Good News from Vineyard Wind in Rhode Island

RI official applauds wind farm layout announcement

RI official applauds wind farm layout announcement: Says Vineyard Wind agreeing to plan it rejected nearly 2 years ago. By Bruce Mohl – Nov 20, 2019

THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR of the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council applauded Vineyard Wind and four other companies for agreeing to a common layout for their New England offshore wind farms, but he said the configuration the firms are proposing is exactly what his agency pressed Vineyard Wind to adopt nearly two years ago.

Grover Fugate said the decision by the wind farm developers to go with a standard east-west orientation with each turbine one nautical mile apart settles a lot of concerns about how fishing, navigation, and search and rescue operations can coexist with the developing offshore wind industry. “I think it takes a lot of the issues off the table,” he said.

Getting issues off the table was a big priority for all the companies, as the industry is temporarily stalled while the Coast Guard and the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management are trying to decide how Vineyard Wind’s first-in-the-nation proposal will mesh with other projects coming along in the development pipeline. While some fishing interests are still grumbling about this week’s turbine layout proposal, Fugate’s personal endorsement is a strong signal the initiative is likely to pass muster with both fishermen and federal regulators.

Still, Fugate can’t help but chuckle how Vineyard Wind came around to the council’s point of view. “The alignment that they’re doing is what we were trying to get Vineyard Wind to do two years ago,” Fugate said. At the time, Vineyard Wind had proposed 84 turbines arranged on a northwest-southeast orientation, with the turbines nearly nine-tenths of a nautical mile apart. The council, representing fishing interests, pressed for an east-west orientation with one nautical mile between the turbines. Vineyard Wind resisted, insisting it was on a tight schedule to take advantage of a federal tax credit and it had already spent $25 million taking core samples from the ocean floor at each of its proposed turbine locations.

“They said it would have killed the project if we delayed it,” he said.

In February, the council and its Fishermen’s Advisory Board grumbled about Vineyard Wind’s proposed layout but nevertheless gave their blessing after the company agreed to make $4.2 million in payments to commercial fishermen over 30 years and create a $12.5 million trust to cover additional costs. If the council and its advisory board had voted against the Vineyard Wind project and ended up being overruled on appeal, they could have ended up with nothing.

Now the council may get the wind farm layout it wanted plus the settlement money it negotiated earlier. (“Our lawyers are looking at it,” Fugate said.)

Fugate said the biggest advantage of the layout proposed by the five wind farm developers is its simplicity, allowing the east-west lanes to be used for fishing and the north-south lanes for navigation. He said the east-west lanes can alternate between fixed-gear fishing (lobster) and mobile-gear fishing (squid). Fugate said the layout would appear to satisfy most fishermen, but he acknowledged some still want additional two-mile navigation lanes cutting through the wind farm areas.

A big questionmark now is whether Vineyard Wind can build its wind farm even if it passes federal muster. Fugate said the company told the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council nearly two years ago that the project would go belly up if it was delayed. In mid-July, the company said the project would be at risk if it wasn’t approved by federal regulators in six weeks. In early August, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management put the wind farm on hold indefinitely, but Vineyard Wind insisted the “project remains viable and continues to move ahead.” The joint announcement on wind farm layout earlier this week suggests Vineyard Wind continues to believe the project is viable, even though its original timetable has been blown up.

A spokesman for Vineyard Wind declined to comment on the record. In a letter to the Coast Guard released on Tuesday, the five companies — Vineyard Wind, Eversource Energy, Mayflower Wind, Orsted North America, and Equinor Wind — laid out why the standard configuration serves all interests best. “The New England leaseholders are proude to be working together to present a collaborative solution that we believe accommodates all ocean users in the region,” they said.

Friend of Fish and the Oceans

WWW is a friend of fish and all the creatures living in our oceans!

Even as the oceans are acidifying and warming at alarming rates, and species are migrating northwards, the opposition to off-shore wind energy suggests wind farms will bring harm to fish, or to whales, etc.  Healthy oceans spell abundant fish and are good for the fishing industry and some fishermen recognize this.

