.

The wind industry is working actively with the fishing industry to ensure, as the oil and gas industry has done before it, that the fishing industry is not disadvantaged by the growth of offshore wind farms.

Any proposed wind farm project will involve a full investigation of wave and coastal processes prior to construction. However, the turbine structures and distance offshore are such that it is very unlikely they would significantly affect the seabed or wave patterns. There is no evidence from the Danish experience with offshore wind farms of any detrimental effects on coastal processes.

The coastal erosion effects of higher sea levels and more extreme weather patterns due to global warming are already scientifically recognized, and far outweigh the potential effects of offshore wind farms

Developers intentionally site wind turbines outside of established shipping lanes, thereby avoiding conflicts with routine traffic. Should a ship inadvertently go off course, its radar will readily detect the wind turbines, which are excellent radar reflectors. Wind turbines are also equipped with warning devices to alert ships in foul weather. The U.S. Coast Guard authorizes wind turbine locations for navigational concerns and determines the markings, lights, and fog signals needed.

2000, the Harvard School of Public Health looked at the human health effects from two fossil-fuel-fired power plants in Massachusetts. It estimates that the air pollution from the plants causes:

159 premature deaths
1,710 emergency room visits
43,300 asthma attacks
each year.

Replacing as much of this electricity as possible with wind energy would clearly lower associated health care costs.

Birds occasionally collide with wind turbines, as they do with other tall structures such as buildings. Avian deaths have become a concern at Altamont Pass in California, which is an area of extensive wind development and also high year-round raptor use.

Detailed studies, and monitoring following construction, at other wind development areas indicate that this is a site-specific issue that will not be a problem at most potential wind sites. Also, wind's overall impact on birds is low compared with other human-related sources of avian mortality

No matter how extensively wind is developed in the future, bird deaths from wind energy are unlikely to ever reach as high as 1% of those from other human-related sources such as hunters, house cats, buildings, and autos. (House cats, for example, are believed to kill 1 billion birds annually in the U.S. alone.) Wind is, quite literally, a drop in the bucket. Still, areas that are commonly used by threatened or endangered bird species should be regarded as unsuitable for wind development. The wind industry is working with environmental groups, federal regulators, and other interested parties to develop methods of measuring and mitigating wind energy's effect on birds.

There is no evidence that wind farms reduce tourism, and considerable evidence to the contrary. For example, in late 2002, a survey of 300 tourists in the Argyll region of Scotland, noted for its scenic beauty, found that 91% said the presence of new wind farms "would make no difference in whether they would return." Similar surveys of tourists in Vermont and Australia have produced similar results. Many rural areas in the U.S. have noted increases in tourism after wind farms have been installed, as have scenic areas in Denmark, the world's leader in percentage of national electricity supplied by wind. Other telling indicators: local governments frequently decide to install information stands and signs near wind farms for tourists; wind farms are regularly featured on post cards, magazine covers, and Web pages.

Wind energy is one of the most popular energy technologies. Opinion surveys regularly show that just over eight out of 10 people (80%) are in favor of wind energy, and less than one in ten (around 5%) are against it. The rest are undecided.

It is true that other generating plants have to be available to the power system's operator to supply electricity when the wind is not blowing. However, the wind does not just start and stop. Typically, wind speeds increase gradually and taper off gradually, and the system operator has time to move other plants on and off line (start and stop them from generating) as needed--the fluctuations in wind plant output change more slowly than do the changes in customer demand that a utility must adjust to throughout the day. Studies indicate that for a 100-megawatt wind plant, only about 2 megawatts of conventional capacity is needed to compensate for changes in wind plant output.

Also, whenever the wind is blowing, it displaces the most expensive conventional power plant that is generating. Typically, this tends to be the oldest and dirtiest gas plants on a utility system, but in some parts of the country (notably the mid-Atlantic states such as Maryland, West Virginia, or Virginia), wind power may displace coal.

It has been estimated by a number of reliable sources that 50,000 Americans a year die from air pollution, of which about one-third is produced by power plants. By contrast, in 20 years of operation, the wind industry (which emits no pollutants) has recorded only one death of a member of the public--a German skydiver who parachuted off-course into an operating wind plant. Blade throws were common in the industry's early years, but are unheard of-today because of better turbine design and engineering. Ice throw, while it can occur, is of little danger because setbacks typically required to minimize noise (see above) are sufficient to protect against danger to the public, and because ice buildup slows a turbine's rotation and will be sensed by a turbine's control system, causing the turbine to shut down. One European group that has investigated the ice throw question recommends a setback of 1.5 times the sum of a turbine's hub height and its rotor diameter.

Can stray voltage from wind power plants can be transmitted through the ground, disturbing or harming livestock. Is this true?

No. There is nothing different or unusual about managing the electricity flow from an operating wind plant. Standard electric wiring practices are adequate to prevent stray voltage from occurring

Will a wind project interfere with electromagnetic transmissions such as radio, television, or cell-phone signals?

First, this is not a problem for modern small (residential) wind turbines. The materials used to make such machines are non-metallic (composites, plastic, wood) and small turbines are too small to create electromagnetic interference (EMI) by "chopping up" a signal.

Large wind turbines, such as those typically installed at wind farms, can interfere with radio or TV signals if a turbine is in the "line of sight" between a receiver and the signal source, but this problem can usually be easily dealt with improving the receiver's antenna or installing relays to transmit the signal around the wind farm. Use of satellite or cable television is also an option


Wind Web Tutorial

What are the environmental benefits of wind power? Will wind energy hurt tourism in my area?

Will using more wind energy help to prevent global warming? How popular is wind energy?

Will using more wind energy reduce health care costs? Why is there sometimes opposition to wind energy projects?

How does wind stack up on greenhouse gas emissions when the "total fuel cycle" (including manufacture of equipment, plant construction, etc.) is considered? How much land is needed for a utility-scale wind plant?

What are wind power's other environmental impacts?

Bird Kills and other effects
Visual Impacts
Shadow Flicker

How much water do wind turbines use compared with conventional power plants?

I've heard that wind energy doesn't really reduce pollution, because other, fossil-fired generating units have to be kept running on a standby basis in case the wind dies down. Is this true? What about turbines throwing blades, or ice? Is wind energy dangerous to the public?

Why not develop wind farms on mountains that are already being used for ski resorts? I've heard that stray voltage from wind power plants can be transmitted through the ground, disturbing or harming livestock. Is this true?

Will a wind project interfere with electromagnetic transmissions such as radio, television, or cell-phone signals? Will a wind project interfere with radar?

What are the environmental benefits of wind power?

A basic and comprehensive reference on this issue is "The Environmental Imperative for Renewable Energy: An Update," by the Renewable Energy Policy Project (REPP), available on the Web at

Wind energy system operations do not generate air or water emissions and do not produce hazardous waste. Nor do they deplete natural resources such as coal, oil, or gas, or cause environmental damage through resource extraction and transportation, or require significant amounts of water during operation. Wind's pollution-free electricity can help reduce the environmental damage caused by power generation in the U.S. and worldwide.

In 1997, U.S. power plants emitted 70% of the sulfur dioxide, 34% of carbon dioxide, 33% of nitrogen oxides, 28% of particulate matter and 23% of toxic heavy metals released into our nation's environment, mostly the air. These figures are currently increasing in spite of efforts to roll back air pollution through the federal Clean Air Act.

Sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides cause acid rain. Acid rain harms forests and the wildlife they support. Many lakes in the U.S. Northeast have become biologically dead because of this form of pollution. Acid rain also corrodes buildings and economic infrastructure such as bridges. Nitrogen oxides (which are released by otherwise clean-burning natural gas) are also a primary component of smog.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a global warming pollutant --its buildup in the atmosphere contributes to global warming by trapping the sun's rays on the earth as in a greenhouse. The U.S., with 5% of the world's population, emits 23% of the world's CO2. The build-up of global warming pollution is not only causing a gradual rise in average temperatures, but also seems to be increasing fluctuations in weather patterns and causing more frequent and severe droughts and floods. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) warned in July, 2003, that extreme weather events appear to be increasing in number due to climate change.

Particulate matter is of growing concern because of its impacts on health. Its presence in the air along with other pollutants has contributed to make asthma one of the fastest growing childhood ailments in industrial and developing countries alike, and it has also recently been linked to lung cancer. Similarly, urban smog has been linked to low birth weight, premature births, stillbirths and infant deaths. In the United States, the research has documented ill effects on infants even in cities with modern pollution controls.

