The Production Tax Credit (PTC) is a little-known federal incentive to promote economic development from the private wind industry here in the United States. Wind farms have been slow to develop here in the Southeast, but the region already benefits from the PTC.
To kill the Alabama’s first two wind farms, a small number of local residents is suing Pioneer Green Energy through two separate but very similar lawsuits. While these foes exhibit just about every tell-tale sign of wind farm opposition, they now appear to be borrowing a tactic from high school: plagiarism. Indeed, the lawsuit (which is available online here) mirrors a 2005 lawsuit from Texas where a small number of residents there sued to block a wind farm (text of that lawsuit is available here). By 2008, that Texas lawsuit proved to be a losing strategy on four separate occasions – in front of a trial judge, a trial by jury, by an appeals court and by the Texas Supreme Court through its refusal to reject the lower courts’ decisions. Just like in high school, the consequence of plagiarism is failure and history suggests the plagiarized Alabama lawsuits won’t make the grade.
A study in Energy Policy, found that fossil fueled power plants, on a per unit of energy basis, are estimated to kill 17 times more birds than wind energy. So for every megawatt hour of electricity from a wind farm that replaces fossil fuels, seventeen times as many birds may be saved.
Alabama has become a hotbed of wind energy activity. At least four different wind farms have been proposed across the Yellowhammer State – from upstate, mid-state and downstate Alabama. Alabama Power is buying 404 megawatts of wind energy from the Plains (enough to supply 3% of the company’s power), and the state’s biggest power company just erected a tiny 4 kilowatt turbine on their headquarters building in Birmingham. The flurry of activity has some people asking, “Why?” Here’s just a few reasons that may help explain the interest. State electric costs are high. The wind is better than estimated. Alabama’s Pro-Business. Wind turbines have dramatically improved. Wind energy costs are predictable.
The Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that buildings and windows may kill up to 976 million birds annually (although the FWS website is down due to the government shutdown, you can access a cached version of its website here). Power lines and electrocution could cause up to 176 million bird deaths. Perhaps up to 50 million birds are killed annually from communications towers, like those used for radios, television or cellphones. And let’s not forget about our furry friends: a study published by the University of Georgia-Athens suggests nearly one billion birds may be killed annually in the United States by cats. It has been estimated that for each megawatt of wind power capacity installed, four birds may be killed. Last year, 60,000 megawatts of capacity at wind farms was operating, suggesting 240,000 birds may be killed for more than 4% of the nation’s electricity. Even if the United States produced 100% of its electricity from wind energy, it seems that wind-related bird deaths would still be just a few percent of total deaths from other human activities. To put this all in perspective, a study performed by the National Academy of Sciences concluded that “Clearly, bird deaths caused by wind turbines are a minute fraction of the total anthropogenic bird deaths—less than 0.003%…”
This past year APEX Wind Energy worked with private property owners in Baldwin County, Alabama to propose a 40-turbine wind farm that could power up to 23,000 average homes. On August 6th the Baldwin County Commission passed two ordinances that ban large wind turbines and wind farms. One of the major concerns raised by Baldwin County Commissioner Tucker Dorsey centered around the local tourism industry.
In fact, if developed and marketed properly, the wind farm could become a thriving tourist attraction of its own.
“Across all model specifications, we find no statistical evidence that home prices near wind turbines were affected [...] There is no statistical evidence that homes in either the PAPC [post-announcement, pre-construction] or PC [post-construction] periods that sold near turbines (i.e., within a mile or even a half mile) did so for less than similar homes that sold between 3 and 10 away miles in the same period.”
On November 19, the City of North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina officially became a “wind-powered economic zone” by proclamation of a City Council resolution. This resolution represents true leadership in the realm of clean energy and a genuine effort to better the community through economic development, community pride, and environmental protection. By becoming a wind [...]
About 3,500 megawatts of wind turbine capacity was in the path of Hurricane Sandy. As we wrote on October 26th, it wasn’t expected that Hurricane Sandy would cause much damage to wind turbines. Based on the experience from another Category 1 hurricane (Irene) that struck the Mid-Atlantic last year, the turbines in the region proved that they are built to withstand hurricane-force winds.
Thus far, it appears that no wind turbines suffered catastrophic failure because of Sandy.
Updated information now shows that offshore wind farms are at a lower risk from catastrophic hurricane damage than previously stated. A study published earlier this year by a suite of researchers from Carnegie Mellon University was spread widely through the mainstream media. Unfortunately, both the media, and the researchers, got the information wrong. We highlighted some of the problems of the study in a previous blog post, but it has now come to light that the researchers severely overstated the risk of hurricanes to wind farms.