By Linda Scherer
Almost equivalent to the number of wind turbines sprouting up all over the countryside are the number of books, web sites, and articles on the subject of wind power.
The following are a few facts that might be of interest to anyone who may be thinking about wind as a power source for their home or business:
• The United States is the world’s leading manufacturer of small-wind technologies with approximately two-thirds of the world’s market according to the American Wind Energy Association.
• An investment tax credit is now available for owners of small wind systems with 100 kilowatts of capacity or less to receive a credit for 30 percent of the total installed cost of the system. The tax credit written into law through the Emergency Economic Stabilization Action of 2008 is available for equipment installed from Oct. 3, 2008 through Dec. 31, 2016. The value of the credit is now uncapped through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
• Minnesota ranked fourth in the nation with 1,377 megawatts of installed wind-power capacity through the end of the third quarter of 2008, behind only Texas, California and Iowa, according to the American Wind Energy Association.
• Although wind energy provides just 1 percent of the US electricity supply, it has the potential to account for a much bigger share of the market in the future, according to an article “Something in the Wind,” appearing in the Minnesota Economic Trends magazine for March 2009. A US Department of Energy study projected that wind power could supply 20 percent of US energy within two decades.
• Minneapolis-based Xcel Energy is the fifth largest power utility in the nation and the largest provider of wind-powered energy in the US (2005-06), almost exclusively through contracts with independent wind-farm developers.
Another side to wind power?
There are a lot of positive aspects of capturing the wind and using it as an energy source, but other articles share a negative side to wind power, as well. The following some points freelance writer Earl Jones makes on his view of wind energy in his article “Dark Side of Wind Power” on the web site for PoweredGenerators.com.
• Wind power is not always constant because wind speeds change frequently and if there is not consistent energy from wind farms there could be a brownout all over. To prevent this, there has to be a backup source.
• The number of wind turbines needed to meet the high energy demand requires lots of land to be planted with the turbines, Jones wrote. The process is destroying the land with turbines, cables and material without really knowing the end result.
• The manufacturing of the wind turbines and creating wind farms is another downside to wind energy. Creating massive structures requires lots of material which emits CO2 to the environment and then actually setting the wind turbines into the ground by drilling and setting a base with concrete, sand and other material also emits more and more C02, according to Jones.
• Another major drawback that has not been researched as much as it should is the noise and small vibration from wind farms, Jones writes. The noise produced by wind turbines is definitely noticeable even though some may not find it as unpleasant as others.
There is a book by Dr. Nina Pierpont called Wind Turbine Syndrome: A report on the natural experiment that talks about the possible health issues from living near wind turbines. The book talks about how the lower frequency noise and vibration from the turbines affect the inner ear and can cause difficulty sleeping, mood disorders, childhood terrors, tinnitus, and many other health issues.
• Wind farms also affect wildlife both onshore and offshore, Jones wrote. There is a chance of killing flying animals including migratory birds. For offshore wind farms, there needs to be more research on the effects on fish and other animals nearby like seals. The platforms and noise may drive away fish, seals, and other animals which would in turn drive away other animals and could affect the ecological system in the area.