Study: There exists enough already-disturbed land in the U.S. suitable for wind to produce 3,500 gigawatts of power – more power than is consumed by the entire U.S.

A new study is confirming what many have been suggesting all along; We don’t need to sacrifice wild-lands and pristine wildlife habitat to facilitate renewable energy, it’s all about proper siting.

Win-Win for Wind and Wildlife: A Vision to Facilitate Sustainable DevelopmentKiesecker JM, Evans JS, Fargione J, Doherty K, Foresman KR, et al. 2011PLoS ONE

[From Abstract]

We estimate there are ~7,700 GW of potential wind energy available across the U.S., with ~3,500 GW on disturbed lands. In addition, a disturbance-focused development strategy would avert the development of ~2.3 million hectares of undisturbed lands while generating the same amount of energy as development based solely on maximizing wind potential.

 
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Brian Ertz

Brian Ertz serves as Leader of the Sierra Club's National Grazing Team and as Conservation Chair of the Sawtooth Group, Sierra Club. All Posts by Brian Ertz | Facebook | Email

8 Responses to Win-Win for Wind and Wildlife ?

  1. avatar MAD says:

    unfortunately, even with this timely and vital research done by these folks (I haven’t read their paper yet, but you gotta love PLoS ONE ’cause it’s free), our electric system in this country is a complete train wreck. Decades of neglect by hundreds of local and regional companies have led to outdated equipment, inefficient transmission lines and 19th century generation techniques.

    Integrating renewables into our current patchwork grid is much harder than people realize. The inherent intermittency issues, coupled with the difficulties of storage are hurdles that are not easily overcome. Now, add this to a corrupt political system where the politicians who control regulation (or deregulation) have little or no incentive to foster a real push toward more renewables, and we have our current situation.

    Political hacks have talked endlessly about the NEED to switch energy sources and upgrade our systems, but honestly, in the last 25 years we’ve made so little progress it’s pathetic. It’s really no wonder why other countries around the world are literally leaving us in the dust with new technologies and actually putting them in place. very depressing….

  2. avatar Daniel Berg says:

    I’m curious about how the cost structure of wind development would be affected by switching from mostly undisturbed public lands to privately-owned farmlands. By the study’s own measurements, it would potentially be several thousand dollars in compensation per whatever unit of measurement the study used. That could potentially be a huge cost that would ultimately fall onto the taxpayers. That would be on top of the already HUGE subsidies involved in trying to all but gaurantee an ROI to investors.

    Can anyone attest to the willingness of farmers to have wind farms covering portions of their land when there is compensation involved? A wind farm on existing agricultural farmlands could possibly require approval of several farmers who own adjoining land.

    It’s safe to assume that many “disturbed” lands near residential areas would meet stiff resistance and can’t be part of any realistic conversation about wind farms at this point, IMO.

    • avatar Brian Ertz says:

      By the study’s own measurements, it would potentially be several thousand dollars in compensation per whatever unit of measurement the study used. That could potentially be a huge cost that would ultimately fall onto the taxpayers.

      The economic cost is extremely difficult to ascertain as it is often obscured by externalization in ever direction.

      For example, what of the cost of lost wildlife and wildlife habitat that, as of yet, doesn’t factor in to the economic feasibility of wind development as of yet ? That question doesn’t seem to implicate the feasibility analysis you posit. I think it should to a much greater degree than it does.

      How about transmission ? When we talk about developing isolated landscapes, particularly those on public lands, as a means of reducing cost – how much of a reduction in cost is it really ? We might say that a wind-plant generates X kWh, but how how much energy is lost across transmission ? Is it an honest accounting to use the number of kWh produced – or the number that are actually consumed after loss, demand fluctuation, etc. widdle away at a plant’s actual contribution ?

      Are the costs of developing associated transmission incorporated into the economic feasibility analysis – into the cost per kWh? Usually the answer is no – that number is put somewhere else.

      What other ways are the accounting of all of this obscured ?

      It’s not an honest accounting.

      It seems to me that the energy economy is a machine laden with cooked books that make it extremely difficult to ascertain and apply appropriate cost/benefit judgments. It also seems to me that this absurd confusion seems to be vulnerable to manipulation in a way that in the vast majority of cases benefits a very small minority of people – at the cost to the greater public interest.

      With all of this – it makes it extremely difficult for me to justify the loss of another undeveloped landscape – no matter how loudly “clean”, “green”, “renewable” energy proponents may blow their horns.

