Fact check: Bryce misleads again on land, sound, resource use

Robert Bryce, rehashing previous articles written elsewhere, has a new opinion column in City Journal, the in-house publication of his employer, the Manhattan Institute for Public Policy, a group that receives funding from Exxon Mobil and Koch Industries, a major oil & gas producer.

Mr. Bryce's latest hymn to energy density, like the previous versions, omits some basic facts:

The actual amount of land used by wind power is very small.  The U.S. Department of Energy's 20% Wind Energy by 2030 Technical Report found that if wind power provided 20% of America's electricity, the actual space occupied by wind turbines, related equipment such as electrical substations, and service roads would be less than half the size of the city of Anchorage, Alaska. That is because 95% to 98% of the land within a wind farm's boundaries remains available for ranching, farming, wildlife habitat, recreation, or other compatible uses.  Furthermore, wind's benefits, in the form of land rental payments to farmers, are spread as widely as the turbines, providing badly needed income to rural towns and counties across the U.S. (see, for example, "Counting wind power's rural economic benefits: Sherman County, Oregon," May 31, 2011).

Other energy sources also use land, particularly in the production of fuel.  Gas, coal, and nuclear power plants all depend on fuel that must be drilled for or mined. In their land use calculations, critics of wind regularly ignore fuel production and transportation (e.g., gas pipelines) land use requirements for other types of power plants.

Wind power's steel requirements can easily be met.  Requirements of wind power for steel and other raw materials are also addressed in the 2008 Department of Energy report mentioned above. Regarding steel, the report comments: "The steel needed for additional wind turbines is not expected to have a significant impact on total steel production. (In 2005, the United States produced 93.9 million metric tons of steel, or 8% of the worldwide total.) Although steel will be required for any electricity generation technology installed over the next several decades, it can be recycled. As a result, replacing a turbine after 20+ years of service would not significantly affect the national steel demand because recycled steel can be used in other applications for which high-quality steel is not a requirement (Laxson, Hand, and Blair 2006)." [emphasis added]

Wind turbine sound has no direct effect on human health. Multiple peer-reviewed scientific studies, the most recent by an independent expert panel commissioned by the Massachusetts departments of Environmental Protection and Public Health, have found no human health effects from wind turbine sound.  At distances of 1,000 feet or more, sounds from wind turbines fall well below existing standards previously established for other types of equipment (see "WINDPOWER report: New study finds minimal low-frequency and infrasound impact from wind turbines," May 25, 2011) and are lower than ambient sound in a typical home or office. While some people–particularly those who dislike the appearance of wind turbines–may find their sound annoying, thousands of people around the world and across America live near or within wind farms without concern.

While there are a noisy few who oppose wind power, public support for it remains strong.  I've noted in the past (see "Robert Bryce: King of the NIMBYs," August 20, 2011) the remarkable irony of Mr. Bryce, a strong proponent of nuclear power, applauding NIMBY (not in my back yard) opposition to wind farms. Be careful, Mr. Bryce: your pet technology cannot even find a place to dispose of its radioactive waste because of NIMBYs.  What I said last August still applies today:

Certainly there are more groups in more places expressing concern about wind (and solar) projects than there were a decade ago, but in large part, that is probably because there are so many more wind projects.  The numbers don't lie–during the 2000s, wind projects around the world expanded by more than 1,000 percent, from 17,000 megawatts (MW) installed at the end of 2000 to 197,000 at the end of 2010.  Clearly, someone out there likes wind power.

Who would that be? Well, according to all the polling we've seen, pretty much everyone. Our most recent poll, in the Presidentially pivotal state of Iowa–but also the state that is getting a higher percentage of electricity generation from wind than any other (20 percent)–shows a mere 85 percent of voters having a favorable opinion of wind companies, including 62 percent "very favorable." Other polling data, both national and state, tell the same story.

And why would that be? My guess is because most people understand that our society needs energy and would prefer that it come from an energy source like wind power that produces no air pollution, water pollution, or hazardous waste, uses virtually no water, revitalizes rural communities, and creates new manufacturing jobs.

Related articles:


Fact check: Bryce whopper on land use, January 19, 2012
Are these comments Robert Bryce doesn't want you to see?, December 23, 2011
Fact check: Bryce ignores renewable energy's benefits, attacks companies that make it, suggests they face a tax increase, December 21, 2011

Fact check: Bryce goes astray on jobs, land use, and more, Nov. 22, 2011

Fact check: Bryce again misinforms on wind costs/benefits, Oct. 20, 2011

Fact check: Bryce errs on incentives, wind's popularity, Oct. 13, 2011

Fact check: Bryce whiffs on wind power and Texas heat wave, Aug. 12, 2011

Robert Bryce, King of the NIMBYs, Aug. 10, 2011

Fact check: Bryce out to lunch with latest anti-wind broadside, Aug. 3, 2011

Fact check: Bryce, Bentek miss on emissions, July 20, 2011

Fact check: Bryce stumbles on land use, sound, steel, benefits, June 8, 2011

Fact check: Bryce continues cherry-picking crusade in National Review, May 18, 2011

Fact check: Bryce omits mention of fossil fuel subsidies, Dec. 14, 2010

Fact check: Robert Bryce misleads with WSJ op-ed, Dec. 23, 2010

Bryce overlooks another convenient truth, Dec. 14, 2010

Robert Bryce runs afoul of another reviewer, Sept. 14, 2010

Mythbusting fact: Yes, wind does reduce emissions, Aug. 27, 2010

Michael Goggin's review of Bryce's "Power Hungry," July 2, 2010

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