Jesse Ferrell

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Weatherwise Mag Busts Wind Power Myths

October 01, 2008; 11:24 AM

Since we were just discussing wind power on the Outer Banks yesterday, I thought it important to mention that the July/August 2008 issue of Weatherwise Magazine had an interesting article on wind power that busted (I know, it really "burst") some common myths, which I will paraphrase here.

1. Wind turbines kill lots of birds.

FALSE: The number of bird deaths from wind turbines was 0.02% of deaths caused by birds flying into windows BEFORE they modified the turbines to kill even less birds (I suspected this was true when I didn't see dead birds all over the ground during my visit to the local Alleghany Ridge Wind Farm last year.

RANDOM PHOTOS FROM MY TRIP TO THE WIND FARM (RELOAD FOR MORE | SEE ALL)

2. Wind turbines aren't efficient because wind is not consistent.

FALSE: Some wind farms are now interconnected so energy continuously flows out of the array regardless of lulls in wind in one region. Even situations where demand and supply seem opposite are being mitigated. Mixing wind power with hydroelectric power can help this - for example, at night, wind power can be used to move water uphill, which, when released the next day, can provide power even if there is no wind.

3. Wind turbines don't generate enough power to be viable.

FALSE: Although only 13 percent of the world is windy enough to make economic sense, the complete wind power potential for the world is 72 Terawatts, which is 35 times the global electricity demand.

IMPORTANT NOTE: The Department of Energy web site that I posted yesterday, WindPoweringAmerica.Gov, has been taken down. I can't find a replacement for the maps of nationwide wind power potential, like the one that I showed from North Carolina. You can still get some older wind power info on their site here and here, and use a GIS system called the NREL U.S. Atlas of Renewable Resources to obtain the same data (choose "Composite Wind Resources". Below is a copy of that map.

Some more interesting stats:

- The leading wind power producing states are: Texas, California, Minnesota, Iowa, and Washington.

- The leading wind power producing countries outside of the U.S. by capacity are: Germany, Spain, but Denmark generates 20% of their power today from wind turbines

- The biggest untapped areas of wind power potential in the U.S. are the Midwest and off the East Coast. The East Coast needs 212 GW (gigawatts) of power demand; even considering all possible exclusions (except for aesthetics) the potential beats that demand by 128 GW.

- The U.S. generates less than 2%, but some states such as California have 20% as their goal (for wind and other renewable resources) by 2010.

- Wind power made up 30% of new installed energy capacity in the U.S. last year

Of course, the ultimate success of wind turbines will depend on community acceptance of their aesthetics. I personally think they are not unattractive, but I don't have to live next to one.

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of AccuWeather, Inc. or AccuWeather.com

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Jesse Ferrell
Jesse Ferrell's WeatherMatrix blog covers extreme weather worldwide with a concentration on weather photos and Social Media.