Wind Schism

Anthonares delves into the schisms appearing in the green camp over wind power in this article. It’s well written, and details some of the philosophies underneath the agendas, as I’ve pointed out here in some past posts. (right sidebar, Energy pages I, II, III.)

There are definitely places for wind, but on a level regulatory playing field, wind can’t compete with Nuclear. The article properly points out the failings of coal, and hydrocarbon based energy-generation — it doesn’t matter if it’s biomass, ethanol, wood, coal, or garbage — burning substances to produce power puts poisons in the air. I don’t agree with man-made global warming as the key driver, it’s relatively straight forward to me that the real concern should be clean air for health reasons.

When I lived in the Goldstream Valley near Fairbanks, Alaska, many of the residents used wood for heat. It wasn’t unusal to wake up in the morning with a severe headache that did not clear until you got out of the valley. Temperature inversions would keep the smoke and burn byproducts trapped in the air during winter as a haze, just as Denver sometimes suffers from inversions. Toxicologists will tell you that burning wood is at the top of the heap when it comes to producing pollutants, with coal a close second. (It’s still somewhat debateable whether the phosgenes etc. produced by wood are worse than the radioctivity produced by burning coal.)

Anthony also points out the costs of coal: in an average year coal production takes between 30k and 50k worth of human lives. Some due to silicosis, some from mining and transport mishaps, and with the energy crunch that death toll is once again on the rise as I point out here.

While the article does highlight the pitfalls of wind regarding bird deaths and aesthetics, it fails to mention one of the drivers of cost for windpower. Those windmills take maintenance, and a lot of it. They also take hundreds of miles of cabling. The necessary plant for any reasonably productive windfarm, including trenching, the mining of the copper, the production of the plastics for the cabling, etc. takes quite a bit of resource in itself, and is quite extensive.

Even with that, wind is still viable; however it’s also expensive, variable, and just not as reliable as nuclear. In the end our energy future doesn’t demand a particular solution, it’s my firm belief that over the next century we we need them all, each and every one.