The New York Times reports in its “E.P.A. Moves to Curtail Greenhouse Gas Emissions,” that the agency “would place the greatest burden on 400 power plants, new ones and those undergoing substantial renovation, by requiring them to prove that they have applied the best available technology to reduce emissions or face penalties.”
According to EPA’s Lisa Jackson, “We are not going to continue with business as usual.” The Administrator said, “We have the tools and the technology to move forward today, and we are using them.”
So, it makes you wonder…will the EPA regulate consistently by requiring Wind Energy producers seeking to install many massive turbines to do the same? Apples and oranges, you say? Not really.
The massive wind farms, few will argue, take a toll on the environment, a point which, by its name alone, should interest the EPA. Turbine installations have an impact on the landscape including clearing of the land for roads, massive pads, power transmission lines, water run off and, of course, wildlife. Opponents are often ridiculed as standing in the way of progress and using delaying tactics such as protecting bats and birds. For example, it has been held by many proponents that the trade of clean power (reducing CO2 emissions) is worth “a few bats and birds.” In the grand scheme, perhaps that is the case…if the power produced is, in fact, necessary. (the unlucky bats might take exception)
On the other hand, Wind Energy companies seeking to install turbines in a region having no immediate need for the power produced from the installation would seem to fall under the logic put forth by the EPA.
Take, for example, the proposed Pinnacle Wind Farm at New Page in Mineral County, WV. The project developers, US WindForce, LLC, have applied to the WV PSC for permission to install some 23 giant turbines on Green Mountain at Keyser, WV. Testimony before the WV State Supreme Court of Appeals suggested there is no forecasted requirement for the power to be generated in the foreseeable future.
Considering that the operating efficiency of current turbines ranges from 20 – 30% of rated name plate capacity, the installation will consume air and land space of 23 turbines while only producing the equivalent of 5 to 8 units. That seems a very poor utilization of the environment.
It would seem then that the Pinnacle Wind project would be required to satisfy the issue of ” true need” for its output before being granted permission to proceed. If it cannot, and with advances in technology on the menu in coming years, it would seem logical that the EPA require a delay until US WindForce can “prove that they have applied the best available technology to reduce emissions or face penalties.”
As example of my proposal, consider the recent statements of NREL, The National Renewable Energy Laboratory is a laboratory of the US Department of Energy, and “is the nation’s primary laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development (R&D).”
- NREL states in its January 30, 2009 online report titled “Bigger and Better: Lab Aims to Improve Giant Wind Turbines:”
- “If the U.S. is going to generate 20 percent of its electricity from the wind in the next 20 years, wind turbines will need to evolve in every way – larger, taller, less expensive, more reliable and more efficient.”
- NREL, according to the same report expects to begin testing “by late summer”, “the two largest turbines ever tested at the laboratory.”
- “We need to understand how these big turbines respond,” said senior project leader Jim Green, who is leading the GE tests. “Increasing their performance, reducing their loads, creating components that last longer – we’ll need to learn about all those things if we’re going to make more wind power..“
These developments toward “more reliable and more efficient” turbines can only benefit the environment by providing for better land and air utilization.
Secondly, for folks concerned about the environment, bat and bird kill is a very serious issue. Smithsonian.com Magazine, in its February 27, 2009 article, “Can Wind Power Be Wildlife Friendly” discusses the studies at nearby Backbone Mountain and additional facilities. The article suggests that the “Research at the Mountaineer Wind Energy Center helped raise awareness about bat fatalities at turbines.” The article further concludes, “But there is good news. Research spurred by the bat fatalities has conservationists and wind industry representatives hopeful that an effective solution will be in place within the next five to ten years.”
It is interesting to note that the group conducting the study, Bats and Wind Energy Cooperative (BWEC) is a partnership between conservationists, government agencies and the wind industry. This promising research into bat kills, while admittedly requiring additional research, is already bearing signs of progress. Reference my recent post on this issue here.
So if you follow the statement of the Environmental Protection Agency that “We are not going to continue with business as usual,” one would think their committment to protect the environment by requireing the latest technology would require unnecessary Wind Power plants to be delayed to a time nearer to need, and allow for the coming improvements offered here to materialize.
Opponents of wind turbines do not want plants built at all. Supporters claim many benefits. But both sides of the argument of Wind Power seem to agree on one thing … doing what is right for the environment. This is the very same position held by the Federal Agency bearing the name Environmental Protection Agency. Hard to believe we have an issue on which all sides can agree.
It would seem then, that the EPA’s logic to mandate utilization of the latest technology for the protection of the environment not only extends to Wind Power plants, but also should be welcomed by Wind Energy developers, operating utilites and the AWEA (American Wind Energy Asssociation).
Delay seems the environmentally friendly thing to do. And the EPA’s logic demands it.
Should the EPA not consider such a mandate for Wind Power plants it could be considered, well, political.
Other reads: Planet Gore … “Here Comes the E.P.A.” – Wall Street Journal … “EPA Proposes Tough Greenhouse-Gas Rules for Big Industries” – Huffington Post … “EPA’s Jackson Is Moving Fast to Regulate Greenhouse Gas Emissions”