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A New Study Could Spell Trouble For The Future Of Wind Energy

Wind energy resources have been in sharp decline in regions all across the world, according to a study conducted by Chinese researchers.

After analyzing data from more than 1,000 weather stations around the world, a team of researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences found that 67 percent had witnessed an extensive decrease in wind power potential over the course of nearly 40 years. The team — which also induced a researcher from Purdue University — reached their findings after examining the changes of wind surface speeds from 1979 to 2016.

“The results show that surface wind speeds were decreasing in the past four decades over most regions in the Northern Hemisphere,” the study’s authors wrote, according to a Greentech Media report on Wednesday.

Around 30 percent of locations in North America have witnessed a 30 percent drop or more in available hub-height wind power. Sites in Europe were worse, where about 40 percent experienced a similar decline. However, the effect was the most significant in Asia, where around 80 percent of sites on the continent saw a 30 percent drop in wind.

It’s not immediately clear what is behind the decline of wind across the Northern Hemisphere. Dr. Gang Huang, a corresponding author of the research, revealed to Greentech Media that they are currently performing a follow-up study to help determine possible causes.

Huang surmised that surface cover changes — such as the fast expansion of cities in developing countries — could possibly be affecting wind speeds, but maintained that it’s just an assumption. Increases in carbon dioxide emissions have also been predicted to decrease wind power.

Another cause could be the expansion of wind energy technology itself. A study published in November found that wind farms upwind from other turbines reduced their electricity generation. This “wake effect,” the study found, reduces wind speed and affects turbines downwind from their direction. The research team from the Chinese Academy of Sciences did find that the most dramatic decreases in wind power in China tended to occur “where a number of gigantic commercial wind farms were built.”

However, other experts warn to use caution before reaching conclusions.

“We need to take these kinds of studies with a pinch of salt, with all due respect to them. Maybe it’s true, but would it have an impact on the industry? I don’t know,” said Shashi Barla, an analyst with Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables. Barla added that a drop in wind power could be offset with advancement in wind turbine technology.

No matter what changes with wind power in the United States, wind energy is expected to make up an increasing part of the country’s generation industry. State governments across the country continue to increase their renewable energy mandates, with wind generation already a major presence in Midwestern states.

The Trump administration has been a major backer of wind energy development. The Interior Department announced a $405 million offshore wind auction that shattered all previous records.

COLUMN BY:

Jason Hopkins

Energy Investigator. Follow Jason on Twitter.

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EDITORS NOTE: This column with images by The Daily Caller is republished with permission. Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

License to Kill: Wind and Solar Decimate Birds and Bats

According to a study in the Wildlife Society Bulletin, every year 573,000 birds (including 83,000 raptors) and 888,000 bats are killed by wind turbines — 30 percent higher than the federal government estimated in 2009, due mainly to increasing wind power capacity across the nation.[i] This is likely an underestimate because these estimates were based on 51,630 megawatts of installed wind capacity in the United States in 2012 and wind capacity has grown since then to 65,879 megawatts. And, at one solar power plant in California, an estimated 3,500 birds died in just the plant’s first year of operation.[ii]

Over the past five years, about 2.9 million birds were killed by wind turbines. That compares to about 800,000 birds that a Mother Jones Blog estimated to have been killed by the BP oil spill that occurred in April 2010[iii]—5 years ago–despite not all of them showing visible signs of oil.[1] Nevertheless, BP was fined $100 million for killing and harming migratory birds due to that oil spill. In comparison, the nation’s wind turbines killed more than 3 times the number of birds than did the BP oil spill over the past 5 years. And, wind turbines routinely kill federally protected birds and eagles.

Since the study estimating bird and bat deaths was completed based on 2012 wind capacity data, U.S. companies have installed more wind power due to federal and state incentives such as the Production Tax Credit that provides 2.3 cents per kilowatt hour of wind generated power over the first ten years of operation. Since 2012, the United States added over 14,000 megawatts of additional wind capacity with total wind capacity at 65,879 megawatts as of the end of 2014 — 16 times higher than wind capacity in 2001.[iv]

The Ivanpah Solar Power Plant

The Ivanpah solar power plant is a 377 megawatt solar facility located in the Mojave Desert in California and is owned by Google, BrightSource Energy, and NRG Energy. The facility has 350,000 heliostat mirrors that reflect heat toward central towers and scorch hundreds of birds in midair—turning birds into “streamers.” Ivanpah is the largest power tower project in the world and it has received a $1.6 billion loan guarantee from the Department of Energy.