Toxic heavy metals accumulate in the environment and up the biological food chain. A number of states have banned or limited the eating of fish from fresh-water lakes because of concerns about mercury, a toxic heavy metal, accumulating in their tissue.

Development of just 10% of the wind potential in the 10 windiest U.S. states would provide more than enough energy to displace emissions from the nation's coal-fired power plants and eliminate the nation's major source of acid rain; reduce total U.S. emissions of CO2 by almost a third; and help contain the spread of asthma and other respiratory diseases aggravated or caused by air pollution in this country.

If wind energy were to provide 20% of the nation's electricity -- a very realistic and achievable goal with the current technology -- it could displace more than a third of the emissions from coal-fired power plants.

In 2006, the American Wind Energy Association estimates that wind plants in the U.S. will generate 24 billion kilowatt-hours. If instead the average utility fuel mix were used to generate that much electricity, 30 billion pounds (15 million tons) of carbon dioxide, 76,000 tons of sulfur dioxide (208 tons per day), and 36,000 tons of nitrogen oxides (100 tons per day) would be released into the atmosphere.

The comparative environmental impacts of various options for producing electricity have been extensively studied by the European Union in a 10-year effort called the "ExternE" ("external" or non-economic costs of energy). The results of that study are available at and . As with every other study of non-economic costs that has been conducted, the Externe study found wind energy's costs to be among the lowest, far below those of fossil fuels. The highest non-economic cost for wind in any European country, for example, was 0.25 Euro cents per kilowatt-hour, while the lowest cost for coal was 2-4 Euro cents/kWh (eight to 16 times as much).

More reading:
Comparative Air Emissions of Wind and Other Fuels


Will using more wind energy help to prevent global warming?

Yes! Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the most important of the global warming pollutants which are changing our climate. According to experts, if we are to avoid dangerous levels of warming, we must cut our CO2 emissions by 80-90 per cent by 2050. That means switching to forms of energy generation that do not produce CO2.

Wind power is a clean, renewable form of energy, which during operation produces no carbon dioxide. While some emissions of these gases will take place during the design, manufacture, transport and erection of wind turbines, enough electricity is generated from a wind farm within a few months to totally compensate for these emissions. When wind farms are dismantled (usually after 20-25 years of operation) they leave no legacy of pollution for future generation.

Given the scale of the CO2 cuts needed, wind power--as the least expensive, most developed renewable energy technology and the fastest to build--is the best placed renewable technology to deliver carbon emissions reductions on a large scale, quickly.

Will using more wind energy reduce health care costs?

Yes! In 2000, the Harvard School of Public Health looked at the human health effects from two fossil-fuel-fired power plants in Massachusetts. It estimates that the air pollution from the plants causes:

159 premature deaths
1,710 emergency room visits
43,300 asthma attacks
each year. Replacing as much of this electricity as possible with wind energy would clearly lower associated health care costs.

More reading:
Estimated Public Health Impacts of Criteria Air Pollutant Emissions from the Salem Harbor and Brayton Point Power Plants


How does wind stack up on greenhouse gas emissions when the "total fuel cycle" (including manufacture of equipment, plant construction, etc.) is considered?

The claim is sometimes made that manufacturing wind turbines and building wind plants creates large emissions of carbon dioxide. This is false. Studies have found that even when these operations are included, wind energy's CO2 emissions are quite small — on the order of 1% of coal or 2% of natural gas per unit of electricity generated. Or in other words, using wind instead of coal reduces CO2 emissions by 99%, using wind instead of gas by 98%.

What are wind power's other environmental impacts?

Wind power plants, like all other energy technologies, have some environmental impacts. However, unlike most conventional technologies (which have regional and even global impacts due to their emissions and fuel imports), the impacts of wind energy systems are minimal and local. This makes them easier for local communities to monitor and, if necessary, mitigate.

The local environmental impacts that can result from wind power development include:

Erosion which can be prevented through proper installation and landscaping techniques. Erosion can be a concern in certain habitats such as the desert, where a hard-packed soil surface must be disturbed to install wind turbines. Erosion has also been raised as a concern in the eastern U.S., where wind farms typically must be installed on mountain ridgelines. However, standard engineering practices used by ski areas on the same kind of terrain are adequate to deal with any erosion issues that might be raised by construction of a wind farm and its service road.

