Fact check: Bond bashes wind, mangles facts
[An updated version of this post containing more information is now available.]
A column in today's Denver Post by retired energy executive Mike Bond (who also happens to be an outspoken opponent of a wind farm near his home on the Hawaiian island of Molokai) takes aim at wind power, but the facts are the only casualties.
Many if not all of the numbers in Mr. Bond's piece appear to have been pulled out of thin air, as they are far above or below actual values (in each case to wind's disadvantage). Some specific factual issues follow:
T. Boone Pickens quote appears fabricated. Mr. Bond quotes billionaire T. Boone Pickens as saying, "The only thing green about wind power is the money it puts in my pocket." While the phrase "the only thing green about wind" is a favorite sentence starter of anti-wind individuals and groups around the world, and is attributed by them to Mr. Pickens on a few occasions, a fairly serious Google search fails to turn up any instance in which he is actually directly quoted by a reputable source. Readers who can prove that this is not a fabricated quote are invited to do so.
The cost of the federal wind energy Production Tax Credit (PTC) is far below the number cited by Mr. Bond. The PTC has leveraged $15.5 billion each year on average over the past five years, at an estimated average annual cost of $1.36 billion, according to the most recent estimate from Congress's Joint Committee on Taxation.
The amount of electricity generated by wind projects is far higher than the numbers cited by Mr. Bond. U.S. Department of Energy data show average wind projects in the U.S. produce 30% of their nameplate output over the course of a year (capacity factor) (http://eetd.lbl.gov/ea/emp/
Because it displaces electricity generated from fossil fuels, wind-generated electricity cuts pollution. The Bentek study Mr. Bond cites has been discredited as a seriously flawed, non-peer-reviewed attack piece by the fossil fuel industry paid for by a fossil fuel industry lobby group. Even Bentek’s own followup study found that in many regions, wind’s emissions savings are as large or larger than the numbers we at AWEA have estimated. DOE data confirms that electric sector pollution has fallen drastically in lock step as states like Colorado have ramped up their wind generation. For example, it shows that electric sector CO2 emissions in Colorado fell 7% between 2006 and 2009, as wind grew from providing 1.7% of Colorado’s electricity to 6.3% of the state’s electricity, even though total electricity consumption remained the same. More than a dozen utility, independent grid operator, and government analyses have looked at the emissions savings of wind, and all have found them to be as large as, or larger than, expected. The reason for this is that wind tends to disproportionately offset dirtier coal generation relative to natural gas generation. It is more accurate to talk about a need to back up fossil and nuclear plants, which fail unexpectedly and instantaneously, than wind projects, whose output changes slowly and predictably.
Wind projects do not lower property values. See http://eetd.lbl.gov/ea/ems/
Wind power's impact on birds is modest. Contrary to Mr. Bond's claims, the wind power industry has modest impacts on birds compared to other forms of energy generation and should be viewed in context with vastly more significant sources of mortality such as buildings, communication towers, or vehicle collisions. Further, we do more to study, monitor, and mitigate for the impacts we do have than any other sector. Studies comparing the impacts of different energy sources consistently find wind power’s impact among the lowest—not surprising given that it requires no mining or drilling for fuel, uses virtually no water, and creates no air pollution, water pollution, or greenhouse gases.