In our opening statement regarding the South Fork Wind Farm, pinned to the top of this blog it sta­­tes:

WILL THIS HURT OUR FISHERMEN?
After listening to commercial fishermen, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management made sure that wind turbines and cable will avoid Cox’s Ledge, a valuable commercial fishing area. In fact, existing wind turbines off Block Island attract marine life to them, imitating an artificial reef.

For years, researchers have warned that the increasing acidity of the oceans is likely to create a whole host of problems for the marine environment. Check it out: the evidence is already here.

One of the biggest problems is that zooplankton is shifting poleward as a result of warming ocean temperatures. The findings, published in the journal Nature, show the widespread impact climate change is having on marine ecosystems. Scientists have warned that while some species will be able to follow their food source to new waters, many others will not. Even at 1 degree [Celsius] of warming, species have to adapt because their food source has disappeared. As an example, read about the migration of stingrays that have wiped out oyster beds in the Chesapeake Bay and have moved to the Peconic Bay this year!

Here is something fun you can do. Go to https://poshtide.threadless.com/collections. Pick your favorite fish (or shell fish) design and order a holiday gift: tee shirt, slippers, back pack, pillow, beach towel, zip pouch, or even a shower curtain! If you are on Instagram check out @staceyposnett an incredibly gifted artist and designer and a big environmentalist. You can also order custom items which include the Win With Wind logo.

https://poshtide.com/

https://poshtide.threadless.com

Poshtide@gmail.com

https://winwithwind.files.wordpress.com/2019/11/screen-shot-2019-11-05-at-8.45.32-pm.png?w=955

Example of items on Poshtide with the oyster motif!

About the artist:

Take-aways from the new LIPA Fact Sheet

For what it’s worth, here are my main take-aways from the new LIPA Fact Sheet (attached below with highlights added) on the South Fork Wind Farm:

1.       South Fork Wind Farm was the least cost solution to meet increasing electric demand on the South Fork and New York’s renewable energy mandates.

2.       LIPA’s share of New York State’s 9,000 MW offshore wind target is over 1,000 MW and SF Wind Farm is the first of many projects to meet the Long Island goal.

3.       The South Fork RFP Portfolio (Wind+Storage+Demand Response) will cost the average residential customer on LI between $1.39 and $1.57 per month.

4.       The price LIPA pays for the 90 MW SFWF starts at 16 c/kWh; the price for the additional 40 MW (contracted in Nov. ’18) starts at 8.6 c/kWh (this additional energy was the lowest cost renewable energy ever on LI at the time). The combined cost for the 130 MW would be about 13.7c/kWh in the first year. Prices escalate at an average 2% per year for 20 years. 

5.       Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE) over 20 years for the combined 130 MW SFWF is 14.1¢/kwh (in 2018 dollars, using a 6.5% discount rate). Cost of other planned projects in the region are projected to be significantly lower but an ‘apple-to-apple’ comparison is difficult because these projects are much larger and benefit from economies of scale. They were also selected later and thus benefitted from lower industry price levels. 

6.       Prices for offshore wind power have declined rapidly in Europe due to increased investment and improving technology and we are now seeing price declines in the emerging U.S. offshore wind industry.

7.       LIPA’s future offshore wind purchases will total over 800 MW, and will cost less as a result of expected price decreases. LIPA will also buy an estimated 90 MW of offshore wind from the recently announced 1,700 MW of New York State projects (by NYSERDA).

8.       As a result of procuring offshore wind power spread out over many years (a decade or so) as prices decline, LIPA’s overall offshore wind portfolio cost will be minimized.

9.       When comparing costs of renewable energy to conventional sources we also need to account for costs which are typically not accounted for such as the cost of air pollution, climate, unknown fuel price risk, etc.

The bottom line, as I see it, is that all this demonstrates that the South Fork Wind Farm not only provides us with local, renewable and reliable power but does so at an affordable price. And over time we will get more and more offshore wind power at even lower prices. This will result in a very affordable average bill impact and could even provide significant savings over fossil fueled power if natural gas prices turn out to be higher than currently forecast.

