'Green' energy comes with own problems

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Is it green, or isn't it?

That's the crux of more and more ecological questions as Americans debate renewable energy and climate change. Critics question the true savings of alternative fuels, nuclear energy -- renamed "terrestrial energy" by some proponents -- operates under the radioactive cloud left behind by Chernobyl, energy-saving lights don't really illuminate, and breaking one creates a mercury spill.

Now one of the fastest-growing alternative sources of energy has run afoul of ecology's most significant icon.

Officials expect as many as 40,000 turbines will be erected in the windiest parts of the country as the United States attempts to incorporate clean, renewable energy.

The trouble is, those same winds provide friendly skies for migratory birds, specifically whooping cranes, once down to as few as 16 but now numbering about 266 in the wild.

The whoopers generally fly higher enough to clear the turbines, but landing at night, and taking off in the morning with poor visibility, they are in danger of striking the turbines and transmission lines.

Critics also worry that the growing wind farms will use up more and more of the land the birds use for stops on their migration.

Should the construction of wind farms be shut down because they may kill a few birds? Certainly not, but everything that can be done, to prevent injury and death to whoopers and migratory birds, should be done.

It's just one more example of the old axiom, "there's no free lunch." If energy doesn't come from the wind, which endangers birds, it'll come from coal or oil, with transportation and pollution problems, nuclear, hydro or even solar, which have problems of their own.

As we must will all types of alternative energy, we must, and we will, find ways to overcome the obstacles that accompany wind power.

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  • The problems presented here result from wind generation being considered only suitable as a large-scale replacement source in our overall scheme of centralized production and distribution. Most, if not all of the problems mentioned in the editorial would be circumvented or avoided altogether by the use of small-scale vertical axis wind turbines integrated into a comprehensive coordinated system of electrical production alongside other technologies such as photovoltaic panels at the point of consumption. The article does, in my opinion illustrate one of the problems that has long plagued alternate energy considerations and that is the inability or unwillingness to think beyond our usual modes of production, distribution, and consumption.

    -- Posted by davis_x_machina on Thu, Feb 28, 2008, at 4:38 PM
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