Benefits of wind energy confirmed: Half a million cars worth of pollution and a billion gallons of water saved each year

Nov 02, 2012

(Phys.org)—Wind energy in Colorado each year saves a billion gallons of water while avoiding emissions of air pollutants equivalent to that produced by half a million cars, according to a report released today by Environment Colorado. Between 2000 and 2011, production of electricity from wind energy in Colorado grew from zero to 4.7 million megawatt-hours (MWh), and is now producing nearly 10 percent of the state's electricity. 

"The rapid growth of in Colorado is yielding huge benefits for the environment, our health and our increasingly scarce water supplies," said Jeanne Bassett, Senior Associate, Environment Colorado.  "We need our state and national leaders to support policies that will keep us on track towards a cleaner energy future for Coloradans." 

Environment Colorado today released the report, Cool Breeze: Less Pollution and More Water Savings from Wind Energy in Colorado, during a press conference at National Jewish Health. In addition to the billion gallons of water saved, wind energy avoided emissions of more than 1,700 metric tons of smog-causing sulfur dioxide and 3,680 tons of nitrogen oxide, and more than 2.7 million metric tons of carbon dioxide.

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Chris Urbina, MD, Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE); John Stulp, Special Policy Advisor to the Governor for Water; and Alisa Koval, MD, pulmonologist at National Jewish Health, praised the environmental and public health benefits of wind energy highlighted in the report.

"Wind energy is a valuable renewable energy resource helping to provide cleaner and healthier air for the citizens of Colorado," said CDPHE Executive Director Dr. Urbina.

"The negative health effects of air pollution are well-documented, from eye, nose, throat, and breathing symptoms in healthy people to aggravation of existing respiratory and cardiac disease, especially in vulnerable populations of children and the elderly," said National Jewish Health pulmonologist Dr. Koval. "Reducing emissions of these through the use of wind power and other alternative energy sources helps reduce the burden of these ."

Colorado could be on track to more than double wind power from 2011 levels in the next few years. According to the report, if wind development continues through 2016 at a pace comparable to that of recent years, then Colorado would reduce global warming pollution by an additional 2,329,022 metric tons in 2016—equivalent to the pollution produced by more than 450,000 passenger vehicles. These projects would also save nearly 900 million gallons of water, enough water to meet the annual water needs of nearly 20,000 people.  It would avoid an additional 3,210 tons of smog-causing nitrogen oxide emissions and 1,480 tons of sulfur dioxide emissions. 

"To be sure, wind power has provided major economic benefits for Colorado, including thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in benefits for our rural economy," said John Stulp, Special Policy Advisor to the Governor on Water. "Let's not dismiss the important environmental benefits.  In this year of significant drought, the water savings are critical to our local environment and our economy." 

Colorado's progress on wind has been aided by a strong state renewable energy standard—requiring investor owned utilities to provide 30 percent of their power from renewable energy by 2020, and the federal renewable energy production tax credit (PTC). The PTC is scheduled to expire at the end of 2012, unless Congress takes action to extend it. Wind development is already faltering because of uncertainty about continuation of this important federal program. Wind development will slow to a crawl if Congress fails to extend the PTC.

"Wind power is improving the quality of life in Colorado," said Jeanne Bassett of Environment Colorado. "This is an area that has strong bi-partisan support from across the state. But Congress must resist the efforts by the fossil fuel industry to block the progress of clean development and the benefits wind power development brings to our environment, public health and our economy."

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More information: www.environmentcolorado.org/si… Report%20Final-1.pdf

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User comments : 17

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joefarah
3 / 5 (6) Nov 02, 2012
Just curious if anyone has any input on the following:
1) How much energy was used to manufacture wind turbines?
2) How much does it cost each year to maintain turbines?
3) How many sq. miles of land these occupy?
4) How much effort is required, if any, to clean up bird debris?
Jotaf
2.6 / 5 (5) Nov 02, 2012
Fair points, but then you'd also have to ask the same questions about coal, to provide a fair comparison.
antialias_physorg
3.5 / 5 (13) Nov 02, 2012
1) How much energy was used to manufacture wind turbines?

EROEI of wind turbines is about 20 (i.e. you get 20 times the energy out that is needed to manufacture it)

2) How much does it cost each year to maintain turbines?

Maintenance is about 15-25 percent of operational costs. On shore wind produces electricity for 6-8 (Euro)cent per kWh. Off shore is about 12-16ct. This may seem more than coal/oil, but if you factor in the environmental costs the latter produce wind is already cheaper than them.

3) How many sq. miles of land these occupy?

Since the land isn't being used for anything else that's not really an issue (and you can still use it as arable or pasture land. The footprint of a wind turbine is rather small.

4) How much effort is required, if any, to clean up bird debris?