I’m attaching a marked-up version of the LIPA Fact Sheet where I highlighted sections discussing some of the above points in context.

Best, Gordian Raacke, Executive Director

Renewable Energy Long Island

facebook.com/RenewableEnergyLongIsland

twitter.com/LIGreenGuide

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Stunning misinformation from Wainscott opponents!

I got this in my Inbox:

Kinsella’s price calculation of 24.6 cents/kWh is hilarious! ­He can’t be serious about just adding the two numbers.

To calculate the combined per kWh cost of the 130 MW project one has to calculate the weighted cost of each component:

Output from the first 90 MW at an agreed starting price of 16 c/kWh with another 40 MW at 8.6c/kWh results in a price of:

(90 MW x $0.16 + 40 MW x $0.086)/(90 MW + 40 MW) = $0.137231 or about 13.7 cents per kWh in the first year.

Simple arithmetic. And LIPA’s Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE) calculation over 20 years on page 3 of their fact sheet confirms the combined price in the footnote as 14.1 cents/kWh:

Grand challenges in the science of wind energy

This review Appeared in the Journal “Science”, one of the premier Journals in the world.

Authored by Paul Veers1,*, and 28 other scientists.  Science  25 Oct 2019:
Vol. 366, Issue 6464, eaau2027
DOI: 10.1126/science.aau2027

I have copied the abstract and tried to sum up the salient points. Basically, the success of Wind (and Solar) energy, and the predicted growth of the industry, has led to new challenges. Innovations are needed to handle the predicted future demand for clean energy.

Abstract

Harvested by advanced technical systems honed over decades of research and development, wind energy has become a mainstream energy resource. However, continued innovation is needed to realize the potential of wind to serve the global demand for clean energy. Here, we outline three interdependent, cross-disciplinary grand challenges underpinning this research endeavor. The first is the need for a deeper understanding of the physics of atmospheric flow in the critical zone of plant operation. The second involves science and engineering of the largest dynamic, rotating machines in the world. The third encompasses optimization and control of fleets of wind plants working synergistically within the electricity grid. Addressing these challenges could enable wind power to provide as much as half of our global electricity needs and perhaps beyond.

Introduction:

Abundant, affordable energy in many forms has enabled notable human achievements, including modern food and transportation infrastructure. Broad-based access to affordable and clean energy will be critical to future human achievements and an elevated global standard of living. However, by 2050, the global population will reach an estimated 9.8 billion, up from ~7.6 billion in 2017 (1). Moreover, Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) estimates suggest that annual global electricity demand could exceed 38,000 terawatt-hours per year by 2050, up from ~25,000 terawatt-hours in 2017 (2). The demand for low- or no-carbon technologies for electricity is increasing, as is the need for electrifying other energy sectors, such as heating and cooling and transport (24). As a result of these two partially coupled megatrends, additional sources of low-cost, clean energy are experiencing increasing demand around the globe. With a broadly available resource and zero-cost fuel, as well as exceptionally low life-cycle pollutant emissions, wind energy has the potential to be a primary contributor to the growing clean energy needs of the global community.

During the past decade, the cost of three major electricity sources—wind power, solar power, and natural gas—has decreased substantially. Wind and solar are attractive because their low life-cycle emissions offer public health and broader environmental benefits. Leading energy forecasters such as consultancies, nongovernmental organizations, and major energy companies—and specifically BNEF, DNV GL, the International Energy Agency (IEA), and BP—anticipate continued price parity among all of these sources, which will likely result in combined wind and solar supplying between one- and two-thirds of the total electricity demand and wind-only shares accounting for one-quarter to one-third across the globe by 2050 (36). Tapping the potential terawatts of wind energy that could drive the economic realization of these forecasts and subsequently moving from hundreds of terawatt-hours per year to petawatt-hours per year from wind and solar resources could provide an array of further economic and environmental benefits to both local and global communities.