      • avatar Daniel Berg says:

        After doing some looking around, it appears that private landowners are compensated at $3,000-$5,000 or more per turbine, per year. A small sum compared to the overall taxpayer subsidies involved. A lot of farmers are lining up to get wind farm dollars.

        I’m not a fan of wind farms on pristine public lands. I agree with the study in that any wind farms put up on public lands should be in “disturbed” areas.

        I’m just not sold on wind energy in general, actually. They say it would take wind turbines covering an area the size of Florida to meet the goal of 30% renewable energy. That is a massive amount of land. I’ve read that as much as 2.5% of the electricity generated by a turbine is lost every 70 miles it travels on the national grid.

        Wind farms are fast turning into a taxpayer giveaway that reminds me more and more of the ethanol fiasco. Private companies taking advantage of huge sums of taxpayer funds to produce a product that is not economically viable and of questionable long-term benefit. The wind energy agenda has not been well thought out or well implemented so far and they need to take a step back and take a look at the big picture.

        If they truly want to dump hundreds of billions, if not trillions, into renewable energy they need to focus on creating a decentralized structure for it. No more lining the pockets of opportunistic companies taking huge subsidies provided by disengenous “green” politicians.

      • avatar Brian Ertz says:

        I agree. Big Wind is a scam.

  3. avatar Nancy says:

    http://www.materialsviews.com/details/news/737951/Polymer_solar_cells_ready_to_roll_.html

    Emailed Mr. Park a couple of days ago to see where they are at with this new technology.
    Just can’t understand the continued dependency on fossil fuels not to mention the destruction of wildlife habitat, if there is the possibility of mass producing solar power setups (at an affordable price) for individual homes, businesses and buildings.

  4. avatar Tilly says:

    Remember, when siting wind, it doesn’t just matter whether the ground is already disturbed. It also matters whether it is near flyways for birds and bats. Even a trash dump could be a terrible site for wildlife if it was in a flyway, near a bat cave.

  5. avatar vickif says:

    It doesn’t matter what form of energy you talk about, it will have down falls and opposition.
    Frankly, the most efficicent way to manage energy is to have small, local sources and grids. That is never going to be cost effective for every person, city, town etc. Some places are not suited for wind, solar etc.
    Conversion will create jobs, and end other jobs.
    I think that people need to realize, no energy we produce outside of the human body is going to be a perfect solution. Additionally, you are not going to convince people to consume less, or politicians to mandate it on a personal level, or cause it by jacking up the price of all forms of fuel. So we are at a crossroads, as we are with so many issues environmentally speaking. Either we have ‘cleaner’ energy and deal with the negative aspects of it (which are certainly not the cummulative disaster that petroleum and coal are), or we stick with the current status and quit demanding perfection in the form of any renewables and all things energy. It simply ‘ain’t gonna happen folks’.
    This study provides some with optomism. Others, just something to pick apart, others still-another reason to scoff at changes.
    It is parallel to the wolf crisis, list vs. delist, hunt vs. protect…honestly it gets exhausting thinking about how little people really want to compromise.
    It is a straight up simple equation. All or nothing=nothing. Nothing times nothing is nothing. Budge, bend or better things, but don’t sit back demanding a perfect solution in a world of imperfections. It is just a waste of time.
    Bats, and birds, while important, cannot out weigh the environment as a whole. Do we manage an entire environment based on one animal? Because ideal circumstances for the one come at a high cost to the many.

    I am not saying throw up a turbine in every grouse nesting area. I am not telling people wind is perfect or the only way to change things. I am not sayin “hell with the bats and birds”. I am simply suggesting that the larger picture needs to be considered before dismissing the possibile benefits as being non-signifigant enough to warrant changes.

    Just once, I would lie to check in to a blog where there were folks saying “Let’s all get together and figure out what we can give up in order to make some progress.” Instead, I get discouraged, because instead of being excited about what we CAN do, people just get caught up in what we can’t. I sure read a lot of people saying “Don’t do this, don’t do that. This is wrong, you are wrong, that won’t help, don’t use oil, don’t shoot animals, no more drilling, no wind, solar is bad, …etc.” You may not get 100 percent energy efficiency with wind turbines that transport energy more than 70 miles….but you sure as hell won’t get an oil slick all over the Atlantic coast either.

    I respect the opinions of people who post here. I just wish there was a little more of a push to get something accomplished. I would rather have a half a meal than starve…so to speak.

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‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey