Wind energy has among lowest environmental impacts of any form of electricity
After reading the letter about the environmental impacts of wind turbines, I found the writer’s information was very misleading. As the writer suggested, I did my own research. The truth is that wind energy has some of the lowest impacts of any form of electricity production. The Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (https://www.nrel.gov/analysis/life-cycle-assessment.html) points out that wind energy’s impact is 98-99 percent lower than fossil fuel sources of electricity.
Once turbines are constructed no fuels extracted from mining are needed to generate electricity, nor is any water needed as a coolant, which both fossil fuel and nuclear plants use in abundance.
It is true that wind turbines are built using mostly concrete, steel and copper – the same materials used at every type of power plants. Turbines don’t need any special materials that aren’t used by other sources to generate electricity.
The writer is also incorrect in her statement that wind turbines require rare earth materials and create radioactive waste from the mining of those materials. Truth be told, many products from across our economy use rare earths, from iPhones to computers to flat screen TVs. In the U.S., only about 2 percent of the more than 50,000 operating wind turbines use rare earth materials, which are needed for direct drive turbines. The other 98 percent of the U.S. wind fleet uses electro-magnet turbines, which don’t use any rare earth materials.
Fossil and nuclear power plants also use massive amounts of water in their cooling systems – 22 to 62 trillion gallons of water annually and consuming over 1 trillion gallons (http://blog.ucsusa.org/john-rogers/how-much-water-do-power-plants-use-316). In fact, the power sector currently uses more water than any other sector in the United States – much more than farming and ranching.
Wind energy uses no water for cooling when generating electricity, so by displacing water – intensive sources of electricity, wind energy in the U.S. saved 73 billion gallons of water in 2015. So the environmental impacts the writer is concerned about are either overblown or simply incorrect. The truth is you can’t only be concerned about concrete and steel use in turbines when those same materials make up the majority of the build world around us. And if you’re worried about rare earth impacts, the computer you’re reading this on is an exponentially larger problem than a wind turbine.
For the reasons stated above, I would give the writer three Pinocchios!