From a business perspective, at just over 51 gigawatts of new wind installations in 2018 (7) and more than half a terawatt of operating capacity, the global investment in wind energy is now ~$100 billion (U.S. dollars) per annum. The energy consultant DNV GL predicts that wind energy demand and the scale of deployment will grow by a factor of 10 by 2050, bringing the industry to the trillion-dollar scale (6) and positioning wind as one of the primary sources of the world’s electricity generation.

However, to remain economically attractive for investors and consumers, the cost of energy from wind must continue to decrease (8, 9). Moreover, as deployment of variable-output wind and solar generation infrastructure increases, new challenges surface related to the adequacy of generation capacity on a long-term basis and short-term balancing of the systems—both of which are critical to maintaining future grid system stability and reliability (1012).

A future in which wind energy contributes one-third to more than one-half of consumed electricity, and in which local levels of wind-derived power may exceed 100% of local demand, will require a paradigm shift in how we think about, develop, and manage the electric grid system (1014). The associated transformation of the power system in high-renewables scenarios will require simultaneous management of large quantities of weather-driven, variable-output generation as well as evolving and dynamic consumption patterns.

A key aspect of this future system is the availability of large quantities of near-zero marginal cost energy, albeit with uncertain timing. With abundant near-zero marginal cost energy, more flexibility in the overall electricity system will allow many different end users to access these “cheap” energy resources. Potential use cases for this energy could entail charging a large number of electric vehicles, providing inexpensive storage at different system sizes (consumer to industrial) and time scales (days to months), or channeling into chemicals or other manufactured products (sometimes referred to as “power-to-X” applications).

A second key aspect of this future system is the transition from an electric grid system centered on traditional synchronous generation power plants to one that is converter dominated (15). This latter paradigm reduces the physical inertia in the system currently provided by traditional power plants while increasing reliance on information and digital signals to maintain the robustness and power quality of the modern grid (12).

Here are some interesting figures from the this Review:

Fig. 1 Global cumulative installed capacity (in gigawatts) for wind energy and estimated levelized cost of energy (LCOE) for the U.S. interior region in cents per kilowatt-hour from 1980 to the present.Historical LCOE data are from (17) and (20) and have been verified for all but 5 years with the U.S. wind industry statistics database detailed in (17). LCOE data have been smoothed with a combination of polynomial best fit and linear interpolations to emphasize the long-term trends in wind energy costs. Historical installed capacity data are from the database detailed in (17), the Global Wind Energy Council, and the American Wind Energy Association.
Fig. 2 Wind turbine blade innovation comparing a modern commercial blade (top) and a commercial blade from the mid-1980s (bottom) scaled to the same length.The modern blade is 90% lighter than the scaled 1980s technology.
NATIONAL RENEWABLE ENERGY LABORATORY (NREL) BASED ON A CONCEPT BY HENRIK STIESDAL AND KENNETH THOMSEN (SIEMENS GAMESA)
Fig. 3 Relevant wind power scales across space—from large-scale atmospheric effects in local weather at the mesoscale to inter- and intraplant flows and topography at the microscale.
ILLUSTRATION: BESIKI KAZAISHVILI, NREL
Fig. 4 Wind turbine blades are complex composite shell structures in which small-scale manufacturing flaws can grow because of the incessant turbulence-driven loading that can cause large-scale problems.
PHOTOS: NREL; ILLUSTRATION: BESIKI KAZAISHVILI, NREL
Fig. 5 Power generated by the weather-driven plant must connect to the electrical grid and support the stability, reliability, and operational needs on time scales ranging from microseconds (for managing disturbances) to decades (for long-term planning).
ILLUSTRATION: JOSH BAUER AND BESIKI KAZAISHVILI, NREL
Fig. 6 A spectrum of science, engineering, and mathematics disciplines that, if integrated, can comprehensively address the grand challenges in wind energy science.
ILLUSTRATION: JOSH BAUER, NREL

Offshore windfarms ‘can provide more electricity than the world needs’

Supplies from turbines will prove to be the next great energy revolution, IEA predicts – International Energy Agency (IEA)

Jillian Ambrose Energy correspondent

In the Guardian, Fri 25 Oct 2019 04.23 EDT First published on Thu 24 Oct 2019 14.45 EDT

“Offshore wind currently provides just 0.3% of global power generation, but its potential is vast,” the IEA’s executive director, Fatih Birol, said.

