A team of experts in the United Kingdom evaluated the risk of a wind turbine accident. Because actual, real-world wind turbine accidents are extremely rare events (once every 10,000 years per turbine per year), the experts ran millions of simulations of virtually all the possible ways a wind turbine blade can become detached and how far blade pieces could travel. The experts for the United Kingdom Health and Safety Executive summed up their research like this: “The risk of fatality from wind turbines (at 2 hub heights or greater from the turbine) is low in comparison to other societal risks. It is roughly equivalent to the risk of fatality from taking two aircraft flights per annum.” The experts also noted you’re also more likely to die by taking four fairground rides per year than from a wind turbine blade/fragment.
Wind turbine technology has advanced significantly in the past few years, enabling wind farms to sprout up in new areas, particularly in the Southeast. Taller turbines and longer blades are capable of capturing more wind, which results in harnessing more electricity and reducing costs. Even as new wind development promises sustainable economic development in rural counties, in some cases new wind farm proposals are being met with hostility and resistance. North Carolina is a recent example of new turbine technology creating opportunities and opposition, as anti-wind activists use confusion and misinformation to press for wind farm bans that are disguised as regulation.
The renewable energy industry had a powerful ally in the last few years, and 2015 in particular: the corporation. As prices in wind and solar have fallen, support for these technologies in the commercial & industrial (C&I) sector has swelled. In 2015, C&I buyers invested in more than 3 gigawatts (GW) of new renewable energy capacity. Google alone purchased nearly a gigawatt of new wind and solar projects in 2015, making them the largest institutional buyer of renewable energy in the world.
On Wednesday, Speaker of the House, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), introduced the “Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016″. As a part of the 2,009-page bill, wind energy and solar energy will now have a long-term federal incentive. But this policy certainty isn’t a hand-out. Congress is gradually phasing-out the federal incentives for wind energy and solar power between now and 2022/2024 (respectively) – something the fossil fuel and nuclear industries aren’t guaranteed to do, too. Wind and solar power prices have become so cost competitive, market analysts expect that renewable energy resources won’t need the federal tax incentives after they expire.
Wind energy has reached record low prices. Wind energy has reached $32-$77 per megawatt hour (MWh) without federal incentives. If the federal Production Tax Credit or Investment Tax Credit is included, wind energy pricing may be $14-$63/MWh.
Utility-scale solar power has reached record low prices. Solar power has reached $50-$70/MWh without federal incentives.
The favorable environmental assessment helps pave the way for up to 4,000 megawatts of wind power to be delivered into the south. That amount of wind power could generate as much electricity consumed by nearly 1.5 million southern homes and would more than double the amount of wind power purchased in the region. Alabama Power, Georgia Power, Gulf Power, the Southwestern Electric Power Company (SWEPCO) and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) are already purchasing over 3,000 megawatts of wind power, with utilities planning to purchase gigawatts more.
By ignoring the benefits of wind energy, anti-wind activists have concocted a false narrative against the wind energy PTC. Anti-wind activists ignore wind energy benefits including health and air quality improvements (worth 4¢/kWh), fossil fuel price volatility hedging and reduced electric rates (worth 2.3¢/kWh), new local, state and federal tax revenue (a net worth of 0.5¢/kWh) plus water savings (worth 0.2¢/kWh). These otherwise “free” benefits of wind power, and enabled by the wind energy PTC. The facts are clear: wind power’s benefits outweigh any cost associated with the PTC.
In his address to the United Nations, Pope Francis focused on a variety of issues, but paid special attention to the ecological crisis. He stated, “The ecological crisis along, with the large-scale destruction of biodiversity, can threaten the very existence of the human species.” As with his environmental encyclical, Laudato Si, Pope Francis linked the interdependence of humanity with nature (which he frequently referred to as “Creation”). As he put it, “Any harm done to the environment is harm done to humanity.” The harm caused to the environment, as well as to humanity, is a symptom of a “Culture of Waste”, another theme found in Laudato Si stated as a “Throwaway Culture.”
Noticeably absent, Pope Francis did not mention the term “climate change” or “global warming”. But his reference to Laudato Si, which heavily speaks about environmental degradation including climate change, is a nod towards the issue.
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) has released its 2014 Wind Technologies Market Report. This annual report highlights important achievements for the wind industry. Wind power purchase agreement prices have hit record lows. That’s good news for the South, where wind energy is beginning to make inroads. The National Renewable Energy Lab previously found that new innovative turbines, with taller towers and longer blades, open up billions of dollars worth of wind energy opportunity in the South. Listed below are a few highlights from LBNL’s most recent report.