Is it too much to ask that those opposed to windpower get their facts right?
Many of the statements about windpower made by those who oppose it - the antis - are technically wrong. Being technical, these myths are difficult to counter, but counter them we must for the public needs to make informed choices.
MYTH: Windpower cannot replace powerplants because the wind is variable
FACT: The purpose of windpower is to replace fuel, not powerplants.
Yes, building a windfarm does not mean that building a fuel-fired powerplant can be avoided, but no one should criticize windpower for failing at purposes not intended. Replacing fuel is a purpose that windpower shares with solar and tidal power, which are similarly variable but clearly less criticized by the antis.
Replacing fuel is a high purpose that windpower fulfills; when the wind blows the fuel-fired powerplants on the grid throttle back and burn less coal, natural gas, or nuclear fuel. That means less pollution; less carbon, mercury, sulphur or radioactives; less global warming, less fuel mined from the Earth, less habitat loss, less fuel imported, and less cost to the consumer.
MYTH: Windpower does not add capacity to the electric grid
FACT: Windpower can run the world.
In the future a landscape transformed, with windfarms (and solar and tidal) clustered in all regions, can supply constant electric power to a national high-tech grid, because the wind blows constantly on a national scale. Ultimately, windpower can replace all fueled powerplants. HNWD is only the first step in a much larger national energy transformation.
MYTH: Windpower produces only insignificant amounts of power
FACT: Highland County will become a net exporter of electricity, a very significant amount of power.
Let us use HNWD as a particular example. The HNWD windfarm will have a peak capacity of 39MW. That's about 52,000 horsepower and, like the horsepower of a car, it is the peak, not the average, that is commonly quoted.
Taking the variability of the wind into account, the average capacity will be about 0.3 of peak, or about 12MW. A private home uses about 0.001MW average load, year after year. The math is simple and compelling:
[HNWD average capacity]/[average load per home] = 12,000 homes
That is more than the number of homes in all of Highland County. Highland County will, in fact, become a net exporter of electric power. Electric power will be imported into the County, but much more will be exported.
This does not mean that there are 12,000 homes somewhere that will run exclusively on windpower. The number is an equivalent, in exactly the same way that a car can have hundreds of horsepower without any horses being involved.
Windpower is about 1% of U.S. electric average capacity at present, but the potential is far higher. Where fuel is scarce and expensive windpower has an urgent priority. Britain and Hawaii have targets of about 20%. Western Europe is far ahead of the U.S.: Denmark and Germany have already achieved about 15%. That is not insignificant by any reasonable measure.
MYTH: Windpower makes most of its profits from federal payments
FACT: There are no federal payments, not a dime.
...and unless a windfarm is inherently profitable, it gets no tax credits.
Tax credits and deductions are, of course, one of the most important ways that governments promote many industries - oil and gas exploration, farming, mining, fishing, R&D, medicine - not just windpower. Tax credits also promote public policies - education, home ownership, retirement savings. You almost certainly enjoy some of these tax breaks yourself and doubtless would object if they were taken away.
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