The study predicts offshore wind generation will grow 15-fold to emerge as a $1tn (£780bn) industry in the next 20 years and will prove to be the next great energy revolution.

The IEA said earlier this week that global supplies of renewable electricity were growing faster than expected and could expand by 50% in the next five years, driven by a resurgence in solar energy. Offshore wind power would drive the world’s growth in clean power due to plummeting costs and new technological breakthroughs, including turbines close to the height of the Eiffel Tower and floating installations that can harness wind speeds further from the coast.

The next generation of floating turbines capable of operating further from the shore could generate enough energy to meet the world’s total electricity demand 11 times over in 2040, according to IEA estimates.

The report predicts that the EU’s offshore wind capacity will grow from almost 20 gigawatts today to nearly 130 gigawatts by 2040, and could reach 180 gigawatts with stronger climate commitments.

In China, the growth of offshore wind generation is likely to be even more rapid, the IEA said. Its offshore wind capacity is forecast to grow from 4 gigawatts to 110 gigawatts by 2040 or 170 gigawatts if it adopts tougher climate targets.

Birol said offshore wind would not only contribute to generating clean electricity, but could also offer a major opportunity in the production of hydrogen, which can be used instead of fossil fuel gas for heating and in heavy industry.

The process of making hydrogen from water uses huge amounts of electricity but abundant, cheap offshore wind power could help produce a low-cost, zero-carbon alternative to gas.

In the North Sea, energy companies are already planning to use the electricity generated by giant offshore windfarms to turn seawater into hydrogen on a floating “green hydrogen” project, backed by the UK government. The clean-burning gas could be pumped back to shore to heat millions of homes by the 2030s. The UK has committed to reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The overlap between the UK’s declining oil and gas industry and the burgeoning offshore wind sector could offer major economic benefits for the UK, Birol said.

“Offshore wind provides a huge new business portfolio for major engineering firms and established oil and gas companies which have a strong offshore production experience,” he said. “Our analysis shows that 40% of the work in offshore wind construction and maintenance has synergies with oil and gas practises.”

We have some news… about how we will respond to the escalating climate crisis – we will not stay quiet. This is the Guardian’s pledge: we will continue to give global heating, wildlife extinction and pollution the urgent attention and prominence they demand. The Guardian recognises the climate emergency as the defining issue of our times.

Our independence means we are free to investigate and challenge inaction by those in power. We will inform our readers about threats to the environment based on scientific facts, not driven by commercial or political interests. And we have made several important changes to our style guide to ensure the language we use accurately reflects the environmental catastrophe.

The Guardian believes that the problems we face on the climate crisis are systemic and that fundamental societal change is needed. We will keep reporting on the efforts of individuals and communities around the world who are fearlessly taking a stand for future generations and the preservation of human life on earth. We want their stories to inspire hope. We will also report back on our own progress as an organisation, as we take important steps to address our impact on the environment.

The Guardian made a choice: to keep our journalism open to all. We do not have a paywall because we believe everyone deserves access to factual information, regardless of where they live or what they can afford.

We hope you will consider supporting the Guardian’s open, independent reporting today. Every contribution from our readers, however big or small, is so valuable

An introduction to the state of wind power in the U.S.

Yale Climate Connections

Rural and often conservative states are leading the way in harnessing the wind.

By Philip Warburg; Monday, October 7, 2019
Farm and wind turbine
The Meadow Lake Wind Farm, northwest of Indianapolis, generates enough power for 220,000 average Indiana homes. (Photo credit: Philip Warburg)

Advances in technology, improved economics, and broad political support are making wind power a formidable twenty-first century energy resource. Top-ranking Denmark draws 41% of its electricity from wind; Ireland follows with 28%; the European Union as a whole gets 14% of its power from wind.