None at all. Wildlife takes care of that.
xen_uno
1 / 5 (6) Nov 03, 2012
"Since the land isn't being used for anything else that's not really an issue (and you can still use it as arable or pasture land. The footprint of a wind turbine is rather small"

... and won't be used for anything else again once the turbines are in place, because they effectively sterilize the land. Ugly noisy leaking obstructions is what they are. We need an alternative to this alternative

PS: The footprint of a wind FARM is rather large, and farms are what we are talking about here. Throw in access roads then tell me how little local impact they make.
Jack_J_Smith
1.4 / 5 (9) Nov 03, 2012
phys.org run by a bunch of hippies? All this green science crap is nothing more than a "Hippie Apocalypse" philosophy. Green is code for socialist and communist economics. socialism failed (Soviet Union, North Korea, Greece, etc. etc) But now in the guise of "green politics" left wingers are trying to undermine free markets by crippling regulations.
kochevnik
3 / 5 (2) Nov 03, 2012
PS: The footprint of a wind FARM is rather large, and farms are what we are talking about here. Throw in access roads then tell me how little local impact they make.
So you want to ban farming? What alternative use do you propose for non-arable hilltop land that is so pressing?
antialias_physorg
3 / 5 (4) Nov 03, 2012
.. and won't be used for anything else again once the turbines are in place, because they effectively sterilize the land.

How exactly is wheat affected by an 'ugly, noisy' contraption next to it? How exactly does that 'sterilize' land? (it does quite the opposite - by taking away wind energy it decreases soil erosion)

The footprint of a wind FARM is rather large, and farms are what we are talking about here.

Farms are made up of individual turbines. And the turbines have to be spaced quite far apart because otherwise they affect each other.

You might want to google for some pictures of windfarms before making such statements.
http://stock.jaso...scotland

If that takes up more than 5% of the land (all infrastructure included) then I'd be surprised
Deathclock
3.7 / 5 (3) Nov 03, 2012
... and won't be used for anything else again once the turbines are in place, because they effectively sterilize the land.


What the hell are you talking about? Have you ever seen pictures of wind farms? Most of them have farmland all around them.
Deathclock
3 / 5 (2) Nov 03, 2012
Yeah, that land looks sterile... look at all that sterile corn!

This is Tugg Hill, about 30 minutes from me:
http://www.northc...view.jpg
http://farm3.stat...66_b.jpg
djr
5 / 5 (2) Nov 04, 2012
"Green is code for socialist and communist economics" Jack - you are an ideological dinosaur. Learn to read - and you will see the world is changing beneath you. Here is one interesting article - discussing how Middle Eastern countries are increasingly turning to wind and solar - in order to preserve their fossil resources - and then sell them to other countries at a profit - while providing their domestic energy from renewables - sounds like a plan to me. http://cleantechn...ey-know/
antialias_physorg
3.4 / 5 (5) Nov 04, 2012
Green is code for socialist and communist economics

Funnily 'green' is having positive economic impact.
So you probably have to explain to the rest of us how exactly making money is 'socialist' or 'communist' and 'anti-capitalist'?

Isn't capitalism about making money by providing products and services people want? The people in germany don't want nuclear, coal and oil - but they do want power. So selling thme the power they want from sources they want is nothing BUT capitalist.
CapitalismPrevails
1 / 5 (4) Nov 04, 2012
"Off shore is about 12-16ct. This may seem more than coal/oil, but if you factor in the environmental costs the latter produce wind is already cheaper than them." I'd bet off shore wind costs more than that. The environmental costs are subjective. Look at Beijing, China. They have horrible air quality but people still vote for coal with their wallets because u can't run manufacturing plants on wind turbines.

antialias_physorg
3 / 5 (2) Nov 04, 2012
The environmental costs are subjective.

How 'subjective' are the costs of hurricane Sandy?
I'd bet off shore wind costs more than that.

That bet is based on what?
My numbers are based on the study done by the Fraunhofer Institute from May 12, 2012.
http://www.ise.fr...gien.pdf
They have horrible air quality but people still vote for coal with their wallets

Because people there are, for the most part, rather poor. And life is pretty cheap in China. People aren't overly concerned with doing anything that is 'good for the community' over there (at least that's what my brother tells me - he and his wife live in Shenzen). Money rules there much more than anywhere else.
CapitalismPrevails
1 / 5 (3) Nov 04, 2012
Your implying that Hurricane Sandy is evidence of AGW. I would point to the New England Storm of 1938 and the storm of 1869. Storm of Sandy's magnitude happen. BTW, your link goes to a German pdf. I can't read German. I believe offshore wind is more expensive because the wind turbines require a rig structure to keep them afloat. As for buoy based ocean wind power, only time will tell.
antialias_physorg
1 / 5 (2) Nov 04, 2012
Your implying that Hurricane Sandy is evidence of AGW.

The number of severe hurricanes is on the rise because there's more energy for them to feed off.
The total number of hurricanes is declining. So this seems like a pretty clear indication that something is causing hurricanes that do happen to be nastier than usual. Unless you have some other mechanism lined up (and hard facts to back it up) I suggest you look at the stuff already published on the matter.

I can't read German.

You do know how to use google translate?

believe offshore wind is more expensive because the wind turbines require a rig structure to keep them afloat.

In my world hard facts trump your gut feeling any day.
kochevnik
1 / 5 (1) Nov 04, 2012
As for buoy based ocean wind power, only time will tell.
The energy return ratio of 40:1 makes ocean windmills TWICE as efficient as land equivalents.
CapitalismPrevails
1 / 5 (3) Nov 04, 2012
Here's a phyorg article on offshore wind power.

http://phys.org/n...ent.html

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