In the Kittitas Valley, about 12 miles northwest of Ellensburg, Washington, a 65 turbine windfarm is in the final stages of approval. This windfarm will consume 6,000 acres, nearly ten square miles, and given each turbine is atop a 410 foot tower, it is reasonable to assume these are going to be very large generators, with a yield of 2.5 megawatts each. So this $150 million project will produce 165 megawatts of energy, or about 16 megawatt-years per square mile.
To put this in perspective, energy consumption in the USA in 2006 was just about 100 quadrillion BTUs, or about 25% of total worldwide energy consumption. Since 1 “quad” BTU equals 33.4 gigawatt-years of electricity, the total energy consumption of the USA, expressed in units of electric power equates to 3,340 gigawatt-years.
The reason all of this matters is because (1) we are moving to an energy economy that relies increasingly on electricity, and (2) Al Gore’s “pledge” requires the USA to reduce CO2 emissions by 50% within 20 years – which in practical terms means decommissioning fossil fuel plants and replacing them with things like wind generators.
So if our state-of-the-art wind generating towers can yield 16 megawatt-years of power per square mile, if we were to rely on wind power to accomplish Al Gore’s mandate, i.e., generate 50 quadrillion BTUs per year (1,670 gigawatt-years of electricity per year) using windmills, we would have to consume 104,000 square miles of land.
The question isn’t really whether or not there is enough land to do this – there probably is. The real question is why are environmentalists, who have fought every land development initiative in the USA for the last 30 years, behind wind power? These are the same people who have erected Berlin Walls around every city in the country, walls euphemistically called “urban service boundaries” in order to prevent “leapfrog growth,” and preserve “open space.”
Environmental lobbyists are more powerful than they’ve ever been, financed now not only with tax-deductible contributions from the public, and “reconveyance fees” assessed on every home sale (a growing phenomenon – watch out), but also today with “carbon offset” funds.
Returning to the Kittitas Valley in Washington state, these wealthy environmentalists, backed by wind energy corporations who are thrilled to milk the anti-CO2 hysteria for all it’s worth, are cramming this massive wind installation down the throats of the local residents. We received an email yesterday from a local homeowner in Kittitas Valley. Here is what they said:
“I live in Kittitas County in Washington state. Our county commissioners voted no on 2 sites that are located near homes. The 2 companies, Horizon and EnXco preempted local government and went to EFSEC, a committee appointed by the Governor and they said YES to the corporations. This is the first time in history local government has been overturned on land use issues.”
There is nothing wrong with building wind generators. But environmentalists are selective in what land use they approve and what land use they fight. They don’t want us to have land for homes unless we are in “smart growth” (translation ultra high-density) “pedestrian friendly” (translation, nobody goes there because you can’t park), “transit villages” (translation – light rail boondoggles) where people are forced to live at a population density comparable to Singapore. This is all to preserve sacred open space. In California this is the reason homes on 4,000 square foot lots cost $500K.
But when it comes to wind generators – environmentalists don’t care. The same land that is too sacred to allow housing will get covered with wind farms – and all of the financial muscle the environmentalists employed to fight against developments of homes is used to fight for developments of wind farms.
Biofuel, another pet project of Washington’s governor, along with pretty much every other politician and environmentalist on earth, is far worse. To generate 50% of the power consumed in 2006 in the USA using biofuel – at a yield of 2,500 barrels per square mile per year (one quad BTU equals 179 million barrels of oil) we would need to replace 3.6 million square miles of land with biofuel plantations. And that is exactly what we are doing – from the Central Valley of California to the rainforests of the Amazon. But we have no room for housing.
Environmentalists today are not just a threat to property rights, they are a threat to the environment – at least when it comes to biofuel. And in the case of windmills, which one can argue make sense environmentally and financially, the environmentalists are hypocrites – employing a standard when considering housing developments that is precisely opposite the standard they employ when considering windfarm developments.