Home > Frac > Hydraulic Fracturing Series: Green Energy (Wind)

Hydraulic Fracturing Series: Green Energy (Wind)

We continue our Hydraulic Fracturing Series today with another post on “Green” energy. Last week, we spoke about Solar energy. Today we will talk about Wind Energy.

Again, for any of those reading this post, we would like to clarify that we are not opposed to alternative power sources like Wind or Solar.  As we have already mentioned before, the Oil and Gas industry contributes more to the technological development of alternative fuel sources than many of their detractors.

We are not opposed to Green Energy, we simply find it interesting that there is far, far less criticism concerning the problems associated with Wind-Farms and Solar Panels than present for Hydraulic Fracturing or for the Oil and Gas Industry…probably because those in the main-stream media have Green leanings.

Green Energy: (Wind)

Similar to the visually gripping footage of flaming tap water in Josh Fox’s Gasland was the footage of Pelicans and sea birds covered in oil following the BP oil spill.

Pardon our pun but special interest groups flocked to help the birds following the spill and national news networks showed Brown Pelicans being scrubbed by dish soap squirting volunteers for months. The tyranny of the Oil and Gas industry had struck again and the birds were going to pay for their blatant irresponsibility.

The evil oil giant was responsible and the President himself declared a moratorium on drilling in the Gulf. To give you an idea of the cost of a moratorium, look here.

Our intention is not to mock the deaths of Brown Pelicans or any of the birds that died during that spill…nor is our intention to minimize the responsibility BP has for the spill.

What we do want to do, is note the absurdity of what the press has the ability to do when they don’t report comprehensively.

According to Audubon Magazine (and they know a thing or two about birds), the most liberal estimate of the amount of birds killed during the entire BP spill was 23,000.

They actually counted and collected 2,263 dead birds with oil on their feathers. They admit that the collection process is not an exact science in terms of calculating the amount of actual bird deaths so the estimated death toll ranges from 7,000-23,000.

This made national headlines complete with visual aids.


In the full report Audubon made, called Oil and Birds: Too Close for Comfort they discussed the ripple impact that the oil spill could have on bird populations and admitted that answering questions about the ultimate effect can be complicated. When birds die, they are no longer present to reproduce, meaning that the projected population is negatively effected because birds are not reproducing.

So, in the most liberal estimates, 23,000 birds are no longer present to reproduce in the Gulf including the poster child Brown Pelicans.

What doesn’t gather nearly the amount of press because it is an issue associated with Green Energy is the amount of birds wind turbines kill every year.

If you Google “Bird Deaths Wind Turbine” you will get approximately 46,600 results.

If you Google “Bird Deaths BP Oil Spill” you will get approximately 2, 140,000 results.

This seems odd considering the fact that the US Fish and Wildlife Service estimates more than 33,000 bird deaths each year because of Wind Turbines but other estimates vary greatly. The American Bird Conservancy Estimated that in 2003, 10,000-40,000 birds were killed by turbines. The National Research Council indicated in their 2007 report “Environmental Impacts of Wind-Energy Projects” that about 100,000 birds are killed by turbines each year.

The BP oil spill was a single event. The turbine caused bird deaths are a virtual constant and according to some estimations, more birds are killed in a single day by wind turbines than by the entire BP oil spill.  This does not include the amount of bat deaths.

The Daily Mail reports a different estimation:

“Nationwide, about 440,000 birds are said to be accidentally killed at wind farms each year, as well as thousands more bats. With the government pushing for more wind energy farms, that statistic is likely to rise. Another recovering species, the California Condor, is also said to be at risk from the giant blades. ‘We taxpayers have spent millions of dollars saving the California condor from extinction,’ Gary George, spokesman for Audubon California, told the LA Times.”

The LA Times also reported that Golden Eagles have been killed at an average of 67 deaths per year for 30 years in the Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area alone. The Times says “Field biologists, monitoring the birds, say it would take 167 pairs of local nesting eagles to produce enough young to compensate for the losses. Currently they only have 60 pairs.”

    The more wind turbines the United States uses to provide power will be directly related to an increasing amount of bird and bat deaths.
    To put this in perspective, Paul Sclavounos, Prof. of Mechanical Engineering and Naval Architecture of MIT reports that in order to power New York city alone, 4000, five megawatt turbines would be needed. These things are often 50 stories high.
Sclavounos calculates that a windfarm sufficient to power all of New York City would spread over 4,000 square kilometers of offshore terrain — 40 by  40 miles, or a land area roughly equivalent to half of Yellowstone National Park. A windfarm of a more typical size, one rated 300 megawatts, say, would occupy a five by five mile swath of ocean, and could power 1.5% of the city.”
    This does not mean that Green energy efforts need to be scrapped, it means that they need more realistic consideration when compared to all the United States’ energy providing methods.
    The same company responsible for the BP oil spill is also responsible for generating Green Wind Energy but that doesn’t receive equal attention in the national press because it would indicate that an Oil and Gas company is investing in Green Energy.

The bottom line is that there are going to be costs and risks regardless of the means utilized to procure the power that Americans need. The question we need to be asking is whether or not the risks are worth the reward.

Wind Turbines have significant monetary costs as well.

According to Windustry.com Wind Turbines cost $1.2-2.6 million dollars per megawatt of nameplate capacity installed. This means that the average cost of a 2 megawatt tower installed is $3.5 million dollars.

If this figure is boiled down both in scale and scope to a localized 10 kilowatt machine needed for a single home, it would cost $35-50,000 per home. These are 2007 numbers.  Most households cannot afford to spend $35-50,000 dollars to use Green Energy.

This is only part of the problem facing the Wind Industry in terms of being a functional solution for America’s energy needs.

As of right now, according to the 2007 approximation we provided already, it would cost $24,000,000,000-$52,000,000,000 dollars to power New York City alone with Wind Turbines.

This does not call into account the most difficult issue for Green Energy to tackle: variability.

The bane of Green Energy is the problem it has with variability. The Wind doesn’t always blow and the sun doesn’t always shine but the draw on the power grids used across the country is constant.

How do they keep constant power headed to a grid powered by wind when the wind doesn’t blow?

Fossil Fuel burning generators.


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