Wind power – ?Windfall? Film Offers Greatest Hits of Misinformation

Windfall takes aim at renewable wind energy with misinformation. The following facts set the record straight on a few issues that the movie raises:

Subsidies: Wind farms receive government incentives, but so do fossil-fuel industries. Through permanent measures in the tax code, fossil fuels have been subsidized for more than 90 years. American taxpayers have paid well over $500 billion to fossil-fuel industries over the years, and they are still paying. Wind power is affordable despite this lopsided playing field.

Popularity: In a poll conducted in the same state where Windfall is set, residents of Lewis, County, N.Y., said by a 4 to 1 margin that the development of a local wind farm had a "positive effect" on the county, and 77% supported its expansion.

Developers and communities: Wind farms sites are typically chosen with public input, and it’s in developers’ best interest to cultivate public support for their projects. That’s often not difficult to do, given that projects can contribute millions in tax revenue to rural communities that often need it most. Wind farms also provide regular lease payments to many farmers and support small town economies.

Wind’s contribution: Over 40,000 megawatts of wind power in the U.S. are enough to power about 10 million American homes. A May 2008 Department of Energy study confirmed that wind power can provide 20% of the nation’s electricity by 2030. Wind energy is on track to meet that goal, and technology has improved even further since the study was published.

Sound: Typically, two people can carry on a conversation at normal voice levels even while standing directly below a turbine. Often the loudest sound heard is the whooshing sound of the wind hitting the blades—similar to the sound of a flag in the wind. Guidelines for locating wind farms as well as local agreements keep turbines at safe distances from homes and businesses.

Shadows: Shadow flicker from moving wind blades typically lasts just a few minutes near sunrise and sunset in bright sun conditions, and can be addressed through location of turbines and plantings. German researchers found that flicker would affect residents for 100 minutes per year under the worst conditions and 20 minutes per year under normal circumstances (with the theoretical maximum being 30 hours a year). The rate at which wind turbine shadows flicker is far below the frequency that, according to the Epilepsy Foundation, normally is associated with seizures. A 2007 report by an expert panel for the National Academy of Sciences found it to be "harmless to humans."

Decommissioning: Decommissioning responsibilities, like equipment removal, are typically covered in legal documents created when a wind farm first goes up. With roads, transmission systems, etc. already in place, wind farm sites are likely to get new turbines when old ones reach the end of their lifespan. The value of the parts at resale is typically greater than the cost of removal, so wind farmers have an incentive to responsibly decommission their parts.

Cost: Numerous studies confirmed that increasing wind power and other renewable energy would lower electricity costs, such as natural gas prices. Since a wind turbine’s "fuel" (i.e., the wind) is free across the 20-plus-year lifespan of a project, wind energy is inflation-proof, serving as safeguard against changing energy prices. Wind diversifies America’s energy supply with safe, affordable, homegrown electricity.

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