HOW “green” is wind power? That’s a relevant question in light of the carbon tax back-flip by PM Julia Gillard to promote alternative energy.
Maybe Bob Dylan was a generation too soon when he sang " the answer my friend is blowin' in the wind... " or maybe he had a crystal ball.
My forebears the Vikings harnessed the wind to explore and settle parts of the globe others could only dream of for another few centuries, but times change.
Ask any sailor slicing through waves on a fast tack while the sails strain and the wake stretches silently behind… Clean and green - there’s nothing quite like harnessing the wind, until some yob in a power boat or jet ski, blasts past and shatters the harmony.
Unfortunately, wind power as an alternative energy source seems just like that.
Backed by Greens - inspired government subsidies and tax breaks, it is supposed to play a key role in meeting Australia’s Renewable Energy Targets of 20 percent by 2020, but there is ample evidence to suggest it is unreliable, uneconomical and very unfriendly to the environment.
Experience from places investing heavily in wind farms such as Denmark and California, shows they are inconsistent power generators, needing back-up from conventional energy sources.
Studies have also raised serious concerns about human health, and a devastating effect on bird life.
According to the American Bird Conservancy, www.abcbirds.org , new draft voluntary US federal guidelines focussing on wildlife impacts of wind energy will result in continued increases in bird deaths and habitat loss.
“Bird deaths from wind power are the new inconvenient truth. The total number of birds killed and the amount of bird habitat lost will dramatically increase as wind power build-out continues across the country in a rush to meet federal renewable energy targets,” the organisation’s vice-president, Mike Parr said.
The Telegraph in Britain reported results of a study claiming wind turbines could cause heart problems, tinnitus, nausea, panic attacks and headaches among people living nearby. Dr Nina Pierpont, a New York paediatrician, said she was convinced vibration and noise emitted by wind turbines could produce a range of symptoms she had named "Wind Turbine Syndrome".
She recommended they should not be built closer than 2,000 metres to housing.
Another damning indictment of wind farms involves pollution created in forging rare earths into the powerful magnets they utilize to generate electricity.
The Mail Online reports this has contributed to a “vast lake, a hissing cauldron of poison” in northern China,where seven million tones of toxic waste is dumped each year.
Is that green or brown? Maybe a smart meter coming your way will provide some answers on energy usage if we follow Victoria’s lead. Meanwhile debate ranges on another site about the merits of smart meters – are they really energy smart or part of some huge UN plot to infiltrate our lives and take over the world. The conspiracy theorists seem to have the numbers there, but in any case subsidizing wind farms doesn’t seem too smart or clean or green and so far it hasn't provided alternative jobs for redundant miners and others out of work in the aluminium industry, as their unions were promised. (See earlier post, 'Irony as green energy firm goes broke'.)