The mirrors at Ivanpah span across an area four times the size of New York’s Central Park and focus sunlight onto receivers atop three 45-story power towers, boiling a liquid that turns turbines to create electricity. Fish and Wildlife Service officials warned that Ivanpah may act as a “mega-trap,” where insects attract small birds that are killed or incapacitated by the solar flux. Those birds attract larger predators thereby creating a food chain vulnerable to injury and death.[v]

The facility is estimated to have killed 83 different species of birds. The most commonly killed birds were mourning doves (14 percent of fatalities), followed by yellow-rumped warblers, tree swallows, black-throated sparrows and yellow warblers. Of the birds that died from known causes, about 47 percent died from being toasted by the heat of the solar flux. Just over half of the known deaths were attributed to collisions.

Ivanpah is testing ways to reduce bird deaths, including with software to reposition the heliostats to reduce the level of elevated flux and minimize collisions; installation of light-emitting diodes that are not attractive to insects and help reduce the prey base for birds; anti-perching devices; and the use of avian deterrents like foul smells and the sounds of predators.

Fines for Killing Birds

Besides BP being fined $100 million for killing and harming migratory birds during the 2010 Gulf oil spill, in 2009, Exxon Mobil paid $600,000 for killing 85 birds in five states and PacifiCorp, which operates coal plants, paid more than $10.5 million for electrocuting 232 eagles that landed on power lines at its substations. The first wind farms to be fined took place in November 2013 when Duke Energy paid a $1 million fine for killing 14 eagles and 149 other birds at two wind farms in Wyoming from 2009 to 2013.[vi] To date, no solar facilities have been fined. The fines are related to protections in the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. The death of an eagle or other protected bird is a violation of federal law, unless a company has a federal permit.[vii]

The Obama Administration on December 9, 2013, finalized a regulation that allows wind energy companies and others to obtain 30-year permits to kill eagles without prosecution by the federal government. The American Bird Conservancy filed suit in federal court against the Department of the Interior, charging it with multiple violations of federal law. [viii] Nonetheless, the Shiloh IV Wind Project in California, for example, received a permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service allowing it to kill eagles, hawks, peregrine falcons, owls and songs birds while not being subjected to the normal prohibitions afforded under the federal Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Treaty Act.[ix]

Other Bird and Mammal Deaths

According to a 2014 study by federal scientists in the journal The Condor: Ornithological Applications, building collisions are estimated to kill 365 million to 988 million birds annually in the United States. And, according to a 2013 report from scientists from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and FWS, stray and outdoor pet cats kill a median of 2.4 billion birds and 12.3 billion mammals, mostly native mammals like shrews, chipmunks and voles, annually. But these deaths do not excuse the wind and solar industry’s killing of birds. Unless, of course, BP and ExxonMobil should be excused as well–instead of playing hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines.

Conclusion

Despite bird and bat deaths at wind and solar farms, few have been fined for violating the law while oil and electric generating companies have paid heavily for such violations. It will be interesting to see if this will change as the wind and solar industries grow.


[1] In 2011, the Fish and Wildlife Service reported only 6,147 birds killed. Seehttp://www.fws.gov/home/dhoilspill/pdfs/ConsolidatedWildlifeTable041711.pdf

[i] Daily Caller, Wind Turbines Kill More Birds Than the BP Oil Spill, April 20, 2015,http://dailycaller.com/2015/04/20/wind-turbines-kill-more-birds-than-bp-oil-spill

[ii] Greenwire, 3,500 birds died at Ivanpah ‘power towers’ in first year, April 24, 2015,http://www.eenews.net/greenwire/2015/04/24/stories/1060017406

[iii] Mother Jones, The BP Oil Spill Happened 5 Years Ago Today. We are Still Paying the Price., April 20, 2015, http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2015/04/five-year-anniversary-deepwater-horizon-bp-spill

[iv] American Wind Energy Association,http://www.awea.org/Resources/Content.aspx?ItemNumber=5059

[v] National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory, Avian Mortality at Solar Energy Facilities in Southern California, http://www.eenews.net/assets/2015/01/19/document_gw_03.pdf

[vi] Forbes, Republicans Develop an Interest in bird deaths, March 29, 2014, http://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffmcmahon/2014/03/29/republicans-develop-an-interest-in-bird-deaths/