Bird and bat kills and other effects

Birds occasionally collide with wind turbines, as they do with other tall structures such as buildings. Avian deaths have become a concern at Altamont Pass in California, which is an area of extensive wind development and also high year-round raptor use. Detailed studies, and monitoring following construction, at other wind development areas indicate that this is a site-specific issue that will not be a problem at most potential wind sites. Also, wind's overall impact on birds is low compared with other human-related sources of avian mortality—see "Avian Collisions With Wind Turbines," for more information. The following graph is based on data from the studies described in that report:

Source: Erickson,, 2002. Summary of Anthropogenic Causes of Bird Mortality


No matter how extensively wind is developed in the future, bird deaths from wind energy are unlikely to ever reach as high as 1% of those from other human-related sources such as hunters, house cats, buildings, and autos. (House cats, for example, are believed to kill 1 billion birds annually in the U.S. alone.) Wind is, quite literally, a drop in the bucket. Still, areas that are commonly used by threatened or endangered bird species should be regarded as unsuitable for wind development. The wind industry is working with environmental groups, federal regulators, and other interested parties to develop methods of measuring and mitigating wind energy's effect on birds.

Wind energy can also negatively impact birds and other wildlife by fragmenting habitat, both through installation and operation of wind turbines themselves and through the roads and power lines that may be needed. This has been raised as an issue in areas with unbroken stretches of prairie grasslands or of forests. More research is needed to better understand these impacts.

Bat collisions at wind plants generally tend to be low in number and to involve common species which are quite numerous. Human disturbance of hibernating bats in caves is a far greater threat to species of concern. Still, a surprisingly high number of bat kills at a new wind plant in West Virginia in the fall of 2003 has raised concerns, and research at that plant and another in Pennsylvania in 2004 suggests that the problem may be a regional one. The wind industry has joined with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and Bat Conservation International to form the Bats and Wind Energy Cooperative (BWEC), which funded the 2004 research program and is continuing to explore ways to avoid or reduce bat kills.

Noise was an issue with some early wind turbine designs, but it has been largely eliminated as a problem through improved engineering and through appropriate use of setbacks from nearby residences. Aerodynamic noise has been reduced by changing the thickness of the blades' trailing edges and by making machines "upwind" rather than "downwind" so that the wind hits the rotor blades first, then the tower (on downwind designs where the wind hits the tower first, its "shadow" can cause a thumping noise each time a blade passes behind the tower). A small amount of noise is generated by the mechanical components of the turbine. To put this into perspective, a wind turbine 300 meters away is no noisier than the reading room of a library.

Shadow Flicker is occasionally raised as an issue by close neighbors of wind farm projects. A wind turbine's moving blades can cast a moving shadow on a nearby residence, depending on the time of the year (which determines how low the sun is in the sky) and time of day. It is possible to calculate very precisely whether a flickering shadow will in fact fall on a given location near a wind farm, and how many hours in a year it will do so. Therefore, it should be easy to determine whether this is a potential problem.

Normally, it should not be a problem in the U.S., because at U.S. latitudes (except in Alaska) the sun's angle is not very low in the sky, and the appropriate setback for noise (see above) will be sufficient to prevent shadow flicker problems

Danish energy and environment government agencies have released their findings at the conclusion of an eight-year study on the impacts of the world’s two largest offshore wind farms, Horns Rev and Nysted, on the aquatic ecosystem including birds, fish, seals and benthic life.

“The Thermal Animal Detection System (TADS) provides empirical evidence that waterbird collisions are rare events. Collision risk modelling and bird tracking by radar as well as visual observations show that many waterbirds species tend to avoid the wind farm, changing flight direction some kilometers away to deflect their path around the site. Birds flying through the wind farm tend to alter altitude to avoid the risk of collision. Under adverse weather conditions, which were thought to be likely to increase collision risk, results show that waterbirds tend to avoid flying”.

“Radar studies at Horns Rev and Nysted also confirm that may birds entering the wind farms re-orientate to fly down between turbine rows, frequently equidistant between turbines, further minimizing collision risk.”

