Wind energy proponents insist that wind energy development will reduce coal consumption and thereby reduce mountaintop removal and other forms of coal mining – while reducing the carbon dioxide emissions that cause global warming. Unfortunately, this is not realistic. The recent National Research Council study on Environmental Impacts of Wind Energy Projects found that even with the most ambitious projections for onshore wind energy development in the U.S. (an estimate involving construction of 36,000 wind turbines by 2020) only 4.5% of U.S. electricity generation would be provided by wind power. Given the continuing growth in demand for electricity, wind energy development would, at best, provide only 19% of the new electricity generation needed by 2020. The remaining 81% would have to be provided by other sources. Demand for coal will increase.
The National Research Council study also found that wind power development can only offset emissions of carbon dioxide by the amount that it reduces demand for other sources of electricity that emit carbon dioxide. Thus wind power can offset carbon dioxide emissions by no more than 4.5% from the level that would otherwise occur from electricity generation. At present, electrical generating units account for 39% of total U.S. carbon dioxide emissions from energy use. If the 39% value does not change, wind power development will offset only 1.8% of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions from energy use.
The Virginia Wind website: www.VaWind.org
The National Research Council 2007 report on Environmental Impacts of Wind Energy Projects: www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=11935