America’s wind farms currently produce 6.6% of the nation’s electricity. As a share of total power generation, that may sound relatively modest, but the U.S. ranks second only to China in the quantity of power-generating capacity that comes from wind. Moreover, the U.S. has scarcely begun to tap its vast wind power potential. On land, U.S. wind resources are capable of yielding about nine times the nation’s power needs. Offshore wind – wholly unexploited to date – could meet nearly twice the nation’s electricity demand.

Looking ahead, the Department of Energy has prepared a scenario for 35% wind reliance by 2050. While that level of wind generation sounds like major progress, it may be substantially less than is needed for renewable energy resources to be the primary drivers of a net-zero carbon U.S. economy.

Wind power’s evolution

Wind power has served various purposes in America since colonial times, but it first became available as a source of electricity in the early 20th century, when modestly scaled wind chargers supplied power to thousands of American homesteads and farm operations. Soon, however, a built-out grid brought centrally generated electricity to the nation’s rural areas, leaving little room for small-scale wind. It wasn’t until the mid-1970s that the Arab oil embargo and a growing interest in renewable energy gave rise to a second wave of American wind power.

In 1978, the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA) broke open the U.S. power market by requiring utilities to buy electricity from independent companies so long as they could generate electricity at less than the “avoided cost” of new utility-generated power. That law paved the way for America’s first commercial wind farm developers. A federal investment tax credit gave wind farms an additional push, particularly in California where a matching state tax credit earned renewable energy investors a 50% combined tax break.

These incentives created a super-heated climate for eager wind energy entrepreneurs. Often relying on minimally tested technology, California’s early wind farms experienced a high rate of mechanical and structural failure, supplying ample fodder to politicians who much preferred mining domestic coal and drilling for oil and gas.

The federal investment tax credit lapsed in 1985 and the California tax credit ratcheted down over the subsequent two years, slowing commitments to new wind projects. A federal incentive for wind was revived in 1992, but this time it was reformulated as a production tax credit that rewarded the actual generation of electricity. Hampered by repeated delays in reauthorization, the federal production tax credit has nevertheless been a key catalyst to wind power’s ascent, reinforced by widely adopted state-level renewable electricity standards that require utilities to increase their reliance on wind and other sources of renewable energy.

The scaling up and declining cost of wind power

The average wind turbine today is nearly three times taller than turbines built in the early 1990s. [See Figure 1.] This allows modern wind farms to tap the stronger, more constant winds that prevail at higher altitudes. Because wind power increases as the cube of wind speed, the gains from taller towers are particularly momentous.

A further boost to output comes from development and use of much larger rotors. Applying the formula for the area of a circle (A= π r2), an increase in blade length (i.e. rotor radius) translates into a disproportionate expansion of the rotor’s “swept area,” a key to determining the amount of wind that is captured and converted into electricity.

Figure 1
Source: Berkeley Lab, 2016

While wind turbines have grown dramatically in size, the cost of building and operating U.S. wind farms has dropped in recent years, making them now fully competitive with the two other leading sources of new power generation: solar photovoltaics and combined cycle gas. According to Lazard, the levelized cost of land-based wind power ranges from $29 to $56 per megawatt-hour; photovoltaics cost from $36 to $46 per megawatt-hour; and combined cycle gas runs from $41 to $74 per megawatt-hour. Nuclear power is much more expensive at $112 to $189 per megawatt-hour.

The geopolitics of wind

As a non-carbon-emitting technology, wind power has a big environmental advantage over its leading fossil fuel competitors. Onshore and offshore wind has a life cycle carbon footprint of 20 grams or less of CO2 equivalent per kilowatt-hour. The “cleanest” natural gas power plants – those that use combined cycle technology – produce more than 400 grams of CO2 equivalent per kilowatt-hour. Supercritical coal plants – the least polluting in the industry – generate close to 800 grams of CO2 equivalent per kilowatt-hour.