“Avian avoidance behavior of turbines minimized collision risk, and these early post-construction studies show that, despite very heavy common eider migration in the Nysted area, their avoidance of turbines at different spatial scales resulted in very low modelled collision risk…amounting at Nysted (with 95% confidence) to 40-50 common eiders on average per year, less than 0.05% of the annual hunt in Denmark (currently approx 70,000 birds).”

“The Danish research has developed valuable new tools for study of birds in relation to marine wind farms, and has provided insights into the flexibility of waterbird behavioural responses to the hazard of turbines suggestion that collision rates are likely to be less of a problem than often suggested.”

Benthic organisms

“Abundance and biomass of the benthic communities increased at the wind farm sites compared to the native infauna communities. A consequence from the change in community structure was a local increase in biomass at the wind turbine sites by 50 to 150 times”.

“An initial colonisation of high numbers of the common mussel was found at both wind farm sites.”

Mussels still predominate on the wind turbines below-water surface area at Nysted but their concentrations have subsequently been reduced at Horns Rev due to an increase in predators, particularly starfish

“At both wind farm sites, fish were often found swimming around the artificial reef structures apparently searching for food and shelter”.

Yet fish populations at the wind farms appear to be similar to what they were before the construction of the wind farms.

“A likely explanation is that the hard substrate habitats at Horns Rev were still young and biologically immature at the time of surveying. Therefore, the reef effect at Horns Rev may become more pronounced in the coming years as colonisation and development of the biological communities progress. At Nysted, the effect was weak presumably because the benthic community consisted of a monoculture of large common mussels that are only moderately attractive to most fish species.”

“Investigations into the effects on fish and fish behaviour from electromagnetic fields were made at Nysted. Data have documented some effects from the cable route on fish behaviour indicating avoidance of the cable as well as attraction, depending on the species.”

Note on electric cables and fish: Cape Wind’s electric cables are proposed to be buried twice as deeply as those in Denmark. Because of the shallower cabling offshore Denmark, trawling / dragging fishing gear is prohibited in the offshore wind farms area (other types of fishing gear are allowed). In the case of Cape Wind, cables will be buried at sufficient depth to allow all existing fishing gear types to continue to operate on Horseshoe Shoal.

“A sociological and environmental economic study reveals that both the local and national populations are positive towards the offshore wind farms.”

Survey results in the report indicate a positive attitude toward existing and future offshore wind farms in Denmark is held by about 80% of the general population, by almost 90% among residents who live closest to Horns Rev and about 75% for residents of Nysted.

The interviews reveal that there were two major concerns which caused the initial opposition [of the Horns Rev offshore wind farm]. Firstly, the respondents pointed to the decision-making process which was seen as highly centralised and with no local “co-decision” when it came to placing the wind farm. Secondly, there was a major concern that the wind farm would cause extensive visual intrusions and thereby result in a radical reduction in the number of visiting tourists. As time has passed the discontent with the decision process has worn off and the negative effect on tourism has not occurred thus resulting in reduced opposition

Most opposition to offshore wind farms in Denmark appears to be related to local visual impact, although there have been concerns about possible environmental impacts raised particularly by fishermen and ornithologists. It would be interesting to see whether public attitudes to offshore wind farms will become more positive in the light of evidence from studies at Horns Rev and Nysted, such as summarized in this book, indicating little or no adverse effects on the environment at these sites.”

Public opinion in support of wind power tends to become even more strongly in favor once the wind turbines are installed and operating, a finding from several surveys carried out in the UK and in Spain.

Some people who live near proposed wind projects may be apprehensive about them. But when accurate information and knowledge is made available, experience shows that initial concerns are reduced and support for wind farms increases.

Local opposition to proposed wind farms usually arises because some people perceive that the development will spoil the view that they are used to. It is true that a large wind farm can be a significant change, but while some people express concern about the effect wind turbines have on the beauty of our landscape, others see them as elegant and beautiful, or symbols of a better, less polluted future.

The visual effect of wind farms is a subjective issue, but most of the other criticisms made about wind energy today are exaggerated or untrue, and simply reflect attempts by particular groups to discredit the technology, worry local communities, and turn them against proposed projects. In the electronic age, myths and misinformation about wind power spread at lightning speed

12:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


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6:58 PM  

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