I used to live in West Virginia, a state in the U.S. known for its coal mining. Using environmentally unfriendly methods like mountaintop removal, they tear apart the landscape to get coal rocks, that throw unhealthy black soot in the air when they’re burned. Meanwhile, the whole rest of the States are still dependent on foreign oil for just about everything, and are throwing smog in the air through their car exhaust, which contributes to global climate change.
Nuclear power is often promoted as a “green” option. But in Vermont, where the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant has been running for almost 50 years, the cancer rate is sky-high and tritium (a radioactive isotope) has been found in their water. And since the demand for energy to power American cars and appliances is so huge, the corporate interests that provide it have become huge as well, so unbiased information is hard to come by.
Is there a better way? Wind turbine power has been touted as a “sustainable,” green alternative to these other electrical power sources. But is it, really? Let’s look at some wind power myths.
Myth: Wind turbines are good for the environment
The wind turbine farm on Altamont Pass, near San Francisco, is responsible for “an astronomical level of bird kills,” according to Jeff Miller of the Center for Biological Diversity. Hundreds of raptors die there each year, including protected species like the golden eagle. Meanwhile, thousands of bats are killed every year at another wind farm in West Virginia.
It may be possible to avoid some of these effects by locating wind farms away from migratory paths, and/or shutting them down in the winter. The wildlife casualties seen so far suggest that this hasn’t been made a priority, though.
Myth: Wind turbines are good for people
The U.S. Department of Energy published a study which says that wind turbines don’t damage property values. But a mountain of anecdotal evidence points to the adverse effects of living near wind turbines, including loud noise from the spinning blades and vertigo from the light flashing off of them.
Wind turbines are often situated very closely to residential areas, and their effects on people’s health appear to have been just as poorly-studied as their effects on migratory birds.
Myth: Wind turbines don’t enrich the huge oil companies
The United States’ largest wind farm is owned by BP. Enough said.
If you’re into alternative energy already, for use in your own home or homestead, a small-scale wind power turbine might make a good supplement to your hydroelectric generator or solar cells … provided you’re careful about where you put it. As far as wind turbines being a magic bullet to solve our energy problems, though, I think we can call that myth – as they say – busted.
Probably what would make the most difference is just cutting down on the energy we use each day, even if that means some dramatic lifestyle changes.