While attractive to many who see climate change as a real and immediate threat, wind power has developed much of its momentum in relatively conservative rural states [see Table 1]. In 2018, 13 states in the nation’s interior region accounted for more than 80% of new wind capacity additions.

Table 1
Source: American Wind Energy Association, 2019

Robust and relatively steady winds in the so-called Wind Belt, from Texas on up through the Dakotas, partially account for the heartland’s heavy investment in wind [see map]. Economics are also at play. Not only are many of the 111,000 American wind power jobs located in rural areas, but substantial financial benefits accrue to farmers and ranchers who lease out small sections of their lands to wind developers. Wind farm-generated tax revenues have also aided many cash-strapped rural communities.

NREL image
Source: National Renewable Energy Laboratory, AWS Truepower

Watching out for birds and bats

Estimates vary, but hundreds of thousands of birds per year are thought to be killed by wind turbines, and those numbers are expected to rise as wind power’s use expands.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has an Avian Radar Project that helps wind developers identify and steer clear of major bird migratory corridors when siting new wind farms. At some operating wind farms where raptors and other vulnerable bird species may be present, specialized detection equipment and human monitors can halt turbines as birds approach.

While bird fatalities are certainly cause for concern, wind energy proponents urge that they be viewed in perspective. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that 365 to 988 million birds die each year by crashing into building windows, and 89 to 340 million die in collisions with cars. Communication towers and electric utility lines cause millions of additional bird deaths annually. And the ravages of climate change caused by fossil fuel burning will wipe out vastly greater numbers of birds as entire ecosystems are disrupted.

Efforts are also being made to minimize harm to bats living near wind farms. Because bats generally fly in low winds hunting for insects, studies have shown that their mortality rates can be minimized by curtailing wind operations during these times – precisely when there are limited economic gains from keeping turbines running. The Beech Ridge Wind Energy Project, located in a wooded area of West Virginia, has been particularly engaged in these curtailment efforts.

Wind noise

Another commonly expressed concern involves noise resulting from wind power, with neighbors’ complaints ranging from irritability, headaches, and insomnia caused by audible sound to more tenuous claims of inner ear and sense of balance disturbances attributed to ultra-low frequency infrasound. While the transmission of turbine-generated sound can vary with topography and weather conditions, setting a minimum setback for wind turbines from the nearest inhabited buildings and outdoor public spaces is one important step that state and local governing bodies can take to protect wind farm neighbors and reduce public resistance to proposed projects.

Offshore wind – the next frontier

Though well advanced in several European nations, U.S. offshore wind got off to an unfortunate start with New England’s hotly contested Cape Wind project. Proposed for shallow waters near upscale vacation communities on Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket, Cape Wind met with vigorous opposition. Substantially funded by fossil fuel interests, opponents objected to the project’s high cost to ratepayers, but the anticipated visual impact of turbines on Nantucket Sound drew particular hostility. Backers abandoned Cape Wind in 2018.

There’s new and increasing hope for U.S. offshore wind, with numerous federal leases opening up large expanses of ocean acreage from New England down through the mid-Atlantic. Technology advances, including floating turbines, make it possible to place wind farms in deeper waters, farther from populated coastal areas. Equally important, much lower project costs now make offshore wind a realistic competitor with other sources of power generation. Public concern and official analyses now focus on balancing wind development with fisheries and marine mammal protection and with navigational safety.

The way forward

As U.S. reliance on wind power grows, there is an increased need to build enough energy storage and demand response capability to absorb surplus power when it’s generated and adjust to shortfalls when they occur. Modernized and expanded transmission also will be required, to manage the flow of electricity from diverse energy resources across broad geographical areas. Prioritizing these investments will be essential if wind is to meet its potential as a bulwark against runaway U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

AUTHOR
Philip Warburg, an environmental lawyer and former president of the Conservation Law Foundation, is the author of Harvest the Wind: America’s Journey to Jobs, Energy Independence, and Climate Stability. On twitter: @pwarburg.

Filed under: Philip Warburg