[vii] The Christian Science Monitor, Eagle Deaths: Unprecedented $1 million fine for Wyoming wind farms, November 23, 2013, http://www.csmonitor.com/Environment/2013/1123/Eagle-deaths-Unprecedented-1-million-fine-for-Wyoming-wind-farms

[viii] American Bird Conservancy, American Bird Conservancy Sues Feds Over 30-Year Eagle Kill Rule, http://www.abcbirds.org/newsandreports/releases/140619.html

[ix] Master Resource, Wind Power Slaughter, July 16, 2014, https://www.masterresource.org/cuisinarts-of-the-air/windpower-slaughter-shiloh-1/

Obama Keeps Telling Renewable Energy Lies

Imagine you wanted to get in your electric car and drive a considerable distance. It wouldn’t take long for your car to run out of power, so you would have to have another car, one using gasoline, to drive behind you to make sure you reached your destination.

That’s a description of “renewable energy”, wind and solar, in America today because they both require backup from traditional energy sources such as coal, oil, natural gas, and nuclear. And “renewable energy” based on “free” sun and wind power costs more to produce and purchase. Need it be said that the sun does not always shine consistently everywhere or at night and that the wind does not always blow?

Within twenty-four hours of one another I received a news release from the Governor’s Wind Energy Coalition celebrating the election of a new chairman and vice chairman, and read a CNN news article saying that “The White House wants to put more returning servicemen and women to work manufacturing and installing solar panels” as part of “his growing list of climate actions meant to combat global warming.”

That list was a twelve-page long, single-spaced White House fact sheet. The White House seems to think that the states can do something about “climate change”, but the climate is measured in decades and centuries, not whether it is going to rain next Monday which is something we call “the weather.” And just as you can do nothing about the rain, neither can you do anything to affect the climate decades from now.

The White House has a problem. There is no “global warming.” Even if you change the name to “climate change”, the Earth has been in a natural cooling cycle for the last eighteen years.

For the past 5,000 years humans have, as often as not, “done something” about the climate by moving somewhere else it was less of a bother and threat or found ways to adapt. Other than prayer, there was and is nothing humans can do about Mother Nature.

Most surely, getting veterans to manufacture solar panels is about as lame and stupid an idea as the President has proposed in the last 24 hours. Does the name “Solyndra” ring a bell? It was one of several solar farms that, along with wind farms went belly-up, leaving investors and consumers with nothing but the sunlight and passing breezes.

Indeed, the best news of late has been that the U.S. Senate has rejected a proposal to extend the federal wind Production Tax Credit (PCT) for another five years. The wind producers have benefitted from it for three decades. The federal subsidy to wind-energy producers expired along with other tax breaks at the end of 2013, but was retroactively extended through 2014 as part of the Cromnibus budget bill passed last December.

The PCT was intended to provide what was a then-new energy industry a helping hand, but it kept being extended and the industry benefitted as well from renewable energy mandates (REM) in 29 states and the District of Columbia. They require that a specific amount of electricity be purchased from renewable energy, wind or solar, producers. All that managed to do was drive up the cost of electricity to consumers. This is what happens when politicians get involved.

That’s a good reason to wonder why there is a Governors Wind Power Coalition in the first place. It consists of 23 Democratic and Republican governors from every region of the nation “working together to develop the nation’s wind energy resources”, but the nation doesn’t need wind energy which produces an unpredictable amount as opposed to traditional resources such as coal.

At the same time the President is talking about solar and wind power, his administration is pursuing a relentless “war” on coal that is forcing the primary source of electricity in America, coal-fired plants, to shut down. If that doesn’t sound like treason, then consider too that the U.S. is the greatest producer of oil and natural gas in the world and we have at least two century’s worth of known coal reserves. We have absolutely no need for wind or solar energy.

When Obama gave his State of the Union speech in 2014, solar power represented a pathetic 0.2 percent of the U.S. electricity supply according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. According to the Energy Research Institute, in 2013 wind power provided 1.6% of all the energy consumed in the U.S.

There isn’t a single good reason for either wind or solar power in an energy powerhouse like the United States. They are both costly, unpredictable, and a threat to a number of animal species. Neither the science, the cost, nor the recent history of “renewable energy” provides a single good reason to force Americans to pay for this “green” failure.

© Alan Caruba, 2015