The pros and cons of wind power are making news


Wind power has been in the news this week:

Offshore wind turbine projects proposed in several states got a boost Wednesday from new rules announced by the Interior Department. These make it likely that proposed wind farms in the Atlantic Ocean that have been delayed by opponents and a jurisdictional dispute between government agencies will move forward toward approval, with several probably getting under way within several years.

As President Obama touted all kinds of renewable energy on Earth Day, he specifically mentioned that in 20 years, the US could be getting 20 percent of its energy from the wind.

Today's interview in Scientific American with Leon Steinberg, CEO of National Wind (which builds wind projects in the Midwest), discusses some of the advantages of wind power as well as a few of the obstacles to achieving the Obama administration's goal.

But a few "discouraging words" about renewable or clean energy in general – and wind power specifically– were also heard:

Not everyone is as enthusiastic about wind power as Obama. Gerry Meyer, who lives about 1,500 feet away from a wind farm in Fond du Lac County, Wis., told the Wall Street Journal that on some days it "sounds like a Chinook helicopter taking off."

Another annoyance from wind farms can be what's called "shadow flicker, a strobe-light effect that sometimes occurs when the sun hits wind turbines at a certain angle," wrote Christine Buurma in the article, RENEWED ENERGY: Noise, Shadows Raise Hurdles For Wind Farms.

Harm to birds and bats has been a persistent problem for wind turbines. Last Thursday, The Washington Post looked into Renewable Energy's Environmental Paradox, wind (and solar) power projects that can adversely impact wildlife, including New Mexico's sandhill cranes. reported that potential problems for offshore wind turbines include not only bird strikes, but hurricanes and "the potential impact on military training that occurs in the Atlantic, said Dennis Scanlin, a senior research scientist with the Energy Center at Appalachian State University, in Boone, N.C."

– Wind power is also attracting interest in Canada, reported the CBC on Tuesday. In "Going green without disrupting the environment," it brings up the appearance issue – do wind farms detract from beautiful scenery? Many people feel that they do. And in areas that draw tourists because of their natural beauty, this can be a dilemma. It's one facing Prince Edward Island.

And that's the main issue on which Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) and his neighbors have been opposing and delaying a Cape Cod wind farm that will be visible from their homes. Discover magazine wrote about it Wednesday: U.S. Approves Offshore Wind Turbines (Even if They Block Kennedy Views).

– There were several reports about the higher costs of clean energy. One was in USA Today.

For Obama, the cost of renewable energy isn't debatable: “The choice we face is not between saving our environment and saving our economy; it’s a choice between prosperity and decline,” he said.

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