Monday, May 22, 2006

Wind power from the Darksyde

Via Pharyngula, there's a nice overview of windpower issues at Daily Kos that I've been meaning to point out. A few random comments of mine:

1. I'm not sure that the high jobs created/watt produced ratio is a good thing - it makes wind power seem expensive, unless the jobs produced are low wage, which isn't so great either.

2. The price competitiveness is the big deal with wind. I'd note though that the table makes all the prices suspiciously similar - I expect actual price varies greatly by location. I've little doubt that wind would be the cheapest by far if all externalities, like global warming, were taken into account.

3. Saying wind produces no CO2 is inaccurate, just like it's inaccurate to say the same thing about nukes. Construction and maintenance of wind plants will create emissions.

4. The bird kill table is a striking comparison, showing how few birds are killed by wind power compared to other problems. I expect it understates a loss that would look much bigger if the comparison were only to raptors killed, though, or comparing rare birds that were killed. Much of the global problem with wind kills traces to a single area - Altamont Pass, about 30 miles north of me. Contrary to statements by some of the commenters, the Altamont problem is being fixed, but at a very slow pace.

What would be really intriguing though is to compare harm to birds versus benefits to birds from reduced CO2 emissions. I don't think it would be impossible to take some attempt determining all bird deaths from climate change, pretend ALL emissions could be prevented by a hypothetical conversion to wind power, and assign a fraction of the prevented bird deaths to the proportional output of a single wind farm. I'd bet that even Altamont would save more birds than it kills.

5. I think the statement that "it can reasonably be said that the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages" is spot on.

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