With the number of wind turbines worldwide projected to hit a capacity of 90,000 megawatts/MW (or 90 gigawatts/GW) of electricity, I am proud to say that I have at last come right up close to the base of one of these (at least) 30 metre tall constructions. On our family trip, we took a little detour near Tours, to inspect for ourselves the famous “noise level.” And the scoreboard says: (a) they make next to no noise [just a very reasonable and lovely whirring], and (b) are absolutely stunning constructions. Much like the beauty of a jet plane which, as many as I may have flown in, remain beautiful testaments to human ingenuity. As the clouds passed by above the blades, I got the feeling that I was being transported in some magic machine. Compared to the above-land electrical lines (monstrous eye sore) that kill far more birds than the wind turbines (see ourecoblog for stats on bird deaths, including an astonishing 100 million birds killed by the household cat), I am a convert for the wind turbine, or as the French more glamourously call it, “l’éolien.”
Unfortunately, the 90GW capacity–brought by what I estimate to be about 60,000 turbines–accounts for just 1% of the world’s production of electricity. Per wikipedia, “the average output of one megawatt of wind power is equivalent to the average consumption of about 160 American households.” Of note, Germany has more than 21k GW capacity (supplying 7% of its needs), and both Spain and the US have nearly 13k GW each, enough for approx 3 million average US households. Meanwhile, Denmark is the pioneer country providing more than 3GW, or 18% of its needs. Not all the turbines need be on land (see right courtesy of another Town and City Gardens site). China is coming along as well, with 3GW of supply… (Voir ici pour des informations pour la France sur leur parc d’éoliens qui produisent 1.3GW actuellement).
This Greenpeace site gives some good Q&A on the topic. The one Q I like the most: “do tourists hate wind farms?” If the Dial family is any example, it actually attracted us. On the TGV train, as I whizzed back up from Bordeaux today, I kept marvelling at the site of the wind farms. And, with another informative site Catamount Energy, I thought I could put perspective on the benefits of the wind turbines:
“Coal, the most polluting fuel and the largest source of the leading greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide (CO2), is currently used to generate more than half of all of the electricity (52%) used in the U.S. Other sources of electricity are: natural gas (15%), oil (4%), nuclear (19%), and hydropower (9%).
Development of 10% of the wind potential in the 10 windiest U.S. states would provide more than enough energy to displace emissions from the nation’s coal-fired power plants and eliminate the nation’s major source of acid rain; reduce total U.S. emissions of CO2 by almost a third and world emissions of CO2 by 4%.”
The growth projections, per the World Wind Energy Association, are for more than 20% more per year for the next several years (through 2010). I think that’s great. All in favour, say ay.