A whirlwind of a debate over wind

Modern wind energy plant in rural scenery.

Image via Wikipedia

Fast Company has been reporting on a debate between the John Muir Trust, a land conservation charity in the United Kingdom, and the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA).

The John Muir Trust recently released a study that took issue with what it claimed were 5 common assertions made by the wind  industry:

1. “Wind turbines will generate on average 30% of their rated capacity over a year.”
2. “The wind is always blowing somewhere.”
3. “Periods of widespread low wind are infrequent.”
4. “The probability of very low wind output coinciding with peak electricity demand is slight.”
5. “Pumped storage hydro can fill the generation gap during prolonged low wind periods.”

In their study, the Trust found that these claims don’t hold up when the data is examined.

AWEA was quick to respond on their blog. For the most part, they noted that the issues for a small island shouldn’t be interpolated to a large country like the US. They also argued that an array of constantly improving technologies provide grid operators with an array of options, from more efficient turbines to methods for supplementing energy production during low wind periods.

Fast Company notes that while both sides make good points, AWEA is debating for wind power in general while the John Muir Trust is focused on the UK. Still, it’s worth noting that when arguing the effectiveness of wind energy, it’s only a piece in the solution of moving us away from carbon-intensive fossil fuels. Even if wind energy provides the full 20 percent of US energy a 2008 Department of Energy estimate said was possible, emissions will still be a problem unless the other 80 percent comes from something other than coal and petroleum.

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