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Wind Power: Why Aren’t We Using More of It?

Wind power seems like an uncomplicated issue, but muddled by politics, money and public opinion, it becomes very complicated. Cory Barker takes a closer look.

wind turbines

Photo: Washington State DNR (flickr)

Like any issue that involves money, power, industry, politics and resources, wind power development is tied up with numerous complicated issues.

Wind turbines by WAstateDNR - Department of Natural Resourceson flickr

Photo: Washington State DNR/Flickr

Recently I have looked at so many different stories dealing with sustainability, the environment, and green technology, but one topic in particular has really caught my eye over the last nine weeks: wind power.

A Growing Power Source

Like many other alternative energy sources, the use of wind power is certainly growing, with worldwide use increasing 29 percent in 2008.

Germany had long been known as the world-leader in wind power production, but the United States has actually overtaken our foreign friends as the leader in both installed wind power and actual wind power production.

Even with rapidly-improving use of wind power here in the United States, it still only accounts for less than 3 percent of our electric output.

I’m not expecting the entire country to be powered by wind by the end of the year, but studies have shown that “wind turbines in the continental U.S. could produce 16 times more electricity than we currently use.:

It’s a fairly easily thing to create/use and the market for wind energy related jobs has doubled worldwide in a very short time.

So what is being done to develop more wind power sources?

Wind Power, From Coast to Coast

The United States has many areas that are possibly ripe for wind power development, including the Midwest and the coasts. In the last month alone, there have been numerous stories discussing groups attempting to get wind power going in these areas.

Wind power companies are part of a group of green industries urging the Obama administration to solidify loans so they can move forward with their operations.

In early June, movements on both the Northeast and Southeast coasts were looking to develop offshore wind power. Later in the month, the President offered the first group of offshore leases for areas in New Jersey and Delaware. Just recently, rural co-ops in the plains have begun to use wind, though cautiously. And a major campaign has been waged by former oilman T. Boone Pickens in hopes of building the largest wind farm in Texas.

The Cases Against Wind Power

In spite of all these positive developments, there remain issues with wind power that scare investors, tax payers and politicians.

People living on the coasts don’t seem to want their pristine views obstructed by unsightly wind turbines. Cape Wind, a very prominent movement for wind power in Cape Cod, has faced major struggle for years because groups don’t want the Cape to be muddled up.

Critics also wonder about the reliability of the wind itself. A recent study showed that wind speeds across the United States could actually be decreasing, meaning that building a load of wind turbines might not be the most intelligent or cost-effective strategy over the long term.

And even Pickens, whose plan has been making headlines for over a year, is having trouble getting the proper funding for his giant wind farm. Just today he announced that instead of building one giant farm, he hopes to build a number of small farms across the Midwest.

But as usual, many of the issues stem from economic concerns. A recent Time Magazine article tackled the issue:

Though the price of power from wind has dropped in recent years, it’s still more expensive than most electricity from coal or natural gas. And while Obama the candidate wanted renewables to reach 25% of the U.S. energy mix by 2025, we’re a long way from that goal (less than 3% of our power comes from non-hydro renewables), and there’s growing doubt that even Obama’s greener policies can bring us there. The cap-and-trade bill circulating in Congress contains a weak renewable-energy standard —just 20% of U.S. electricity would need to come from renewables by 2020, but that allows for nuclear power, and many utilities would be allowed to escape the requirement altogether.

Like any issue that involves money, power, industry, politics and resources, wind power development is tied up with numerous complicated issues.

On the surface it looks to be an easier, more cost-effective alternative energy source and the United States is clearly taking steps to focus on wind power.

Should We Do More?

But couldn’t we being doing so much more? Let us know what you think in the comments.

Cory Barker

Cory Barker is a summer intern for Earth Eats and senior IU student from Hartford City, Indiana. He is double majoring in journalism and communication and culture with a minor in business.

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  • earth4energy

    Critics also wonder about the reliability of the wind itself while i think the energy is saved and reduces the pollution.

  • Dan

    There is finally proven technology to create renewable power, even DIY kits for residental use. What we need now is someone to develop a better way to store energy.

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